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My Worst Christmas PresentBook Three Of Growing Up The Autobiography Of Robert A. Stirewalt's High School Years Plus One
By Robert A. Stirewalt
Infinity PublishingCopyright © 2004 Robert A. Stirewalt
All right reserved.
Chapter OneHigh School
(Cleaning A Building Site)
During the summer of 1953 after I came home from summer camp and before school took up for the 1953-1954 school year, my mother got started on the new house she wanted to build. My Uncle Ralph, my mother and my sister Christine picked out a place to build the house my mother wanted to build. The place they picked out was about five to six hundred feet from the little house we were living in.
As I sit here and think about what they did that afternoon, I think my Uncle Ralph had the last word as they walked around picking a place to build that new house on. I watched them from the little house we were living in, I had not gone with them for some reason I no longer remember. There is a good chance I was told I wasn't wanted or needed by my uncle in a way my mother didn't understand.
There was one big oak tree and a lot of little trees in the way where mother's house was going to be built. These trees all had to come down before a house could be built at the spot the three of them or my uncle had picked that evening. That meant a lot of hard work for this old man at the time.
A tree, a very large White Oak was standing in the middle of where mother's house was going to be built but before it could be cut down, all of the smaller trees around it had to be cut. Vernard and I helped our Uncle Ralph cut all of those trees down with a crosscut saw. Vernard and I was on one end of that crosscut saw and our uncle was on the other end.
This old big White Oak turned out to be a good solid tree when we got around to cutting it down, one that could be cut into lumber. That was what my Uncle Ralph was hoping for when we started to lay that old big tree on the ground the day we cut it.
After we got the tree on the ground, we cut as much of the tree trunk into logs, sawmill length as we could. I remember that the oak tree measured more than forty inches across the stump after we had cut it down. Uncle Ralph used a folding ruler to measure the stump just as soon as the old big tree was on the ground.
All of the sills used in mother's new house were cut from that old big White Oak. We also got a lot of good firewood from the rest of that old tree and from most of the small stuff we had cut down before we laid that big old White Oak on the ground.
Later on that fall and winter after school let out for each day during a couple afternoons a week, Uncle Ralph, Vernard and I cut down all of the other trees that were used in the building of my mother's new house with that same old crosscut saw. This downing of trees for lumber took place a year or more before I ever saw my first gasoline-powered chainsaw, something we sure could have used at the time.
Reader, we had to wait until late that fall to cut the other trees down because my Uncle Ralph wanted most of the sap down in those trees when we cut them down. Other than for that one old oak tree, all of the other trees we cut for lumber, were trees called field pine by everyone I knew at the time. I think the real name for field pine is Yellow Pine but at the time I had never heard of Yellow Pine. White Pine I had heard of but had never seen except for the white lumber made from it.
That big old oak tree had to come down when it did because it and the little trees we had to cut, were in the way. We were going to dig the ditches and holes for the footing and that big oak tree and some little ones were in the way. If it had not been in the way, we would never have cut that big oak tree with the sap up in it.
After that old oak had been cut and the area cleaned up somewhat, Uncle Ralph blasted that oak stump out of the ground with a good number of sticks of dynamite. Uncle Ralph was good at blasting things out of the ground, the stump went straight up when he set the charge off and fell almost right back down where it had been. One of mother's and Uncle Ralph's first cousins moved the big stump out of the way with his big farm tractor.
I watched Uncle Ralph put dynamite into four deep little holes he had made under the stump but I didn't see the blast. My uncle made everyone go to the backside of Grandmother Goldsmith's home and I am not sure where Uncle Ralph was when the blast went off because he had run wires several hundred feet in the direction of the big road or public road. My uncle may have been at the big road stopping anyone from turning in as he set the blast off.
During that fall after school had let out for the day, I and others in the family and every once in a while Uncle Ralph using mattocks, shovels and an axe or two, cleared off the ground where the house would set. We also dug up many little stumps and root system that had to go. Uncle Ralph and mother didn't want any of that stuff under the house or under the foundation of the house when the house was finished.
Mother and my three siblings would drag the little stuff I and my uncle was getting out of the ground, away from where the house was going to be built. Some of the bigger trash dug up and cut free, took mother and all of us siblings to move. Mother and Uncle Ralph started a trash pile during that fall of 1953 with that trash, a pile that got bigger and bigger as the house was being constructed.
When mother's home sight was all cleaned off, Vernard and I helped our Uncle Ralph dig the ditches or trenches and several holes for the footing. That was a lot of hard work for me as I helped dig those ditches and holes in the hard red dirt this ground was made of with a mattock or two, some hoes and two or three types of shovels. I don't remember how much digging my brothers did but ever little bit helped.
Sometime during the last third of the summer of the year 1953, I went back to school. Summer vacation from school was over with and now I entered the ninth grade in a school in the very small town of Landis. I became a freshman in high school in a very different type of school than Bostain had been.
Here in the high school in the town of Landis, students that had been in elementary school at Bostain Elementary School, Enochville Elementary and the elementary school system in Landis, all came together to form the student body of the school known as Landis-High-School. When we walked into that school building in 1953, my school friends and I from Bostain who where all teenagers became high school students just that quick.
Mandie Blacksmith from Bostain School was the youngest freshman, she was thirteen years old and wouldn't be fourteen until the middle of November that fall. I was fifteen but was not the oldest freshman, there was at least one there that was older than me. Reader, to me the first two or three days in high school were almost like being in the first grade but we were now young ladies and young gentlemen unlike we were in the first grade.
Here in a high school classroom, one teacher made that quite clear to all of us new students that had him as a teacher. This teacher was Mr. Hall and I think most of the freshman had him as a teacher at least once during the school day that school year.
This teacher with very short hair taught Civics during the morning and boys physical education during the afternoon. Mr. Hall was also head coach for all sports there at the high school that school year. I had Mr. Hall as a teacher twice each day, first class in the morning and then again during the first class after dinner in the afternoon.
During first period class Mr. Hall was my Civics teacher as he was for most of the freshman but not all of them. The first morning I was in Mr. Hall's Civics class as the bell rang for class to start, this teacher who hadn't said a word to anyone of us as we walked into his classroom and found a seat said, "Good morning ladies and gentlemen, my name is Mr. Hall." The next words this teacher said were, "I am Mr. Hall to all of you students all of the time." He went on to say that morning, "You students will always address me as Mr. Hall, not teach, not teacher, not can I do so and so or in any other manner other than to address me as Mr. Hall. That goes for any other place on this school's campus during day or night. The campus of this school includes the school's football field and the school's baseball field."
Today as I sit here and think about Mr. Hall and his long speech that morning, this teacher always addressed us students as Mr. so and so or Miss so and so. I cannot recall Mr. Hall ever calling me Robert, it was always Mr. Goldsmith when he talked to me. Some of the boys called me sidewalk during physical education but that was because of what my real surname is.
During the ninth grade, I had Mr. Hall twice each school day as a teacher for two different subjects and that meant I had to listen to his long speech twice that first day in the ninth grade. By having to sit and listen to his speech twice that day in 1953, I think I remember that speech much better than if I had only heard it once.
I had another teacher while in the ninth grade that I remember just as well or better than I do Mr. Hall. This other teacher I remember was a Mrs. Weaver. Mrs. Weaver was my English teacher that year. This teacher sure was easy on the eyes but she hit you hard with book learning. Reader, I was lucky enough or unlucky enough to have this young good-looking lady as a teacher for the next three years as my English teacher each year. I think had Mrs. Weaver not gotten pregnant the last year I had her as a teacher, Mrs. Weaver would have also been my English teacher in the twelfth grade because she seem to move up with me each year.
Today as I sit and think about Dot, I think Mrs. Weaver was one of my best teachers in high school because she was a hard nose teacher and pushed me and the other students hard. I am sure that what this good-looking English teacher did for me while I was in one of her classrooms is helping me right now as I write about my growing up years.
As we talked about high school and high school teachers one day, Zane Carson told me a lot about Dot who was an English teacher. This talk about Dot took place some days before I ever say Dot Weaver. Everything Zane said about Mrs. Weaver I found to be true when she became one of my teachers in the ninth grade.
Zane Carson was a lot like me in school, he was a year older than most of his classmates. I don't know why Zane was a year behind in school, I just know he was one year older than I was and was only one grade ahead of me in school. If you have read my book one then you know why I was a year behind in school. If you have not read book one, I didn't start going to school until I was seven years old.
Excerpted from My Worst Christmas Present by Robert A. Stirewalt Copyright © 2004 by Robert A. Stirewalt.
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