Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cliff's KV Notes, Part 8: Nursery Rhymes

below: the current occupant of the KV nursery site at 77 Market Street

My first traumatic experience was being born. I mean, here you are, sloshing around a nice warm dark womb, not a care in the world, and boom! You’re thrust into a bright, cold hospital room and get slapped to make you breathe. Not pleasant, let me tell you.
My second traumatic experience was going, no, being sent to nursery school. I mean here you are in a nice warm apartment, the center of attention of a doting Jewish mother who makes sure you always have on clean diapers, and boom! You’re thrust into a strange room with a bunch of strangers, and a teacher who won’t cater to your every whim. So what do you do? You cry. At least that’s what my nursery school report said. I cried.
I entered KV nursery school on September 19, 1943, at the age of 3. Didn’t even have to take an entrance test. I remember it well. The nursery was the store front on the corner of Market and Cherry. Nice big picture windows. You could sit in the window and watch the world go by. I remember the teacher, Mrs. Bernie, a short, pleasant woman. She had a son who drove a T-series MG sports car. Maybe he had bought it in the U.S. or shipped it over from England during the war. It was the only sports car in the neighborhood. It really got my attention. Had the classic ’30 lines that I admired. The ‘40s cars with their closed fenders with integral headlights just didn’t have the character of the ‘30s models.
When “class” began, you made a dash to where the toys were stored, on a shelf on in a couple of boxes. My favorite toy was a big heavy metal truck from the ‘30s. I could spend all day just pushing it around the floor. One day, Marty Schefflin beat me out to that truck, and I was very upset. ‘Course, I could have just taken the truck away from Marty, and that would have been that. Except for one thing, Marty Schefflin could beat me up.
Come to think about it, just about everybody could beat me up. So I hung out with the girls—they were more civilized. According to Mrs. Bernie’s report, in my second and final year at nursery school (I graduated with honors), I hooked up with Linda Babits. We were good friends, and I used to visit her at her apartment. I remember her father Seth, who I believe being told that he was a newspaper reporter (something that impressed me), her mother Rose, and sister, Janie.
below: a nursery note of Cliff's mentioning Linda Babits

Nursery school was also where I met Eugene Reiser—a very smart and logical guy, who enjoyed mischief making as much as I did. We became fast friends, and remain so to this very day.
The one bad thing about nursery school was the mandatory naps. Once a day, around noontime, everyone had to lie on a hard cot for maybe 20 minutes or a half-hour. I never slept, I just wiggled around waiting for nap time to end. Today, I’d kill rather than miss my afternoon power nap.
When the weather was nice, we’d get to go the KV playground. Mrs. Bernie pulled out a long rope that had loops attached to it. Each kid would grab onto a loop and we made our way down Cherry St. to the playground accompanied by Mrs. Bernie, her assistant, Miss Hazel, and maybe a parent or two.
The playground separated the kiddie area, closest to Cherry St., with a low chain-link fence that ran across the playground. The fence had a gate that you walked through to the much larger area for the older kids. At the right side of the kiddie area, back toward the fence were the kiddie swings—green wood seats that had a wood bar that you lifted up so you could climb (or be lifted) into the swing. You then pulled down the bar and it made a rattling noise as it slid over the chains that supported the swing.
I loved the swings—I loved anything with motion. Before I was old enough to attend nursery school, my mother, and on occasion, my father, would take me to the playground and push me in the swing. They always stopped too soon.
I always had my eye on the big kids’ swings with their flat black hard rubber seats and support bars with interlocking eye hooks instead of chains that went waaay up to the overhead pipe frame. At the time, I think those swings came up to my neck, so there was no way I could get on one.
To the left in the kiddie area as another low chain link fence. I don’t remember if there was a gate or just an opening in the fence (I don’t want to give incorrect information, even though anyone who could call me on this is either dead or watching black-and-white “Yule Log reruns in some old age home.) This playground section housed the sandboxes that were up against the wall on Cherry St. There were also two large green padlocked wood sheds that held play equipment. These sheds had a wonderful woody smell when you walked inside.
One of the nursery activities was “painting.” You’d get something like a tomato can half-filled with water and a paintbrush. And you’d “paint” stuff—like the brick wall, or the fence. The bricks would turn dark from the water, and soon dry, returning to their original color. So you’d have to paint them again. The biggest worry in my life at the time was not the war, or the economy, or paying the rent. But getting a “new” paintbrush which had flexible bristles, and spread the water out evenly—a real joy. Because Mrs. Bernie also handed out some older brushes that were stiff and curved. And that was like painting with a stick—a real drag.
The sandboxes were fun, unless someone was throwing sand at you and it got in your eyes. According to Mrs. Bernie’s report, Eric (no last name given, but I think I know who he is) did just that and got me very upset. The upper 12 inches of sand was white but it turned yellow as you dug deeper.
That’s all I remember about nursery school. The next stops would be P.S. 177 and the big kids’ playground.
to the next chapter of Cliff's KV Notes
A link to the previous chapter

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