Memory - Union Street Elementary School


     About 3 o'clock this morning, unable to go back to sleep, my thoughts browsed randomly, drifting back through the years. Suddenly I was back in Union Street Elementary School in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and it was 1930 or thereabouts.

     My Dad and his brothers and sisters had gone to the same school in the early 1900's, and in fact had the same principal and some of the same teachers. What amazes me is that I recalled, and still do recall, the names and faces of some of the teachers and classmates as clearly as though they were being seen on a TV screen. Mr. Weller, short, stocky with the kind of mustache made famous by Clark Gable; Miss Gallagher (women teachers were not allowed to be married in those days), skinny and nervous, teaching us the basics of geography; Miss Magda, a stereotypical art teacher, strands of hair across her face, escaping from a loose, low bun of brown hair, always wearing flowing, "arty" dresses, ahead of her time by about 30 years. My fellow students; plump, round faced Dorothy O'Brien; wiry Jack Adams; pretty Ruth Fernwalt; tough little Vida Phillips: a special friend, sweet Ann Leftwich. I forget the name of one boy whom I can see clearly who once told me my dress looked like a burlap sack, (and it probably did).

     What a fantastic miracle!

     I scroll back in my memory as though I am scrolling back on my computer and voila! there they are preserved in time like bugs in amber. We are blind to the future, oblivious to what the next second may bring - unless we are prophets like Jeremiah, Ezekial, or Nostradamus - but in an instant we can view the past. I am in awe when I think of memory - how, in all the neurons, synapses, circuits, whorls, and mysteries of my modest, little brain, I can suddenly conjure up actual images of schoolmates and teachers at Union Street Elementary from more than 75 years ago.

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