Mr. Ganson was my sixth grade teacher. He was a Vietnam Vet, short in stature, and very round in the waist. His cheeks were always shiny with a slight hint of rose color. When he smiled at you, the wrinkles around his charming eyes increased ten-fold. Mr. Ganson was my teacher at probably one of the most awkward years of my life.
I started taking private lessons on the Alto Saxophone a couple of years before, and officially started playing it in school in the fifth grade. I lived just two short blocks from school, so the school district refused to pick my sister and I up on the bus. Ironic, actually, considering it drove right by our house to get the other kids to school. I quickly became a pro at steering my bicycle with one hand, backpack in tow over my shoulders, while tightly gripping the handle to my saxophone case with my other hand.
Winters during my elementary years were the worst! My sister and I always walked as close as we could to each other as the wind blew the snow at what seemed like at the time, 100 mph at our faces. When I finally made it to sixth grade, however, I was all alone on this trek to school. A lot can happen in two blocks, you know.
Right next door to us was the post office. I liked our post office. It had recently moved right next to our house after the one a block away the opposite direction burned down. I grew up in an extremely small town, so by the time I had left my house, not only had I walked past the post office, but I had also walked past the big power plant (out in the open for all us kids to admire up close), the fire station (volunteer) and City Hall (which happened to house the police department in the basement). Next to City Hall was my school.
My sixth grade classroom was on the top floor of the school. Most of the classrooms were on the first floor, but the fifth and sixth graders were upstairs above the gym. I really liked the location of my classroom. In fact, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the architect of Greenwood Elementary. I had a wonderful seven years of my life inside that school.
I can remember taking naps, eating cheese and crackers in the cafeteria, and learning how to stop, drop, and roll my Kindergarten year. That is about all I can remember from that year, actually. My first grade year is where I met Melanie Sims. I hope she doesn’t mind me mentioning her name (I haven’t spoken to her since high school graduation). However, I feel it is not only necessary, but good therapy for myself in mentioning my first crush. In fact, I liked her so much, I’m pretty sure I threw up on her in first grade. She was one of the tallest girls in my grade, and I was one of the shortest guys (as you can imagine, Melanie and I never quite panned out).
I have a vivid memory of Spencer Flamm (once again, I hope he does not get offended if he ever stumbles across this blog), from second grade. He tripped me in front of everyone in my class. Seeing as he had a huge size advantage over my “still” almost smallest guy in our grade, as you can imagine, it hurt as well as embarrassed. Luckily, I saw the perks of having a bigger friend than myself, and Spencer and I became quite good friends throughout all of our school years. It’s pretty safe to say I kind of miss that guy.
During my third grade year I joined the Cub Scouts. Now, I understand the Cub Scouts is a huge deal to a lot of kids and a lot of parents. However, it was not near the fun I had imagined it would be, and alas, I quit rather quickly into my venture. My highest ranking was a Webelos Scout, Scout’s Honor.
Fourth grade was one of my favorite grades. First of all, our classroom was in a mobile unit outside of the school. Jimmy Buckner was in my fourth grade class and he taught me how to cuss. Not only that, but I met another one of my favorite people from school that year. Her name was Jaime Hart. I’m not sure if she’ll ever run across this blog, or not, but if she does I hope she knows that she was my friend. She had moved here from Australia, and she had freckles, and she sat next to me in my fourth grade class for a while. I doubt if she remembers learning cuss words from Jimmy with me, but we used to exchange them back and forth on a bright orange folder of mine. I kept it for a long time.
My fifth grade teacher was a lesbian. She had been in the military, and her partner was also a fifth grade teacher at the same school. I thought fifth grade was pretty freaking cool. Exchange City was probably the highlight of my fifth grade year (other than sitting in between Jaime Hart and Angie Lang during Band). Since my mom was a personal banker at my fifth grade teacher’s bank, when it came to deciding what jobs the students would have at Exchange City, I naturally assumed I would be the Bank President. To my dismay, I was just a lowly bank teller, and Melanie Sims (remember my first crush?) was actually the Bank President. Sigh…
Back to Mr. Ganson’s sixth grade class. I was a young boy, right? I had toys at home, and sometimes I wanted toys at school. Occasionally, I would bring some. Oftentimes, they were abruptly taken away. For instance, I had quite the Micro Machines collection at home, and then I didn’t (because apparently, there was no room for Micro Machines on my desk in Mr. Ganson’s classroom). He took away my California Raisin action figures and everything! I really did like sixth grade though. I won the school spelling bee that year. In fact, they held the Lee’s Summit School District Spelling Bee at my elementary that year, and I won that too! I promptly was shut down at the Jackson County Spelling Bee, however, so no, you’ve never seen me on ESPN spelling “ptarmigan” (it’s a bird, by the way).
While I was delving into my adolescent years, my sister, too was doing the same. We usually went to the grocery store at Piggly Wiggly every Sunday morning. While I was busy picking out baseball cards and Archie’s Digests to sneak into the cart, she was busy sneaking in magazines like “Teen Bop.” These magazines were filled with pictures of the New Kids On The Block (NKOTB), and Paula Abdul. Let me tell you something, my sister loved her some New Kids On The Block, and I loved me some Paula Abdul…
At the end of my sixth grade year, Mr. Ganson asked me to please bring a bag of some type to carry home my stuff he had collected of mine throughout the school year. Imagine my surprise to see every picture of Paula Abdul I had ripped out of my sister’s magazines and taped to the front of my school desk , still intact! Thank you, Mr. Ganson, for keeping this little boy’s dream of marrying Paula Abdul alive.
My wife will never quite understand my undying admiration of Paula Abdul, and that’s too bad. See, Paula Abdul, is somehow ingrained in my head all the way back to when I was in sixth grade. I still remember the guy who taught me how to cuss. I still remember the guy who tripped me, and I still remember vomiting on my first crush. So, I’m just going to tuck away in a special place way back in the very back on the very top row of my brain my Paula Abdul, my Alyssa Milano, my Debbie Gibson, my Janet Jackson, my DJ from Full House, and my Melanie and my Jaime, and my Angie, and my Neda, my Bekki, my Jessica, my Dusty, my Deanna, my Heather, Chelle, my Teresa, and all the other ladies who never made the cut. Ha! I know, I know, I’m the one that didn’t make the cut way back then. But, this is my story, not yours, so…
Ladies, gentlemen, and old friends of mine, I’ll try my hardest not to forget you. This little writing exercise will hopefully help me remember not only my friends, but also maybe help me remember what each one of my kids may or may not be going through at this stage of their life. I’m going to try to build on these memories, all the while making new ones with my new friends. I kind of like bunching them all together sometimes, and just call you all my friends. I hope you don’t mind.
Of course, there are tons more memories that I can’t possibly put into words right now (in fact, I’d be surprised if you’re still reading at this point). I had a lot of friends in school, and I had a lot of friends I played with on a regular basis outside of school. For the purpose of readability, some names were left out. Please do not be offended. I still haven’t written about grades seven through twelve (maybe you’ll get a mention in that one)!