My birthday was yesterday, seventy-four years to recall in memory. As the day approached, one of the things I fondly remembered was that I shared birthdays with one of my very best friends from our younger years, Chuck Funderburk. As nearly as I can recall, we first met in kindergarten, the Funderburk Kindergarten which was operated by Chuck’s parents in a building next to their home, a few blocks from Park Circle in North Charleston.
My family had moved to the area around Park Circle only a year or so before, but we all discovered it was a great place to live. Likewise the kindergarten was an ideal setting for all of the kids who attended, always warm and welcoming thanks to Chuck’s parents and the rest of the staff. At meals and snacks I believe we had milk from his grandparents’ dairy business. The upstairs room even housed a huge (at least to young eyes) model train layout, a source of great fascination to some of us. Our time in kindergarten provided our introduction to formal education and the socialization experiences that came with our group activities. For many of us kindergarten was the place where we formed our first friendships beyond the circle of our immediate families. Most of my fellow students there continued as close friends throughout our elementary school, high school, and college years until time and other places called us away.
As incredible as it seems in today’s world, at the age of five I was allowed to ride my bicycle the mile or so from my home to the kindergarten. But then, we rode our bikes everywhere, at least from our time in kindergarten through the end of elementary school. Cars frequently relegated our bicycles to the garage once we were able to get our drivers’ licenses at age thirteen in South Carolina. Until then, on foot or by bike, we covered the area of a circle about two miles in diameter, more or less centered on Park Circle. If we didn’t have something else to do, we would say, “Let’s ride over to ________ (fill in the blank) and see what they’re doing.” We usually could find someone or something to occupy us until time for supper. We visited at friends’ houses, enjoyed various sports and other activities at Park Circle or in backyards and vacant lots, explored the undeveloped woods and marshes, walked along the train tracks, examined houses under construction in new neighborhoods, and created all sorts of other adventures for ourselves. Chuck and I (and I believe some of our other friends) even became young entrepreneurs and set up stands in front of his grandparents’ home on Montague Avenue to sell used comic books and perhaps other treasures and Kool-Aid. Like some later business ventures in my life, that effort was lots of fun but not particularly rewarding financially.
Memories tend to wander around, one recollection leading to another and then heading off in a different direction and this one has been that way for me. I started with a shared birthday and have revisited a number of other events and people and places in my mind over the past few days. I’m sure the pattern will continue and I look forward to recalling my past experiences and the people with whom I’ve shared them. I may not still be with those people in those places, but they certainly continue to be a part of my life.
I knew I had some special photos from those earliest days which I wanted to share in case some of the folks who were part of that time might enjoy recalling their own memories. I’ll attach a few kindergarten and first grade photos and hope some readers will find them interesting. It’s amazing to me looking at the faces of so many of those five- and six-year-olds that I recognize them, recall some memory about them, and in many cases remember their names even after seventy years; I don’t do that well with lots of people I met last week. Take a good look at each face and see what comes into your mind. If you see yourself and are willing, please let me know where you are in each photo. If you recall names of other classmates, I’d be happy to receive those also. And if these words and photos spark other memories or remind you of early photos you have, it would be great for you to share those as well. Most of all, just enjoy looking back at some special earlier times.
This must have been a performance of some sort (I can’t recall what) and perhaps our graduation also since we appear to be holding rolled certificates.
Aren’t we cute?
Our first grade classes at North Charleston Elementary School.
Our first grade class play. I still remember my Frosty the Snowman song and dance (such as it was).
A Christmas play with all of us in authentic Middle Eastern costumes.
A May Day celebration in the playground area behind North Charleston Elementary, possibly later than first grade. What a lovely setting!