Posted by: patwogan | September 1, 2008

Riley School

I loved school.  I attended Riley School in Independence, Kansas.  My Dad brought me to school early each morning and I waited in the auditorium for school time.  The janitor at the school kind of kept an eye on me and we became great friends.   I attended Riley School through the third grade and I have many happy memories of those years and one tragic one.

The Kindergarten and First Grade classes had music together.  One of the music projects was a rhythm band.  I don’t remember all the instruments, but I do remember sand blocks, rhythm sticks, some kind of shaking things, triangles, and cymbals.  I played cymbals.  I really wanted to play sand blocks, but was assigned cymbals.  As I looked back at the pictures of the rhythm band, there were a lot of sand blocks, but only three cymbal players, so I guess it was an important part to play. 

We had uniforms.  They were purple satin short capes and little purple satin hats.  I loved the uniforms, but now wonder if the little boys in the band were as happy with them as I was.  Danny Anzelmo was the leader of the band.  He was absolutely handsome and I had a big, big crush on him.  I think he was a first grader.  His uniform was fancier than ours.  He had white satin pants with a purple stripe down the side and a white cape with a purple lining.  He also had a white hat with a purple plume on it.  He got to use a band-leader baton to direct us.  I just thought he was the handsomest thing I had ever seen. 

I don’t know when or where we played.  I would guess it was probably for a school program of some kind, but that wasn’t the point.  The point was we had those fancy uniforms.  I don’t remember ever playing any music, although I am sure we must have, but I do remember being proud of how we looked.

We had “hot lunch” at school, but it wasn’t hot lunch like school cafeterias fix now.  It was always soup.  My first grade teacher tried to teach us good manners at lunch time.  We were taught to dip our spoons away from us when we ate our soup.  I really never mastered that because it seemed very foreign to me and often my soup fell off of my spoon before I got it to my mouth.  She did try, though.  I sometimes brought my lunch and remember sitting by a girl who brought soft fried egg sandwiches in her lunch.  Maybe she liked them that way, but It kind of “grossed me out” to watch her eat.  My best friend lived across the street from school and sometimes she invited me to her house for lunch.  Her name was Dion Schofield and I lost track of her as I think she moved away before High School.  I did name one of my daughters Dion after her, though, because I always liked her name. 

I always liked school and I don’t think it was very difficult for me.  I had three older cousins in the same school, one a grade ahead of me.  She was not as fond of school as I was and kept telling me that although the grade I was in was easy, “just wait until you get to’ whatever the next grade was.  I wouldn’t like it as well.

The tragic memory from Riley involved Danny Anzelmo and David Fackler.  We were in first grade at the time and these two boys were good friends who played  together a lot.  One day, they were playing at Danny’s house and were in the upstairs over the detached garage playing.  Apparently there was hay stored up there for some reason.  Anyway, they were playing with matches and caught the garage on fire.  David Fackler was killed in the fire and Danny was very badly burned.  David was a sweet boy who as I remember was always smiling.  As you can imagine, this had a profound effect on me and on my life.  When I taught First Grade, I told my students this story to reinforce the rule of not playing with matches.  I found out quite early in my life what could happen. 

This was in the late thirties and Independence schools were integrated.  My school experience was always multi-racial.  My classmates were people, some of whom I liked and some of whom I liked less than others, but as I remember, race didn’t really enter into it.  I do remember having a fear at one time when a black student put his arm around me in first grade.  The fear was that the color might come off.  I know that sounds stupid now, but at the time, I didn’t know any better.  I think a lot of my positive attitude about differences among cultures comes from having attended school with children of other cultures and races in my formative years.

I still remember the names of all my teachers at Riley.  My Kindergarten teacher was Miss Smith, first grade was Miss Laury, second grade, Miss Street, third grade, Miss Mibeck.  Notice all were unmarried women.  I now wonder if married women were allowed to teach school.  Anyway, they gave me a good start and I appreciate that.



  1. What a neat glimpse into your history, Mom.
    First of all… did you all wear your uniforms to practice in then? Seems quite extravagant for kids that age! I remember my first grade school crush – Kenny Murphy. Remember him? He moved away after Kindergarten. Then it was Jamie Willie and John Lanati.

    I think it is was great that you were exposed to different races and cultures then and absolutely believe that is why you are so accepting. You got to see first hand that no matter what the skin color, everyone really is the same.

    Great post!

  2. Hi- I linked to your page from your daughters’ blog. What a nice idea to write down your memories! I’m enjoying reading them. At bedtime my young children enjoy hearing stories about their dad and I from when we were growing up. As I have a hard time remembering things to share with them, I’m starting a journal to jot down things my children do, so when they have children they can share their own stories. Anway, keep up the good work!!!

  3. You were so young to experience such a tragedy. And I love that the schools were integrated back then, I always assumed they were not.

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