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History Lives Here Text

Growing up in Saugatuck

Margaret Sessions Clarklived in Saugatuck from her birth in 1927 to 1945. We have previously publishedher recollections of the family store, p. 173-175;Butler Street and the Big Pavilion, p.185-87, andchurch activities, 308-311. This month it is talescentered around growing up in the Saugatuck schools.


When my brother Donald, started school,I would sit on the curb and wait for hours until he would come home.


I also went to Mrs. Dolly Bird'skindergarten. Her husband was Carl and he owned a boat shop. their daughter,Mary Lea, along with Jack Breckenridge, Jerrine Crow, Kiff House and I attendedkindergarten in their house on the corner of Maple and Allegan Street. It was ahalf mile or so past the Springer house.


I can remember sitting at low tablescovered with linoleum and having graham crackers and milk. This was called theHunting House and was painted pink with windows across the front.


As my horizons expanded I started 15tgrade with Miss Margaret Vanderhart my 1st and 2"d gradeteacher, and Margaret Woodall, took care of us. I can remember I sat in theback row and when I had my work done I helped one of the girls who wrote withher left hand and upside down, learn to write with her right hand. We held amirror in order to read the way she wanted to write.


I also remember going to the back of theroom to two benches for reading. It was here that I remember the books aboutDick and Jane and dog, Spot. We visited a dairy farm and then returned to theclassroom to build a cardboard barn and a large cardboard cow in it, and themilking machine, copies of what we had seen at the dairy.


Living across from the school had its drawbacks. Wewould wait until we heard the tardy bell ring, before we would run out the doorand up the driveway to school. We would usually be just behind the last oneswaiting to enter the building. Sometimes the teacher marked us tardy andsometimes we were in our seat by the time roll was taken.


Layout of the Old School


The school building had a basement andtwo floors with high ceilings. Just inside double doors wide wooden steps tookus up to the first floor. Narrower steps led to the basement.


Mr. Martin Bennett was the schoolcustodian. He held forth in the basement with the boilers that provided theheat for the building and all the custodial equipment. Later, we had alunchroom in the basement where we could eat our box lunches and Mrs. Bennettwas in charge of us during lunch hour. On the first floor, Miss Ashdown's roomwas on the left and Mrs. Belden's room was on the right.


Up to stairs to the second floor, thechemistry lab was on the left and the assembly hall was on the right. Off theassembly hall was the library. At the end of the hall was the Principal'soffice. Mr. Miller was the principal and his son Jimmy was either in my classor a year ahead.


From this (old) building an opening ledto the new brick building. The first room on the ground floor was 1st and2d grades. The second room was 8th grade. Above theserooms was where we had high school English and bookkeeping classes. We hadLatin in the next room. Past these two classrooms at the end of the hall wasSuperintendent Waugh's office. Down stairs at the end of the hall was the doorthat went onto the stage of the gymnasium.


The first thing I remember about thegymnasium-auditorium is all the grade school plays. In one of the earliestDonald was a pirate in a big boat and I can't remember what I was, but Iremember being on stage in the background. Miss Vanderheart was music directorat this time.

Theschool-town orchestra-band under the direction of Mr. Jarvis also practiced andperformed here. Later I remember going to basketball games and school plays inthe gym. It was the largest place in town for gatherings.


Third and4th grade teacher was Miss Ashdown. We called her "Miss Ashcan." Iwonder if she knew that was what we called her. I remember learning the timestables and in 4th grade, writing a paper about famous musicians and copyinglots of information from the encyclopedia. We also made a post office or bankout of cardboard boxes and learned how to handle money.


Fifth, 6th and 7th grades were with Mrs. Belden. She wasrather short, also strict. I had a seat near the back of the room and she wasconstantly telling me to be quiet. My report cards at this time usually notedthat "If Margaret would not talk so much she would do better work."Maybe so ...


Summertime Baseball


In the summertimethe boys would gather in the schoolyard for baseball games. Donald was not veryathletic, but he did try. And of course wherever he went I went, so sometimesthey would let me play too. The school did not have athletics, other thanbasketball.


A new boycame to town who was large for his age and hard to get along with. Mrs. Beldencalled him a "procrastinator." This intrigued us all and made us goto the dictionary to learn what he was. The word has remained with me eversince.


Because there werethree grades in one room, only one grade could meet at a time. Each class wouldgo to the front of the room and sit on benches for their recitation. I am sureI did not talk all the time because I can remember listening to their lessonsand learning from them.

We had artclasses at this time taught by Mr. Grapple. WPA also paid him, I believe. Wewere introduced to poster paints and some abstract types of painting.


Theplayground was just outside our 5th-6th grade room. It was adistraction when lower grades were out playing. We had swings, a merry-go-roundand a big slide. A metal fire escape stairway went up to the second floor.Maybe this is a strange thing to remember, but Mrs. Belden was a stickler forgood posture. She would stand with her back to the wall and tell us your feet,back and head were all in a straight line.


As Iremember Mrs. Belden was not above using the ruler when needed. She was soshort that some of us, by 6`" grade, were bigger than she was. I'm surethis posed some discipline problems as teacher.


Six of usgirls formed a sorority, Sigma Tau Delta. We met at Tripp's Drug store everyWednesday and had a party once a month. Pat Forster's mother made us pins.


In the 7th grade we had ourfirst man teacher, Mr. Sonnenberg, for math and the 8'h grade cameinto Mrs. Belden's room for English. In 8th grade we had Mr.Sonnenberg to ourselves, except for English.


I rememberbeing delegated to present him with a gift when he married Miss Ashdown andsaid "Happy Birthday" instead of "Congratulations" inmaking the presentation.


Mrs. Belden tookour class to Grand Rapidsto see the newspaper being printed. The summer following 7th gradeshe took a bunch of us to Chicagoin her car. We visited the museums and planetarium an aquarium. Mrs. Belden andher daughter, Alice, lived in an apartment over Mrs. Blame's store. Alice was in high schoolwhen she stayed with us if the folks were gone.

On to High School


High school made some changes in myactivities. I took speech and debate. Mrs. Blame was our coach and Englishteacher. She was sick when we were to compete with another school and I went atthe coach. I really felt this responsibility. I worked in the school office andthe library.


Donald and I rode our bicycles to schoolmost days. I remember one winter day, having just pumped our way up the hill, Ihit a hole, and I went up in the air, and the bicycle continued ahead of me andI came down in a puddle. I was muddy as well as sore the rest of the day andsore for some time afterwards.


One day Donald and I were in Grand Rapids. I don'tremember why or how, but we ended up hitchhiking back to Saugatuck. I had a redwool, reversible raincoat. I was wearing the red side out when we were standingby the road looking for a ride. One of the residents of Saugatuck recognised myred coat and stopped to pick us up.


Several years during the war Dad wentback to teaching and mother and John Biller ran the store during the day. Dadtaught math, after Mrs. Miller left, and woodworking, in the basement of thehome ec building. Dad, Donald and I ate our lunches in the home ec room. Oneday we heard something in one of the sewing machine drawers. Opening it wefound a nest of tiny pink mice. That was a surprise.


All four high school grades met in theone large room upstairs above the 5th6th-7thgrade room, for assembly. We had announcements and attendance. Then off to ourvarious classes.


I got mostly A's and B's with some C's and a D intyping. I could never type as fast as I could think, so made mistakes. Littledid I know that I was to later type for a living. I was 7`hin standing in a class of 13 when we graduated.

Each year we had aschool play. The English teacher usually directed it. Miss Dumas I think washer name. I remember one play I was in called "Double?" and when theplay opened I came running across the stage and jumped over a davenport toanswer the doorbell. That one, or another one, I was the dumb maid and askedthe guest "One lump or two?" (Sugar that was.) Strange what we rememberafter 60 years.


Donald went to Starr Commonwealthfor Boys his second year where he had a room and helped out with the boys whilegoing to college. We visited him and met Uncle Floyd who offered Dad a jobteaching math and agriculture at $1,600 a year.


At the end of my junior year I was incharge of the Junior-Senior Prom. We had a banquet in Holland, I have the program but it does notsay where it was held. April 24, 1944, was the date. The Program; Welcome,Margaret Clark; Response, Ray Biller; Senior Will, Rita Brady; CommunitySinging; Surprise, Mrs. Blame; Class History, Aldean Jarvis; The Class of '44,Winn Adams. Following this program we attended the movie, "The PurpleHeart." When Mrs. Blame got up to speak she acted very strange, almost asif she was going to faint. I don't remember what, if anything she said, but Ithink she was play acting.


The following year, when we wereseniors. I also remember the Junior-Senior Beach Party. The juniorsplanned it and I was most disappointed when there was not much to it, otherthan a beach party,


High School Graduation


Commencement was held in the school auditorium. JackBreckenridge and I were to lead the procession, but at practice neither Jacknor I could keep in step with the music, so we got moved to the back of theline. Jerrine Crow gave the Salutatory Speech and Betty Campbell was theValedictorian. Kiff House, Jerrine Crow, Jack Breckenridge and I had gonethrough all 12 grades together.