First day in the 1st Grade, Valley School, Maplewood. Our teacher asked a simple question, “What do you know that qualifies you to be a 1st Grade student instead of in Kindergarten?
The little girl sitting next to me said, “I know my colors.” The teacher said, “Take the pointer and tell me the colors you’re pointing to.” She got all but one right. The teacher said, “Now, Billy, I want you to tell me what you know that qualifies you to be a 1st grader.” I said, “I know 9×9 is 81.” She wrote It on the blackboard. The teacher asked, “How do you know that, Billy?” “My mother is a bookkeeper. A year ago she said ‘I’m teaching you the multiplication tables.’ I had never heard this word before. Mother made a game out of it. Every day I learned a little more. My mother showed great pride in my memory from day to day. It became a game. The teacher asked me other equations and I got them all right. She sat me up on a high stool by the blackboard. She handed me a big piece of chalk, the size of my hand, and told me to write my tables on the blackboard. I did so and my little arm felt like it was going to fall off. When I finished, the teacher turned me around on the stool and a man I didn’t know was standing beside me. I said, “Am I in trouble?” They both laughed and the teacher said, “This man is the principal and he wants to talk to you. He said, “Billy, I’m moving you to the 2nd grade.” I loved it!
At recess, my cousin and I were on the playground and were eating our lunch. We were about to find out what “poor” is. A little kid approached us. He looked at our apple cores and said, “Core-sies please.” I asked, “Didn’t you have breakfast?” He said, “We don’t have breakfast at our house.” We both gave the little kid our other apples and the apple cores. When the little kid left, my cousin said, “They don’t have breakfast at their house?” Every day my cousin and I gave stuff out of our lunch pail to this same little kid.
The little kid, Bennie, said “The kids are going to go swimming at Deer Creek this afternoon after school. Want to join us?” We all trotted up the street to Deer Creek following the little kid, Bennie. We took off all our clothes except our underpants and waded into the creek and had a great time. I went to the other side of the creek and my foot went down through an old orange crate and my foot got caught in it. Bennie was standing on the other side of the creek and he saw I was in trouble. He dove down to the orange crate and released my foot so I could get it out. I realized later I could have drowned. I said this to Bennie and he said, “You fed me the apple. I owed you.”
Our great-granddaughter talked to me today from Indiana and told me my fifth generation grandson, Isaiah Richard, Caudel is entering pre-kindergarten next month. In my heart, I realized if it had not been for sharing apples with Bennie all those years ago, my great-great-grandchild might not exist!
Billy Jones, Jr. – Age 93