Friday, October 16, 2020

2020 Prompt - School - Nancy Ann Simmons - Me!

52 Ancestors - Week 37

Prompt - School

Nancy Ann Simmons - Me!    



School, a place I have always loved.  As a child I would anxiously wait for Labor Day weekend so I could head back to school the next week.  I loved playing school and at home I would line up my younger siblings in front of our chalkboard and lead the class. As I matured my goal was to become a teacher!

As Dwight Eisenhower is elected president and Princess Elizabeth is crowned Queen of Great Britain, I headed off to kindergarten in the fall of 1952. At the time I was the oldest of three little girls and taking off for school was my first step toward independence. Kindergarten was uneventful, except the spring carnival where I got to see Soupy Sales live doing the Soupy Shuffle.  Soupy was a big Detroit comedian who did a kid's lunch time TV program with his sidekicks White Fang, Black Tooth, Pookie the Lion and my favorite, Willie the Worm! From 1st through 6th grade, I often walked home and ate lunch watching Soupy Sales and then walking back to school for my afternoon classes.

Soupy Sales 

 As I started kindergarten in 1952, life in our household had many new events.  My father bought a grocery store business in Detroit, my baby brother, Robert, was born and after my parents purchased a house on Sharon Street in southwest Detroit we moved back into Detroit so my father could be closer to his business.  In the fall of 1953, I started first grade at Bennett Elementary.  Detroit Public schools were very progressive at this time and I had a wonderful curriculum to build my educational experiences.  My report card shows we not only had reading, writing, science, and literature but also art, music, and health education.

Bennett Elementary School
Detroit, Michigan


1953-1954 First Grade Report Card
Looks like I was talking too much in auditorium class!

By fourth grade, our curriculum was enhanced by not only adding arithmetic, spelling, and social studies but also art, music, auditorium, library and physical education or gym class! Some of my favorite classes were art class and especially science class since we had a male teacher and had a conservatory attached to the school where we grew plants and studied seeds. We had auditorium class where we put on short plays and music class with Mr. White where I acquired my love of classical music.  It was in 4th grade that I selected the string program and started learning to play the violin. Every year our school produced great programs of singing, dancing, and instrumental performances.  It was in fifth grade we studied Detroit and Michigan history in social studies with Mr. Mitchum and my love of history began.  When we had library class, I would gravitate to the set of blue biographies on the shelves where I read about American presidents, explorers, and famous women.


Bennett Elementary School Strings 1959

But my favorite class was gym class with Mr. Niver and Mrs. Hughes as our teachers.  Every Friday, we engaged in square dancing and in the spring the boys played softball and the girls played kickball, and on several occasions, I was picked to play softball with the boys.  I also loved all the fitness testing and held the sit-up and pull-up record as well as being the fastest in my class other than one boy who was a year or two older than all of us and his brother played on the Detroit Lions team.  I could never beat him in the 50-yard dash!


Mr. Niver & Mrs. Hughes
Elementary Physical Education Teachers

Living in my Detroit neighborhood in the 1950s had many benefits. I not only knew the kids that went to the public school with me but also had many friends that went to the private Catholic school and we also lived near an Armenian Hall where families celebrated weddings there on Saturdays and were members of the Armenian Orthodox Church. Somehow at a young age I loved diversity and and was interested in the many different kinds of churches there were in my neighborhood. 


Another advantage of my neighborhood was the availability of friends.  I was able to make plans with my friends to walk home with them after school and play with them until 4:30 when I would walk back home.  One favorite friend was Joanie who lived with her grandmother since her mother died when we were in third grade.  Joanie was on only child and I envied that she never had siblings messing with her belongings but also realized she was very lonely as the only child living with her father and grandmother.  Joanie and I loved to play school and instead of lining up siblings to teach we lined up her dolls and stuffed animals.


6th Grade Friends
Sue Ellen, Gail and Joanie

Girlfriends back row - Cecilia & Edna
Middle row- Gail, Vicki, Kathleen and my sister Judy
Front row - sister Cathy, girlfriends Peggy & Angela
Bennett Elementary 1959

Another benefit of living on Sharon street was Patton Park that was only one block away from our home.  The park had a big community center with an indoor pool and gymnasium.  My two younger sisters and I spent many afternoons after school taking free swimming and dance classes. Every Wednesday my sisters and I would hurry home to go roller-skating in the gym. And on the first Friday of the month my friends and I would meet at the center rom 4-6 pm for the pre-teen dances for fifth and sixth graders. 


Patton Park Pool
We only swam there in the winter because of the Polio epidemic

In June of 1959, my classmates and I celebrated our promotion to seventh grade. We wore our Sunday best to school and the Mother’s Club gave us a luncheon where we exchanged autograph books with each other and wrote silly limericks to each other. I have many fond memories of classmates and activities at Bennett Elementary.

6th Grade Promotion Day
Denise, Peggy, Gail & Sue
Marcus & Larry

As you age, one usually reflects on life wondering what experiences made an impact. My early years at Bennett Elementary School were significant.  The amazing curriculum, the kind and enthusiastic teachers, and my dear friendships helped build my desire to return to the classroom.  


  1. Wonderful! You have a good memory and great pictures!

  2. I love reading about your early school years Nancy! Makes me nostalgic.