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Threads: A Literate Six-Year-Old

Added to site July 27, 2016

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My grandmother Emma Buckingham kept a couple of letters that I (prompted by my mother) wrote to her in 1953.

MARCH 3, 4:14 PM

DEAR GRANDMA:

JUST BACK HOME FROM KINDERGARTEN.  –OH, YOU MADE JUST ENOUGH COOKIES.  THERE WAS ONLY THREE LEFT!  — HEY — MOTHER THOUGHT THAT THERE WAS GOING TO BE MORE LEFT.  AND THE THREE WERE BUNNIES.

In my kindergarten class, we were preparing an “operetta” to be presented on April 17 on the big stage in the high school auditorium.  The teacher, Georgia Cramer, had decided that since I had learned to read I should demonstrate that skill, rather than simply portraying a nursery-rhyme character like everyone else.  I would be the Secretary.  Unsure how to spell that word, in my letter I resorted to an abbreviation.

FOR THE OPERETTA, INSTEAD OF MY PART, I’M A SEC’Y.  THAT MEANS THAT I READ THE CHARACTERS NAMES OFF.  AND SHE WANTS ME TO WEAR MY NEW SUIT, SHIRT AND BOW TIE.  THE TAILOR WILL HAVE IT READY TO WEAR SUNDAY.  ALL HE HAS TO DO IS SHORTEN THE PANTS AND TAKE ONE INCH OFF ONE SLEEVE.

LOVE, TOMMY THOMAS.

P.S. SNOW IS ALL GONE.

I somehow managed to avoid wearing the bow tie.  I may still have this red plaid one in a drawer somewhere.

The teacher wrote my script, including a “Roll Call” listing 22 characters and groups to be introduced.  My father’s bookkeeper typed the text and put it in a ledger book for me.

It originally placed the scene “at the Convention Hall.”  Perhaps that detail was suggested by the Republican and Democratic National Conventions televised the previous July from Chicago.  However, “at the” was replaced by “on the lawn of” because our stage backdrop depicted not a meeting hall but a sunny wooded lakeside.

Anyway, here's my report. 

Secretary’s Report.

The 1952 annual Convention of the Children of Mother Goose met in the House That Jack Built in the land of Make Believe.

The president, Jack Spratt, called the meeting to order.  The secretary’s report was read and accepted without corrections.  A business session was held at which time the following officers were elected for 1953:

President – King Cole

Mother of Storyland – Mother Goose

Place of the 1953 Convention to be in Toytown at the on the lawn of Convention Hall, the date to be April 17, 1953.

Many other items of interest were brought before the convention, including the questions of “Who Killed Cock Robin?” and “Oh, Dear! What Can the Matter Be?”

The convention closed in order.

Respectfully submitted,

DOCTOR FOSTER
Secretary

Doctor who, now?  I didn't know it at the time, but it turns out that “Doctor Foster” is himself a nursery-rhyme character, better known in England than here in America.  His little poem works better if you use the native pronunciations I've added in brackets.  

Doctor Foster
Went to Gloucester [Gloster]
In a shower of rain.

He stepped in a puddle [piddle]
Right up to his middle
And never went there again [agayne].

I’m told this refers to a royal visit to Gloucester around the year 1300.  We make the assumption (for which there's rhyme but no reason) that “Doctor Foster” refers to the learned King Edward I, who “arrived during a storm and, mistaking a shallow puddle for a deep ditch, steered his horse in that direction.  Both horse and rider became trapped in the mire and had to be hauled out.  Infuriated and no doubt embarrassed by the humiliation, he vowed never to return to the town.”

It's claimed that this rhyme is useful in teaching children the valuable lesson that one ought to mind where one steps, lest a piddle prove to be deeper than it appears.


That summer, I wrote my grandmother again to let her know we had safely arrived home from her place.  However, we had interrupted our 120-mile journey with a dinner break 18 miles short of our destination, so that when we reached the house Mother didn’t have to cook.

JULY 27, 10:30 AM

DEAR GRANDMA:

WE GOT HOME ALL RIGHT.  WE ALSO STOPPED AT BUN’S RESTAURANT, DELAWARE.  WE HAD CORN-ON-THE-COB, CHICKEN & MASHED POTATOES.  ALSO ICE CREAM & WATERMELON.

JOHN T. SEAMANDS FROM S. INDIA, AT FIRST METHODIST CHURCH (WEDNESDAY), GAVE US A NINE-INCH LION.

Bun’s (at right) is a landmark restaurant that’s been in business in Delaware, Ohio, since 1864.

The “lion,” as I recall, was actually a carving of a sleek prowling black panther on a wooden base.

My uncle Jim, Emma’s son, was now working for my father.  His wife Virginia had been limping recently.

I SUPPOSE YOU WANT TO KNOW ABOUT VIRGINIA’S LEG.  WELL!  IT’S ALLLLLLLL RIGHT NOW.

IT’S AWFULLY HOT TODAY.  BYE. 

X X X

TBT


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