Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



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Daughter of Ishmael by Diane Stringam Tolley

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by Diane Stringam Tolley

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

The 'Brush' Off

Well, it was fun for me . . .

My friend, Cathy's dad had a wonderful job.
Magical.
He got to sneak into the schools after everyone had left.
Wander at will through the empty hallways and classrooms.
And clean.
Oh, man, it was the coolest!
And sometimes, wonder of wonders, he let Cathy and I and some of his other kids (12 in all ) . . . help.
There were times when we got to race the huge, soft dry-mops up and down the hallways.
And I do mean race.
Empty the garbage cans.
Snoop.
Did you know that the teacher's lounge of the sixties smelled like cigarette smoke?
Just FYI.
Moving on . . .
And, best of all, he let us clean the brushes.
In the sixties, whiteboards were black.
And pieces of chalk were used instead of today's dry-erase felts.
These pieces of chalk marked the blackboards very effectively.
There were only a couple of drawbacks.
They had the ability to squeak against the board at decibels that could shatter glass.
And they left a lot of chalk dust.
A lot.
Especially when someone tried to clean said chalk from said blackboard.
The thick, black-felt erasers used to accomplish this quickly became saturated with the fine, white dust.
Then they had to be cleaned.
Now a normal person would simply take the vacuum to them.
A normal person.
Kathy and I were ten.
I should point out here that there is nothing normal about a 10-year-old.
Back to my story . . .
Cathy and I would collect the brushes.
Cart them outside.
And bang them together.
Imagine, if you will, a cloud of fine, white dust.
With two little girls somewhere near the center of it.
Giggling.
You get it, right?!
What on earth could be more fun?
The fact that the dust merely got relocated and that the two little girls then had to, themselves, be cleaned, never even entered our minds.
For a brief, wonderful while, we were the center of our very own little dust storm.
I can still remember how it smelled.
And, as it collected on our tongues, just how it tasted.
Magic.

There is an unexpected codicil: Fifteen years later, I was expecting my third child. Another boy.
I craved something. In fact, I could almost taste it. It took forever to figure out what that taste was.
Then it hit me.
Chalk.
I was craving chalk.
And not the light, cheap stuff that had become common.
No.
I was craving the good stuff.
The stuff that Cathy and I used to clean out of those brushes and catch in our mouths all those years ago.
The doctor told me I was lacking in minerals and gave me some pills to swallow.
Sigh.
I wish he would have simply given me some brushes to clean . . .

12 comments:

  1. Oh my...kids today don't know what they're missing do they? I remember beating the brushes. We all had to take a turn at it. Now they use those dry erase markers and the smell gives you a headache.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. AND you get black stuff all over you. Not nearly as much fun as chalk dust!

      Delete
  2. What a wonderful memory. Thank you Diane for another great story.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I am okay with this story except for thinking (or hearing) the sound of chalk making that sound on the chalkboard..you know what I mean?

    ReplyDelete
  4. I used to help my friend, Blaine (Cathy's sister) clean the school. We used a buffing wheel to clean the brushes. That could get a little dangerous as the brush could slip out of your hand to get launched up at the ceiling. But Blaine and I learned to place the brush at just the right place on the wheel and we could aim brushes everywhere. Too bad they didn't have another cleaning wheel so we could play War.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Why am I not even surprised. :) Boys and power tools. You guys had all the fun . . .

      Delete
  5. Mom was just livid when the janitor let my brother help him clean the boiler. My brother came home encased in black soot. But..we still thought the janitor was magical. The teachers sent us out to clean the erasers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Janitors. So mysterious. Able to go into all of the hidden, forbidden recesses of the building. Your brother was probably in heaven!

      Delete
  6. I remember when I was picked to get to clean the erasers... we all wanted to do it when we are in school:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Who knew that dust could be so much fun?!

      Delete

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Diane was born and raised on one of the last of the great old Southern Alberta ranches. A way of life that is fast disappearing now. Through her memories and stories, she keeps it alive. And even, at times, accurate . . .

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