Patrick D. Kennedy: Reminiscing about Heywood days

It seems so funny to me that here I am, as a young person (at least in my mind), that I should be writing a column about my memories of things that happened in the 1970s. Perhaps some of you are in the same boat. One begins to remember your old school days and “Bam,” just like that, it was 40-plus years ago. As it is, here I am reminiscing again.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about my friend and classmate Bond Howery, and it got me to thinking about other memories from Heywood Elementary days.

When I attended Heywood during my fourth-sixth grade years, we were fortunate to have some very good educators teaching us. The fourth grade classes were taught by Mr. Paul Bassett and Vicki Van Horn. Miss Van Horn was a young, friendly and energetic teacher. I remember she married a few years later, but do not recall her married name. Mr. Bassett, an ordained minister, in contrast, seemed to be a stodgy old school educator, but down deep he really cared about the children.

As we moved to fourth grade, the dynamic team of Bill Miller and Michael Beamish were on hand to expand our horizons. Mr. Miller, I always thought, was a little scary. He was nice and a good teacher, but for a mischievous, although not trouble making, boy, he had an aura of “no monkey business.” I have spoken with him a couple times in recent years and found him to be very kind and friendly. Mr. Miller worked with Mr. Beamish, now newly retired mayor of Troy, who sought to assist his students in learning through many means.

I recall a number of events during that year, but two that stand out were centered on the remembrance of Johnny Appleseed’s 200th birthday celebrated with some special events. The fifth grade class put on a play about Johnny Appleseed’s life and then, as a class, we planted a couple seedling apple tree near the high school — complete with Mr. Beamish in buckskins and a pot on his head, portraying Johnny. The trees are now gone, victims of development, but the memories of those events still linger.

In the sixth grade, we had Carl Frings and Carol Smith. Mr. Frings was a veteran teacher, but he was also a good teacher in those years and cared about his students succeeding.

The other teacher, who I believe may have been new to Heywood that year, was Mrs. Smith. She had a light up the room smile. She was probably my first school boy crush. Seriously, she was a very good teacher and made every student feel as if he or she was her most important pupil. It saddened me to learn recently that she passed away this last fall.

Three other standout people for me at Heywood were Principal Charles Hormell; Nanie Hill, physical education; and Henrietta Mungle, librarian. Mr. Hormel was a firm, but kind disciplinarian. His handlebar mustache and goatee gave him a very distinct look. He loved history and arranged for a field trip to the Johnston Farm not long after it first opened. Which made history come to life for a kid who already enjoyed reading about the past.

Ms. Hill was a robust African-American woman, who, it seemed, would rather paddle the mischievousness out of you than lecture you. The gymnasium was her realm and you did not mess around. Years later, I saw she was actually a nice lady who just expected obedience in class.

Miss Mungle was, in many ways, the stereotypical image of an old school librarian, and was like other educators in that she expected quiet attentiveness so she could teach or so others could read. I knew her for many years after my time at Heywood, and she had numerous fine qualities. But I will always remember her as the one who taught me how to open a new book properly so that you did not damage its binding, which is something I practice to this day.

Another memory was the McKaig Market, which was located just west of the school. Some of us would go there and get rope gum in grape, cherry or watermelon flavors. They also had a wide assortment of other candy that would keep a youngster happy until they could make it to Jay’s downtown. Mr. and Mrs. Voisard were also the original providers of Diana’s Pizza. Ording’s, Diana’s Pizza and Pizza Hut were about the only pizza places at that time, although Godfather’s was in Troy for a while not long after that.

Recess was always a fun time during the day. Depending on the season or weather, we would either play football or softball. We always had to be organized and begin almost immediately when we got out there because recess was only about 20 minutes, in my recollection.

Since the weather seemed about the same as it has been this fall and winter, I often went outside without a coat because it was just too bulky to wear when you were having fun. From time-to-time, Mr. Beamish has reminded of this fact.

I could go on about many friends I made at Heywood, as well as the antagonists that were ever present to make life difficult, but, alas, the newspaper only has so much space allotted for me, and I have probably already gone beyond that, so until next time, au revoir.