It was November 22, 1963. I can smell the room, the paste, and paper, and crayons and us sweaty kids… the sun streaming thru the big windows, with the coastal range in back.
I was in 3rd grade, in Steindorf School in San Jose, and my
teacher was Miss Riggs, a new teacher, who was really, really
beautiful, at least from the point of view of an 8 year old 3rd grader.
Now that I look back, she was having a tough time keeping us all in
line. Not that it was all that easy, I think I was one amongst others who might now be called "borderline hyperactive" and at very least full of tow-headed suburban
I remember that I liked school with Miss Riggs. That she had great ideas, one of which
was to put on a production of some sort using the song “Puff the Magic
Dragon", tho at some point in our practice sessions, she lost control of us, and
decided to cancel it all. But we loved her, even though we had a hard time
behaving. I liked her, and her worksheets that smelled of mimeograph
fluid, and remember her showing me how to color and shade things like I
had never done before with crayons.
You see, it had been a
rough few months, duck and cover drills, and other things that really scared
the shit out of little kids and their parents who lived in California suburbs ringed by military bases.
My second grade teacher who I can now see
was gifted, during one of the drills, when all the little girls were
crying, told us that the school had installed special “antiblast”
windows and that we would be OK because the curtains we had to pull
were lead lined and would protect us (from what no one knew). I
remember drawing “antiblast” windows on everything I drew for a week
after, and having my Dad cut antiblast windows in refrigerator boxes he used to bring home so I could make forts in.
Once, my best friend Oscar and I got in
trouble during one duck and cover drill because we could see the
underwear of one girl sitting in front of us, and Oscar and I got to
laughing uncontrollably. Which was cool, because he had a way of seeing that I was
getting nervous and worried like the rest of the kids, and he said from under his desk
next to me, “Spisst, Danny, look” and pointed ahead of him with his
finger. And I looked, ahead of me and there was Dianne’s butt in flowery
glory staring right at me.
She hated me and Oscar until I moved to Oregon at the beginning of 6th grade.
Like I said, I was at the water fountain, when the principal made the announcement over the intercom to the effect
that the president had been shot and killed and that we were all to go
home. Miss Riggs burst into tears, and we all got ready and lined up. For once we were well behaved, and she hugged each of us as we left...
In those days, kids walked to and from school, and so I remember the
line of kids, mostly silent, big and little walking down Foxworthy
Avenue to their homes exiting both left and right on the suburban track home
side streets, mine on Kilo Avenue. I can’t remember if we went to the
neighbors, or if my little sister was with me… I just remember the line
of kids, mostly silent, and later not really understanding why there were no
cartoons on the TV for the rest of a week.
At any rate, that
is my story about a moment that changed the whole world.
I hope you are
well Miss Riggs, and Oscar...
and then there is this astonishing moment in Boston :