So the counselor at Ivers J. Norton Elementary School wrote to me about the school’s 100th anniversary celebration. Today, they’re honoring former staff members at the school in a small town in Western New York. I was asked to share some of my memories of the school, which I attended in the late ’60s. Here are a few:
We lived at 502 West Henley, kitty corner from the school. Some of my teachers were Mrs. Ellen Blessing, Mrs. Geuder and Mr. Schwabenbauer. Mrs. Mazza was the gym teacher.
The library was amazing to me, and one year, I read one biography from every letter of the alphabet. I also devoured the “Betsy-Tacy” books by Maude Hart Lovelace, Beverly Cleary books and pretty much everything else I could get my hands on. Mrs. Geuder (5th grade) was a great reader and read aloud to us every day–Caddie Woodlawn, Harriet the Spy, Tom’s Midnight Garden, Big Tree are some I still remember. Later, when I became a 5th grade teacher, I read to my students every day too.
When I was in Mr. Schwabenbauer’s class, I wrote my first piece of long fiction. The assignment was to write a story about a natural disaster. I remember considering a glacier but he suggested I go with something like a flood or forest fire. I filled an entire theme book with my story. I’m sure it was awful but he gave me an A.
When I was in third grade, I climbed over a chain-link fence in the back schoolyard, ripped open my arm and had to get stitches.
We moved away from Olean in the 1970s and enrolled in schools overseas. People told our parents we might be “behind” in the competitive private schools in Brussels and Paris, but this was definitely not the case! Olean schools prepared us well.
I’m currently a novelist with more than forty books published, including numerous bestsellers. My series of books known as the Lakeshore Chronicles take place in upstate New York, and feature a fictional town that has a lot of features in common with Olean!
What was your grade school like? How did it shape you into who you are today?