Mementos, Ephemera

My First Grade Birthday Book, September 1958

Welcome to First Grade!

You Butterfly!

The Greeting Post Card

Miss Davis

In late summer 1958 I got a nice little postcard from Miss Davis, who was to be my first grade teacher during the next year. The card came with a nifty butterfly sticker attached. I loved bugs.

I don't remember school ever starting as late as September 2 when I was in grade school. Usually it was a week before the end of August. But evidently I don't remember everything. (September 2, 1958, was a Tuesday, the day after Labor Day.)

Two days after the beginning of the school year would be my birthday, and my tenure as a five-year-old first grader would come to an end. Miss Davis had great plans for our class birthdays that year.

First Grade, New London, 1958 First Grade, New London, 1958 First Grade, New London, 1958 First Grade, New London, 1958 First Grade, New London, 1958 First Grade, New London, 1958 First Grade, New London, 1958

First day back at school

First Grade

In the two sections of first grade at New London Community Schools in 1958 there were 45 children who got school pictures taken. The teachers were Miss Davis and Miss Brennan.

Our class suffered a lot of attrition by the time we reached our senior class year in 1970. 31 of us went to graduation then. 19 of those 31 were in this first grade picture!

Both sections of first grade were a huge improvement over our kindergarten fiasco!

First Grade Birthday Book, 1958

Happy birthday sweet six

The Birthday Book

Thursday was my birthday (we may have had two that day in my class, I don't remember any longer for certain who was in each section of first grade).

In honor of the event, Miss Davis had the whole class use our crayons to create masterpieces, which she put together in a scrapbook and sent home with me. We did this every birthday, and I others were fit in during the school year if they happened to be unlucky and have their birthday during the summer months. The graphic on the front of the book did have the appropriate six candles when it was new.

First Grade Birthday Book, 1958

Drawing #1: A Greeting with a Bomb!

I think even until I was in my 20s, I knew who had drawn all these pictures, but I sure can't remember now (unless they signed them).

This picture was always an enigma. I could not figure out what the circle with a tail on it on the top line was. Maybe it was supposed to be the letter "a," though probably it was a dyslexic "6." Now it looks a lot more like a bomb.

Bombs were big in our area, with the Iowa Ordnance Plant nearby.

The year before during kindergarten, one of our classmates lost his father in an explosion at the plant. His mother then moved out of town.

I notice there are seven candles on the birthday cake. Whoever drew this was not yet adept at math, though maybe there just was too much space left on the cake after the sixth candle was added.

First Grade Birthday Book, 1958

Make mine choc-o-late

Drawing #2: Chocolate Cake on a Pink Platter

Chocolate cake on a pink pedestal with yellow finger-candles

This artist did get six candles correctly (though one seems to be splitting in two like a bacteria), but the texture of the cake has room for improvement. Perhaps working in a medium other than crayon would be helpful.

First Grade Birthday Book, 1958

Drawing #3: The Leaning Tower of Peft

Leaning House and '58 Car

Someone had learned to draw houses at home. The fourplex windows remind me of things I might have done. But I was not aware of "Peft" yet (or is it "Deft"?)

First Grade Birthday Book, 1958

Drawing #4: Idyllic Scene

Joyce Layman

I know that Joyce Layman produced this image. She was always very artistic, and it shows at this early age.

First Grade Birthday Book, 1958

Drawing #6: Happy birthday Dennis

Running out of room on the right for the birthday message presented no problem for this artist, who simply reversed direction to finish spelling out my name (minus one "n").

First Grade Birthday Book, 1958

A Creative Use of the Color Spectrum

This artist managed to use most of the crayon colors in the Crayola box to create a rainbow birthday cake. The effect I see in the candle area reminds me more of a claw than a cake, but what the hell.

(The colors outside the box on the lower mid-to-right side are apparently the artist's signature.)

First Grade Birthday Book, 1958

The mysterious tower #1

Exploding Red Star

Sutro Tower, at home with the stars

A prescient child produced this image of a red star at the onset of its death explosion, with a telltale Easter egg referring to my future.

First Grade Birthday Book, 1958

Sixteen [and more] candles


Early Aged

There is nothing remotely humorous about making me so old at such a young age. Shame on you, artist!

First Grade Birthday Book, 1958

Casper the friendly ghost

Casper the Ghost Goes Flasher

Casper the Flashing Ghost

Harry Stearns drew this montage with Casper the ghost opening his ghost coat to reveal… words. The message, coded, is "Birthday m Dennis fro Hrry." Harry's birthday cake on the lower right could be a space alien with six antennae. It was a sunny day in his world.

Harry Stearns
First Grade Birthday Book, 1958

Artist Not Following Instructions

When he couldn't catch the bunny, he raided the bee hive

A sneering beehive in a buzzard mouth may be noticing my birthday; it's hard to tell. No greeting.

First Grade Birthday Book, 1958

A Minimalist Birthday Cake

The rectangles have no wicks, but the cake has no texture, either.

First Grade Birthday Book, 1958

The mysterious tower #2

Teepee House with Mysterious Tower

Sutro Tower, at home with the stars

Now that I take closer look at all these pictures, I wonder how the young artists knew?

First Grade Birthday Book, 1958

Phallic Candles

Barbara Parker

For Barbara Parker's tall birthday cake, she chose purple, yellow, and orange.

First Grade Birthday Book, 1958

Early Happy Face Sighting

Kurt Krieger Happy Face

The happy face symbol did not exist in 1958, not as we know it now, at least. Kurt Krieger was another artist ahead of his time. The firecrackers in lieu of candles on the cake seem appropriate, too. The six candles indicate he was good at counting, probably because his father was the high school band instructor.

First Grade Birthday Book, 1958

Cherry pink cake

Tall Pink Cake

When Miss Davis gave us instructions about making pictures she put the text "Happy birthday Dennis from" on the blackboard. The artist was supposed to fill in his/her name. Unfortunately, six year olds forget. I also note the nine candles on this drawing. Nine is six upside down. That must mean something.

First Grade Birthday Book, 1958

Tall Tapers

This lemon cake with tall candles indicate the artist planned for the cake to be served during a formal dinner. Unfortunately the creator of this work chose to remain anonymous.

First Grade Birthday Book, 1958

It's ym Party

Leslye Got Carried Away!

Leslye Putney

Leslye Putney lived a few blocks from my home when we were very little. We used to play together. I guess she liked mirrors, and possibly hoop skirts

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Rev. 2015