A 1950s Thanksgiving Lesson In Miss Rumbleheart’s Class

Bob Grafe, Columnist

© Thanksgiving Day is a good day to reflect back on all of the many blessings each one of us has received in this life — especially for those of us old enough to recall both the good and the bad times and are wise enough to recognize the difference.

  I can recall back over half a century ago when the early-morning chill seemed to envelope the concrete basement classroom at my aging Lincoln Elementary School.  It was there that my also aging school teacher, Miss Rumbleheart, ran her third-grade class with the disciplined style of a very disgruntled Army drill sergeant.

  And even though Thanksgiving was the very next day, Miss Rumbleheart made it perfectly clear that she was there that school day for the sole purpose of teaching us the FOUR “R’s” … read’n, right’n, rithmatic’n and ruler’n.

  If you didn’t perform to her standard with the first three R’s, her 18-inch wooden ruler “Whack” would quickly move you back on task.

  Those were the days before school lawyer’n became popular and when long-reaching rulers helped make “no child left behind” a much easier goal to achieve.

  I still remember that late fall school day when for the first time I got the inkling that Miss Rumbleheart might actually HAVE a heart.

  It was mid-morning and the radiator next to the window across the room from my ink-well style desk had finally stopped crackling for awhile.  I noticed that Miss Rumbleheart seemed a little more odd than usual that day.

  Surprisingly, Whack the ruler hadn’t moved from her desk all morning — making all of us students very thankful as we prepared for a Thanksgiving school holiday.

  “Let’s make a list on the blackboard.” She announced.  “Tell me what you’re thankful for.  It’s going to be Thanksgiving tomorrow, and you’d better be thankful for something!”

  As she went around our third-grade classroom asking for input from each child, the blackboard quickly filled with such things as my mom and dad; new shoes; a new bike; cherry Coke; a new dress; my puppy “Buster;” a big radio; The Lone Ranger; grandma and grandpa; and the like.

  When the blackboard was filled to capacity, Susan, the girl at the desk next to me raised her hand to ask a question.  With a bit of annoyance in her voice, our teacher said to Susan, “Yes, what is it?”

  Susan shyly asked “Miss Rumbleheart, what are you thankful for?”

  With a silence in the classroom similar only to those times when Miss Rumbleheart was going to send someone to the principal’s office for doing something really bad, she sat down at her desk and seemed to be thinking without saying a word for the longest time.

  Then she began.

  She told us about how she almost married many years ago, but “things” just didn’t work out.

  However, she quickly added that she had also wanted children of her own — but  was very thankful to have had so many wonderful school children to teach and to keep safe each day for so many years.

  The Korean War had been going on for a couple of years, and Miss Rumbleheart told us how thankful she was for living in a country where she had freedoms that many other peoples of the world did not.

  She said that she was thankful for all those who were serving in the military and who fought for our freedoms and to keep us all safe.  “My nephew is in the Army, and he is fighting in Korea.” She noted.  “They say the war will be over soon, and I’m thankful for that.  We all, everyone in our family, really miss him.”

  “It always makes me proud to see the American flag flying high,” she said, adding that we were lucky to live in America and that we should always be thankful for “our special country.”

    She said that she was thankful that she felt safe to walk in her neighborhood and while shopping.  “People in our town are very polite to each other and we care about each other.  I feel safe here and I’m sure thankful for that.”

  Television was new then, and she said that she was thankful for being able to see and hear such wonderful things on television.  “What a blessing the television is.” She said.  “We’ll all be able to learn so many new things with it that radio just can’t duplicate.”

  With a smile, she recalled that it made her and the school’s principal very thankful to not have to hear “any foul language” from the students at our school.  Again, she told us how proud she was of us for our good manners.

  She said that she was thankful for all the families who raised such wonderful children for her to teach in school.  And, she added that she was very thankful to have had the opportunity to have “such a special job as a school teacher.”

  “I have been truly blessed.” She said.

  As she was about to finish talking, I remember seeing some tears in her eyes that she unsuccessfully attempted to hide as she told us how thankful she was for her family, her friends and her God.

  The rest of that day remains a bit of a blur.  However, the memory of those good feelings and precious teachings about the blessings of living, especially living in America that Miss Rumbleheart instilled in me and many others that day, lingers on even now.

  When we returned from our Thanksgiving holiday, Miss Rumbleheart was there to greet us at the door – “Whack” the ruler in hand.  Back to the four R’s we went — but, with a new appreciation for our master senior citizen school teacher.

  As for me, I’m very thankful for having been blessed with many wonderful teachers throughout the years while living in our great country — but, I’m especially thankful for Miss Rumbleheart and how she forever taught me about being thankful.

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