I can say the eight years I went to Burdine School were the best years of my young life.
Most of the kids went barefooted until the first snow. When we wore our tennis shoes to play sports then went back inside those hot classrooms, you could smell those sweaty shoes for miles.
I only had one pair of jeans, and they got very dirty while playing sports. When I got home, my mom would wash them in a big washtub, heating the water on our old wood-burning cook stove. She would hang my jeans behind the stove during the night. In the morning she would iron them while I was slopping the hogs and milking our cow. For the wintertime, I would get a pair of brogans or boots if I was lucky.
When I went to school at Jenkins High School, I always walked the two miles and never rode the bus that stopped every morning at Camden because I was so shy even though I knew everyone on the bus. Thinking about it now, it does not make a lot of sense to me.
On my way to school, I would take produce, fruit and meat from our smokehouse to my aunt, Ida Mae Sexton, who lived on Main Street. My aunt had two boys that wore the same size of clothing as I did. She gave me hand-medowns that kept me in school. I wanted to look nice like the Jenkins boys did.
Most of the boys had girlfriends. I was too shy to say much to the girls.
Mrs. Vanover was one of my teachers. When no one was around, she called me Cuz. When I quit school and went into the military, on my first leave home I ran into Mrs. Vanover at the post office. She was very upset with me for quitting school. She told me if she knew I was that poor, she would have done something about it. She said after I left, some of my classmates wanted to know what happened to the good-looking Vanover boy.
At our high school reunion, she was talking to three of our classmates and I walked up to her and asked her for a dance. She said, “Cuz, I see that you are no long shy.” She was such a nice lady and lived to a nice old age.
I only wish I had finished high school, but I did get my GED.
Contributing writer Everett Vanover lives in Fairfield, Cal.