Mrs. Verla Griffin was my second grade teacher. She was a very old woman with gray hair. I don’t think she was married. She gave her life to teaching 2nd graders. She may have taught others. I’m not sure. She was old and exactly what you would think an old lady from that time would look like. I don’t remember her having a sense of humor, though I suspect she did. I don’t remember anything particular about her except for her ruler. Whenever you got into trouble because of behavior Mrs. Griffin would hit you on the hand with her ruler. I only remember one time that she hit me. I’m sure she hit me more, but I only remember the once. I don’t remember why she hit me, but I’m sure I deserved it. I was afraid of her.
By the time I was in school all of the teachers already had three of my brothers. This was more acute in later years, but I felt some of it even in the early years. It was like a self-fulfilling prophecy: I had your brothers and now I have you and I know what to expect from you because you are a Thomas. We were not known by our first names. We were the Thomas boys. It sort of went like this: If you get one, you’ve had them all because they are all alike. It was a negative attitude and it was a stigma that I could never overcome.
I don’t remember if there was more than one second grade. I think the multiple grades came later. I really don’t remember more than one class until we were in the sixth grade. There may have been. I think by the time Dwayne came along the grades were larger. There was a Mrs. Orr, but I didn’t have her. I think Dwayne did.
By the time we were in the second grade the class system was already taking place. There were the popular guys and then the other guys. I was one of the not so popular guys. Kelly Williams, Spank Rummage, Slack Michaels, Tim Adams, Jerry Finney, Ricky Griffin, Joe Woodson, Randy Braswell, Mike Austin and others made up the main gang. There were others. And then there were the popular girls: Jill Thomas, Beth Collins, Gina Brooks and others. It is interesting in that most of these guys lived in the Wingate township. They were the city boys/girls and then there was a group that lived out in the country like us. I think part of the bond that they had was because they had some experience with one another and it was also easier for them to hang together due to the proximity of one to another. I think most of their parents went to college as well. They were doing better from a financial perspective. There were the “haves” and the “have nots” and that was very clear.