|The school cafeteria (lower left) doubled as our auditorium where I debuted in black face at age eight|
My introduction to the theater perhaps should go unmentioned. But I'll throw political correctness aside to share a very innocent little boy's first appearance on the stage. I think I was in the second grade at Mountain View Elementary in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. (That's the lily white suburb I previously wrote about.) The year would have been around 1955. I played an orphan at Christmas. I remember the play took place at Christmas time because Santa was the main character, and he was played by an adult. Classmates from various grades were the other orphans.
The play took place right after school. The audience was filled with kids from each grade along with their parents. The play was short. My part was even shorter.
My part required intensive practice on my dialect. I'm not sure who taught me the phraseology, and I cannot remember my line. But as I recall my one line brought down the house.
I also remember one of the teachers taking the time to apply my makeup. Yep, an eight year old boy wearing makeup. The teacher rubbed burnt cork all over my hands, neck, and face. I was supposed to be a little black boy. I got my line out, and the audience roared.
Two years earlier I was in kindergarten. I attended the morning class while other kids attended class in the afternoon. We were the beginning of the boomer generation. The next year an addition was added to the right side of the building which then housed kindergarten, first, and second grade classes.
My kindergarten class was located in the lower level on the back side of the original school. My teacher was Miss Godley. She was about 900 years old (or so it seemed to me) and wore her gray hair in a bun. She wasn't fat by today's standards, but back then she was a little plump. She wore wire frame glasses. As I remember her, she was about one of the kindest people I ever met in my life.
I lived one block away from school. Both my mother and dad worked. When I got out of school, I was supposed to walk to the corner of 43rd and Eaton and walk one block east to Mrs. Sorrentino's house were I would spend the afternoon waiting for my mom to get home from work.
On one day a classmate who lived the a couple of blocks south in the opposite direction asked me to go to his house for lunch and play. I agreed and we set out to his house. Miss Godley happened to be driving her car home to have her lunch and saw me and my friend walking. She knew I was going the wrong direction. She stopped the car and asked me where I was going. I said to my friend's house. She told me I had to turn around and go to my house because my parents would be worried. So I said goodbye to my friend, turned around and started to walk back toward my house. Miss Godley drove her car away. I looked back and as soon as I saw that she was gone, I pivoted and ran to my friend where we proceeded go to his house.
I don't remember exactly how or when I was found. I do know Mrs. Sorrentino called my dad who came home and looked all over for me. I know the school got involved in the search because of what
happened the next day. Miss Godely made us all sit down in a circle. She then said one of us had been very bad the day before and she told the story of the bad child who disobeyed and deceived her. We all looked around at the circle wondering which one of us was the bad seed. She never said it was me, for which I was grateful. But as you can tell from reading this, I was still deceitful by not admitting my guilt or my shame. I confess now.
I tell these little tales of my childhood today because I look back on my life with great nostalgia and because of the immense pain and frustration I feel about the loss of life of those sweet little children in Connecticut who will never have silly little tales of school plays or learning the lessons in life we all go through. My heart was broken yesterday. What a sad day it was for our country. And what a horrible day it was for the families of all those who were killed or injured.