This is Living Stories, featuring voices from the collections of the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. I'm Louis Mazé.
Many memories from our youth are intertwined with those of school, the place where we were making friends and developing interests.
Waco native Helen Geltemeyer shares a treasured memory from her schooldays:
"My earliest memories of Bell's Hill is going to school, walking every morning and with our dog, Tex, following my sister and I and maybe my brother. And the dog would stand at the door of this far end, the east end of the school, and we'd say, Tex, go home! And he'd finally go home. Every day that dog went to school with us. And I loved that school because you could see one end to the other. And the floors were just so clean and nice, and we had such a good time. All my teachers were—seemed to be so lovely."
She recalls her older brother Ross and his friends:
"And a lot of them had donkeys around there across the street. My brother was one of them. They loved to take their donkey to school, Hardy Jones and he, to feed—they were under these mesquite trees. They'd go over there and water them. We thought that was so funny for them to get to do it. It was just for the fun and heck of it. (laughter) They finally quit that, but I always would beg my brother to let me sit on his donkey. And he'd let me sit, and all his boyfriends would be standing around."
Manuel Hernandez, whose family moved from Mexico when he was three years old, describes his school years at Mt. Carmel and Elm Mott and his struggle to learn English:
"The teacher's didn't want to travel to that school. One of them decide to stay the whole week, and they rent the room. It was a nice community. But I couldn't learn English because half of the kids were Mexican people, and the others were white. We get along okay, but we separate on, kind of, the language. That was my problem, that I couldn't learn the English language until I moved to Elm Mott, where it was only three Spanish people in the school. So we had to learn it. And I was already about eleven years old, and being in the first grade, it make you feel bad. Of course, we had some Czech people that had same problems I had because they were speaking at home Czech and English at school. So it was kind of combination of language."
Hernandez left the Elm Mott school during the early days of the Great Depression to find work and help his family financially. Geltemeyer eventually graduated from Waco High in the mid-thirties. Through the years, they carried with them the memories of those formative days in school.
Living Stories is heard every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday on 103 point 3 FM, Waco's NPR. For more information about this program or the Institute for Oral History, visit us at baylor.edu/livingstories.
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