Growing Up Fairview







Growing Up Fairview


Dan Wolfe


Ours wasn’t the first baby boom, you know.

In Dayton View, about one hundred years ago, there was one school at the corner of
Fairview Ave and Catalpa Dr. that housed all the primary and secondary grades for the
entire neighborhood to the immediate northwest of Dayton. It was called Fairview.
When World War One ended in 1919 and Johnny came marching home, there was one
of those strange and inexplicable spikes in local births. Go figure. They know what
causes that now.
Quick to put two and two together, the powers that be, not the least of whom was a
twenty-something principal, Don D. Longnecker, knew that the eight rooms of that
school would be hard-pressed to accommodate any population increase. Projecting
that growth would continue out the Salem Ave corridor, a bit of vacant land was
acquired at the corner of Fairview Ave. and Elsmere Ave. and in just over a year, in
1925, the three-story, all-brick school was ready, asbestos and all. That’s even well
before the first part of Good Samaritan Hospital went up. Unfortunately, that doesn’t
help us with the chicken vs egg controversy.
So when WWII was winding down, it didn’t take a government-funded think-tank to be
pretty sure another quantum leap in school size and numbers would be in the offing.
For its part, FES added twelve classrooms, amounting to a 40% increase in capacity, so
that in 1952, not-quite-five-year-old Danny could be part of the first class to benefit from
that expansion.
Take a look at this kindergarten homeroom photo and see how many kids you can ID
who went on to graduate with us in 1965 from Fairview High. Don’t worry, we really
were slightly blurry back then. There are nine, give or take one or two, attributable to
my fanciful imagination. I’d tell you that the answers are printed upside-down at the
bottom of page 59, but that would be cruel. And, for the record, this represents the last
time my name and the adjective “cute” could be used in the same sentence.
Thanks to this second baby boom, there were four kindergarten classes at FES in the
1952-1953 school year … two teachers, each with an AM and a PM gaggle of hellions
to test their tolerance to the limit. So, anyway, do the math … that means about 10% of
our FHS class of 1965 were, like me, k-to-12-Fairview. OK, I’m not trying to suggest
any special purebred status, like an equivalence to DAR or Mayflower ancestry. In fact,
I allow most common folk to kiss my ring without kneeling.
Kindergarten was less objectionable since we were in rooms purpose-made for us.
There were doors leading directly from the classroom to the playground to the west.
Even those flying coach could use the small restrooms exclusive to the kindergarten
rooms. Along the window wall was a bump-out expressly made for placement of our
decorated shoeboxes on Valentines Day. Oh sure, heat came out of vents there but
that was only a secondary function. At the rear of the rooms were closets for throwing
our winter apparel on the floor in front of. It was the perfect space to craft our skills of
pushing limits to find out about boundaries.
And find out I did. Who knew that proficiency in tying my own shoelaces was a
prerequisite for attendance? Apparently that was the same Who who not only put a
special entry on my first report card about the deficiency, but also saw fit to send a letter
home to my mother. I have no doubt that this initial demerit entered on my “permanent
record” was enough to deny me access to ivy league higher education … well, that and
the whole intelligence and money thing.
Remind me to show you my emotion scars sometime.
See, there’s irrefutable proof … precious little me with my mittened hand frozen to the
outside doorknob leading into my kindergarten classroom. And, you’re correct. It is a
Christmas tree ornament. It just shows to go ya what could be accomplished in only
three months of extensive trial and error by the dexterity-challenged.
And let me put a myth to rest, here and now. Those rumors that my mother would buy
picture frames at Woolworth’s and keep the pictures they came with … so not true.
These first few years were a non-stop rush to sensory overload. Outside my first grade
basement classroom was something called “The Milk Machine.” It was light blue and it
was wonderful. You put in a nickel and out tumbled a carton of milk. Since my mother
was all about good-health-through-sound-eating, the chocolate option was strictly offlimits.
But for some reason the machine’s flavor-selection software strangely
malfunctioned with amazing frequency when I inserted my money. Or maybe it was just
the power of positive thinking. In any case, I was pretty sure that machine was where
God lived, church teaching notwithstanding.
Perhaps the goodness of that experience was just part of a feng shui thing, balanced
out by my first grade teacher being in league with Satan, the Dark Side of the Force and
He Who Shall Not Be Named. I’m so glad that Toto escaped from her bicycle basket
after she left our farm. But I rationalized all that by thinking that when I died, I’d go
directly to heaven, since the entire year of first grade would count against any required
purgatory time.
And don’t believe I can’t read what you’re thinking about therapy in your thought
One third of the kidding aside, Fairview Elementary was, for me, the perfect place for
exposure to all things, new and different. For the vast majority of us, our very existence
was about as white bread as it could get. So when abstractions like death or divorce or
moving away or unemployment or abuse needed to be discussed, there was something
of a support mechanism. More often than not, those mysteries were first handled with
our classmates, not with our teachers nor with our parents. While perhaps not factual or
complete, those peer-to-peer explanations did come across in terms we could
understand. Coping became part of the skill set. Today’s versions of ourselves, that’s
Us 3.0, must be inundated with special counselors and care-givers to ensure that we
manage our grief and confusion according to politically correct societal norms.
Hey, thanks for watching Amateur Analysis and be sure to subscribe and like us on
As important as interaction with others was, the bricks and mortar around us also
mattered. This is sermonette #74 if you’re following along in your program. The glazed
bricks of the hallways and stairwells were that same dark golden honey brown that
would comfort us in our high school. It was actually possible to hurt yourself on the
playground, since lawyers and consumer safety advocates had not yet figured out how
to sanitize those things away.
There were two heavy metal outdoor drinking fountains. Press the pedal at the base
and you would hear the pitch of the sound change as the water worked its way toward
you. The thirstier you were, the longer it took. Fat lot of good those three giant water
towers out back did.
The only air conditioning I remember was at the Krogers over in Miracle Lane. Late
May and early September days on FES’ third floor could be hotter than a insert-slightlyoff-
Third grade saw my first teacher who had not been around for the asteroid that brought
on the mass extinction of the dinosaurs. Finally, the “when I was your age” stories from
the front of the class were more about families having to “do without” during The Great
Depression than enduring all-things-terrible during The Great War.
As my years of watching Howdy Doody had given me the ability to discern order and
patterns emerging in the world around me, I could now see a hierarchy of the fun
activities that were part of the school day. Although tres ordinaire, morning recess, at
9:30, was a good thing. That I remember the time does speak to its significance to me.
It was a chance to burn off the sugar buzz from the piece of contraband Halloween
candy I’d managed to smuggle into my mouth. If you brought in newspaper for the
paper drive, you’d get a another “free” recess that came at the expense of some
afternoon class time. You could almost hear the prayer of “Please, please, please, let it
be math class.” In the middle of the pyramid scheme were those times when you would
have a movie in class or in a special assembly. Seeing a projector set up was
tantamount to a cue to turn your brain off.
Was there no end to the contests and drives with all manner of little trinkets and cereal
box premiums dangled in front of us as incentives to over-compete … appealing to our
base instincts to kill or be killed?
Just what was the deal with tax stamps, anyway? You know, those little inch-and-a-half
square colored pieces of paper your folks got whenever they bought a non-food item.
They ranged in denominations from one cent to $15. Just what benefit did the schools
derive from them? You could count on a tax stamp drive every year, with the same
annoying frequency as a magazine subscription drive.
Again with apologies to the preposition police, exploitation is the word you’re looking for.
The creme de la creme of fun stuff in the guise of education was the field trip. For
goodness sake, just remember to bring in the permission slip signed by your mother or
someone else’s mother or any person with handwriting that didn’t look like a ten-year
old’s. The sounds and smells of the Hostess Bakery, the Mike Sells plant and Royal
Crest Dairy are indelibly etched into my hard drive. For someone with SJFDD, (severe
junk food deficit disorder), this was bliss. Why, I can almost feel a cavity forming now as
I think back on those times.
Given that correlation between alcohol consumption and brain atrophy, it’s doubtful
anyone will recall the trip to the Columbus Zoo. In that case then, you’re also not likely
to remember that I was the one who had to sit on the bus for most of the day for being
caught tossing a paper cup of pink lemonade into the hippo’s mouth. Don’t think I didn’t
learn a valuable lesson that fine day.
Always look both ways before you do something stupid!
It was finally in the seventh grade that I passed the state-mandated fourth grade social
skills proficiency battery. If you don’t believe me, I can show you my report cards with
all the check marks for talking when I shouldn’t. Right there, the row called “Has Power
of Self-Control.”
First grade aside, most of my teachers were, if not highly skilled at their craft, at least
very attuned to what was going on inside our tiny little pea brains. They knew how to
get some learning accomplished in spite of our penchant for treating knowledge like
some foreign antibody. A big bonus was that at least three of my teachers had been
students at FHS earlier in the ‘50s and even our principal through the fourth grade had
been a teacher there in the ‘30s. We certainly didn’t appreciate it at the time, but that
sort of awareness and continuity brings with it an invaluable amount of understanding
and compassion … greasing the skids, as it were, to make the transitions from grade
school to high school, from child to adolescent, and from idiot to less idiot, a bit less
Fruit rolls … cleaning erasers … goodies on kids’ birthdays … mimeograph smell …
the Pledge of Allegiance.
And, like all morality tales, there is a takeaway here. Some of us, even back in the
Paleolithic, might have had the inkling that we were living something of a privileged life
and its significance was not totally lost on us. Maybe it’s called nurture. Doors were not
locked and weirdos and crime were usually someplace else. Walking unescorted to and
from school and home for lunch somehow made school time and home time something
of a continuum.
Worked for me.

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