Since the anxiety-producing deadline has passed to file our federal and state income taxes, I thought I would time-travel back a few years. More specifically, I am returning to Our Town’s distant past, 1958-59. As I have stated numerous times in “Time Out,” those 1950s and 1960s were definitely gentler and simpler days, living in our special, north central Oklahoma town.
Today, I am going to discuss a now-vanished iconic structure, previously located at the busy intersection of West 6th Avenue (State Highway 51), and South Washington Street; the southwest corner of those crossroads. Back then, there was an old school located there, and the structure was totally demolished after the public school year was completed, May, 1959. That school was the location of my six-grade education, and I remember it vividly!
Eugene Field Elementary School. The school was named after a famous St. Louis, Missouri, writer, who lived 1850-1895.
As for my back story regarding education, I began my formal public schooling at Westwood Elementary in 1953, starting the first grade there. At the time, the school was only a few years old, and, thus, had only one building. The sole building consisted of about a half dozen classrooms and a lunch room. The structure was constructed east/west, and the building intersected West 5th Avenue and South Kings Street, on the immediate east side. I thoroughly enjoyed my early formative years in Westwood Elementary, but after completing the 5th grade there in May, 1958, my graduating class had to change schools. Why, you may ask, readers in Our Town and far beyond? The simple answer is there were no more classrooms available at Westwood! The west side of Our Town had grown so much, Westwood’s expansion could not keep up with the surging numbers of youngsters attending elementary school there.
So, for only the next school year, 1958-59, my class group transferred to Eugene Field Elementary. After that year, our class moved on to the old junior high school at South Duck Street and West 10-12th Avenues (now the location of the Stillwater Public Library). Eugene Field Elementary was demolished, West 6th Avenue was expanded into Our Town’s first 4-lane road, and a Humpty Dumpty Grocery Store was constructed on the western side of the large, school-less property.
Now, for some memories of my sixth grade school year.
We had three 6th grade classes. My teacher was Ms. Thelma Troth, and the other two teachers were Ms Mattie Oswalt and Ms, Leona Saye. We had a huge playground on the north, south, and west sides of the school. I recall during our morning and afternoon recess times, always watching the traffic moving on the busy street, outside our school fence, along the northern boundary. Our lunch room was on the north end of the old structure, and every Friday afternoon, the school custodian, Mr. Mayfield, would come to Ms. Troth’s class, and request boys help him move “tables and chairs” around in the lunch room. This furniture movement would open up the large room, so my fellow sixth graders and myself, could square dance to a basic record player’s music. This weekly dance session provided a fun time for all participants! As I remember, we did have a few “intense” dancers in our class.
I have been very fortunate to remain friends with many of my fellow Eugene Field Elementary classmates for the past 60-plus years.
Such is the shear magical atmosphere of Our Town, then and now. Enough said.
Robert Breedlove is an Oklahoma State University news-editorial journalism graduate, and a former newspaper (including News Press) reporter. He resides in Stillwater, and has for most of his life. He has been a contributing writer to various media over the United States for years. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.