Monday, April 22, 2024

2024 Prompt – School Days – Paul Herbert Simmons

 Nancy Ann Simmons

          Paul Herbert Simmons 1925-1999 – my father


My father, Paul Herbert Simmons, was born on January 29, 1925, and his school days would have started in September 1930. At that time, he lived with his parents, Walter and June Simmons, in Dearborn, Michigan as his father worked at the Ford Motor Company. Unfortunately, on February 24, 1931, his father, Walter Raymond Simmons, died of pneumonia at the age of 28 years, 8 months and 20 days. After his father's death, he lived with his paternal grandparents, Andrew and Elspeth Simmons in Wapella, Illinois where his grandfather was a Methodist minister. His mother and older brother, Wallace, moved to Henning Illinois to live with his mother's parents, Ernest and June Putman. Paul started school at Wapella Grade School while living with his grandparents. Sometime in the summer of 1932, Paul moved to Henning to join his mother and brother.

Wapella Grade School - Wapella, Illinois
Paul is fourth child from right in front row
picture taken about 1932

In the fall of 1932, Paul started school at Henning Grade School, Vermilion County Public Schools. He attended Henning for the next two years. His 3rd grade report card graded spelling, reading, penmanship, drawing, arithmetic, language, and geography. At the end of the year, he received a 100% in arithmetic for his highest mark and 85% in drawing for his lowest mark. The card shows his mother signing his report card as June Simmons but the final signature was his grandmother's, Mrs. Cora Putman. 

Henning Grade School - Henning Illinois
Paul's 3rd-Grade Report Card 

After his mother remarried, Elvis Jackson Merritt, on April 1, 1934, he moved to Detroit, Michigan where he attended Mayberry Elementary for 4th - 6th grades. His 4th grade report card did not evaluate him with percentages but with a number system with 1 being excellent and 5 unsatisfactory. In his final report for 4th grade he received all ones for reading, spelling, arithmetic, geography, handwriting, health education, literature, manual arts, and music. His mother now signed his report card as Mrs. J.E. Merritt.


Mayberry Elementary School - Detroit, Michigan
 Paul's 4th-Grade Report Card 

Paul attended Neinas Intermediate School in Detroit for 7th and 8th grades. In 7th grade, his report card shows classes in auditorium (speech), English, health, mathematics, social science, music, and shop. In 8th grade, he took the same classes except he dropped music and took mechanical drawing. What is interesting looking at his 7th-grade report card is citizenship. It is graded in six areas: cooperation, courtesy, leadership, reliability, self-control, and service. As you can see he did superior in reliability and poor in self-control. It would be interesting to know how they evaluated these areas of citizenship.

Neinas Intermediate School- Detroit, Michigan
Paul's 7th-Grade Report Card

In 1939 Paul attended Western High School in Detroit. For the next four years, he had classes in English, math, and history. He also took general shop, shop math, and machine shop. He took gym classes in 9th and 10th grade. He tried Latin but dropped it after one semester. I never knew he took Latin and wish he would have warned me, I wouldn't have taken Latin! In his senior year, he took geometry, aviation, and English.


Western High School - Detroit, Michigan
Paul's 10th-Grade Report Card

Paul was given a paper route at age 12 by his stepfather to earn money to buy his clothes and save. Because he worked after school and also attended a very large high school, he did not participate in extra-curricular sports.


Palestine Masonic Lodge - DeMolay Softball Team
Paul back row first one from the left, his brother, Wally, back row third from the right

He did play softball on his DeMolay softball team with his brother. DeMolay is the male youth organization of the Masons. He also played basketball with his neighborhood friends at the YMCA. By January 1942 when Paul graduated from high school many of his friends had already dropped out of school and enlisted in military service.

Basketball Team 
Paul standing on far right side, best friend Bob Buck holding the ball

He was in the eighty-eighth graduating class of Western High School and graduated Tuesday morning, January 26, 1943, at half past ten o'clock. There were 160 in his graduation class. Three days later Paul turned 18 years old and received his draft notice. The majority of the boys graduating were inducted into military service in the next few months.

Paul's High School Graduation - January 26, 1943
Western High School - Detroit, Michigan

My father never spoke much about school. We knew he graduated from high school and after the war attended classes at Wayne State University in Detroit for a short time. After he married my mother he worked as a produce manager for a large retail grocery chain. Most of the stories he shared about his school days were about his friends, better known as the Porter Street Gang who played ball with him.



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