Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



All of My Friends

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Chalkboard Aftermath

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.
Cathy 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 . . .

19 comments:

  1. Oh, how well I remember clamouring for the honour of being chosen by my Grade 4 teacher to take the brushes outside and "clean" them. You have to wonder what kind of stuff we were inhaling, and whether it was good for little lungs...

    ReplyDelete
  2. That was always the big boys job...along with all the other good stuff like filling the water urn from the pump.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I bet your friend's dad was sad when all of his kids (and all their friends) were grown up and he had to do all the cleaning himself!

    "In the sixties, white boards were black" - yes indeed. And in the seventies, too. I think in the eighties they were still used in my kids' early classrooms. But at some point in the late eighties or early nineties, computers started to inch into the schools, and I think whiteboards hitched a ride with them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was trying to explain a blackboard to my grandkids the other day. And surprised that I had to explain it.

      Delete
  4. Gee, when Blaine and I cleaned the brushes, we would go down to the boiler room in the old part where they had a rotating brush. You took a good stance and pushed the brush down against the cleaning wheel and it took everything out, including ideas, except for the times when we would purposely let one go and watch it get tossed up against the ceiling.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, boring. Except for the brushes to the moon part!

      Delete
  5. I miss chalk and chalkboard and erasers--nothing is more evocative of our youth.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I distinctly remember that smell of chalk dust. Funny that you liked the taste of it. My husband said that he did too, as a kid.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't ever remember actually taking a piece and biting it. But I sure remembered the taste! Go figure! :)

      Delete
  7. This took me right back to Catholic school, and the joy of being chosen to clean the erasers! Must have been something addicting in there :)!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Did you use the same tried and true method?

      Delete
  8. I remember banging chalk erasers, (we called them dusters), for us it was punishment for doing something wrong like talking in class or being late. We used to make sure we stood with our backs to the wind so the dust would blow away from our faces.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aha! Back to the wind. I knew I was doing something wrong . . .

      Delete
  9. This post brings back some pretty awesome memories! The chalkboard cleaner was an oil that smelled of cloves and cinnamon. Getting to clean the board was the primo job. Cleaning the erasers for our school involved a mechanical cleaner, and the boys got this job (?). Can't describe it well, but it was cool.
    Thanks for the memories.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thanks for this step back in time. And as far as pica goes - craving chalk is better than some other substances I've heard of pregnant women actually ingesting!

    ReplyDelete
  11. This used to be one of my favorite jobs and I loved cleaning the erasers in the same exact way. Didn't take much to entertain us did it! On another side when I was pregnant with my son there was a lady who was also pregnant and would actually sit in the waiting room chewing on a small piece of 2 x 4 because she was craving the taste of wood! I craved steak hoagies covered in tomato sauce and extra pickles...at least I never got splinters!

    ReplyDelete

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