Wednesday, November 04, 2009


SCHOOL DAYS


Life can turn an interesting corner when you least expect it. This morning I was getting dressed as usual when, for some reason only the deep mind could relate, from out of nowhere I began singing the old song "School Days," then at some point realized what I was singing - it was so chronically (to say nothing of locationally) out of place - and recalled during WWII, while my father was in the army in Europe, when my mother and I in our little apartment (me on the couch) sang ourselves to sleep at night by singing "School Days" together, and in those days (I was about 3 or 4) I just mimed the words. That was the only time I ever heard it, and where I learned it.

But here and now, after all these years, I paid attention, and looked the song up on Wikipedia (pretty sure it wouldn't have been in the old dead-tree Britannica) found out it had been written in 1907, before my mother was was born.

So although the song was known to her it must have been a hit in my great-grandmother's elderhood, because it was about an elderly couple recalling their school days, which must have been before the Civil War! (My G-G was born in 1852, so in 1907 she would have been about my age now). Things sure were different then:

School days, school days
Dear old Golden Rule days
'Reading and 'riting and 'rithmetic
[Only three subjects!]
Taught to the tune of the hick'ry stick
[Liberal corporal punishment!
With a stick fashioned by the teacher!
Hickory! Heavy! Long-lasting!]
You were my queen in calico
[Calico was the standard for females!]
I was your bashful, barefoot beau
[No shoes was the standard for males!]
You wrote on my slate,
[No pencil or paper!]
"I Love You Joe"
[I always thought it was 'so']
When we were a couple o' kids.
[Back before the Civil War!]

So this elderly couple in 1907 are looking way back to their pre-Civil War childhood, when a bit of grade schooling was about it for most kids. And here I was now, at that elder age, in a room on a mountainside in Japan singing a song recollecting a time when Lincoln was just a lawyer and there were slaves, a song that my great-grandmother loved and probably taught to my mother as a child, who taught it to me as a child while we sang ourselves to sleep during another war...

And then, from about the same promontory of age as my great-grandmother when the song came out, from here on the other side of the world I hark back and segue effortlessly into the version of my own adolescence, School Days by Chuck Berry: "U-up in the mornin' and off to school..." No song to sing yourself to sleep with, but then we had transistor radios. Shoes and notebooks too, but love was still the same.

2 comments:

Maggie said...

No transistors here, but my mother sang that song. :)

R. Brady said...

That is some powerful nostalgia, I tell you, way back there in the riches of childhood...