2. MY WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN (elementary school)

I never had a problem being alone…or with occupying myself.  When I started school, everything changed.


School activities couldn't match the projects I immersed myself in at home. 

Also, I wasn’t keen on getting on a bus to God knows where loaded with a bunch of kids I didn't know, some of whom were pretty much untamed. 

If I couldn’t walk to a place, and if I didn’t know where I was to be taken, I wanted nothing to do with it....even if my big brother Dick had done it a million times.  

Every day we waited together on the curb with the neighborhood kids. Dick knew the ropes, but we each went to different schools.

When I got to school, to kindergarten, it all hit me as a traumatic shock.


My world turned upside down.

I wasn’t used to regimented activities. I didn't like my time prescribed; I had no problem self-organizing.  

I wasn't shy or reticent. If anything, I was too talkative, too headstrong, and too willful.  I didn't yield easily to others; if anything, I had a problem self-regulating.

Every morning getting ready for school, I felt sick to my stomach. It was like heading for purgatory...or being taken to some forsaken island.   

Some of this unease was related to what was happening at home.  When I was about five or six, my mom had a 'breakdown' and we didn't see her for some time. That was scary.  

My brother went to live with Grandpa and Grandma Archer and I went to live with Grandpa and Grandma Farris.  Our dad kept everything going.  When Mom finally came home, things were still unstable.  I never quite knew if everything would be OK...or not.  It left scars that took time to heal; I felt like a rug had been pulled out from under me.  

Though I wasn't happy at school, I didn't have insensitive, tyrannical teachers. In fact, I was fortunate to have so many good ones.   I was young...four and a half.  My temperament, my needs, my comfort zone and my being in a classroom weren't a good fit. 

I flunked kindergarten and had to repeat it another year.

At school, when I wasn't engaged in my own activities, I looked out the high louvered windows, seeing blue sky and white puffy clouds drift by...and I dreamed.  

After I learned to tell time, I stared at the big wall clock...watching those black hands move so slowly---like a drip, drip, drip...

At home I was in my element.  I endlessly made all kinds of things, but above all I had an obsession with trains...especially 'The Daylight' ('the most beautiful train in the world').   To me, there was nothing more beautiful...or exciting. 

We often would go camping at the beach near where 'The Daylight' sped by.   In the middle of the night, when I heard in the distance the music of the engine's horn and its rhythmic chugging, I couldn't wait to jump out of my sleeping bag and in my pajamas run up to the tracks to watch it roar by in the darkness.   In the day I could see every detail and wave to the engineer.

My dad and I built trains and layouts.  I took an ordinary model steam engine and, with cardboard pieces that I carefully cut and glued together, fashioned the side skirting and boiler cowling of 'The Daylight.'  It looked exactly like my favorite engine.  My dad, who was a fastidious craftsman, took days carefully painting it to match the Daylight's special colors... 


For a time, everything I made had something to do with 'The Daylight'...

My parents gave me rolls of shelf paper to draw on and they were perfect for creating train 'scrolls.'  I'd unroll the paper out on the floor, put a book on one end to keep it from rolling back, and draw trains yards long to my heart's content.  They went on and on...

Later, I segued into designing cars...
And I made games that I didn't particularly care to play; I just liked inventing them.  In the mid-1950s space travel was in the air.  That zeitgeist inspired my 'Space Game.'  I made a spinner, rocket ship placers, etc....


My brother and I had raced sticks down creeks and that inspired me to carve a series of small wooden boats (they were about 2" long).  I painted them with enamel and varnish, upholstered them, and installed plastic windshields.  I made five or six.  Every boat was different.  They were beautiful, but for racing, the sticks worked better.

When I made things, I would 'package' them with great care...  


This constant occupation with a zillion diverse projects ended when I got to junior high and discovered the guitar and performing.   Then that became my obsession.

Copyright (c) Donald Archer 2020  All rights reserved.


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