I remember walking to Ingalls, our elementary school.
It was two blocks from our house. For lunch, we walked home to a meal my mother had prepared. There were no free lunches for poor people.
I walked back quickly to be on time for our class. We had to buy our books. The school purchased no books for us to use. Even a low-income family had to pay for their student’s books.
There were no school uniforms, and our everyday clothes were what we wore. I was very hard on jeans and quickly wore a hole at the knees. Mother would always keep old jeans to salvage the fabric to make patches. Mother ensured I never went to school with holes in my jeans. Some students weren’t so lucky.
Across the street at the first intersection lived my first lifelong friend, Ron Smith. We enjoyed fishing and hunting together. Our lives took different paths, but it didn’t affect our friendship. To this day, we probably connect monthly.
Eventually, Ron was 12 when they moved to a new place in Wichita, and still lives there today, some 70 years later.
Ron was a year behind me, so we weren’t in the same class.
It was customary for a family to own the Encyclopædia Britannica. My family was too poor to afford it, so they bought the less expensive World Book.
Our family’s social group was all from our church. I remember a meeting of adults, and the subject of Encyclopædias came up.
All parents explained that their children rarely opened them, except maybe to finish a homework assignment.
My mother exclaimed that I lived in those books. I only knew that I couldn’t get enough information on some subjects and wanted more.
I doubt that I read every book cover to cover, but I am sure that I read well over half of the text.
Few understood my fascination with knowledge, but that was more than 50 years before I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. That is nothing more than high-functioning autism. I remember my third-grade teacher, Mrs. White. We all loved her, but I was puzzled because I realized that I was smarter than she was. In the fifth grade, I had a male teacher, Mr. Youngman. A male teacher was rare. All of my other teachers told my mother that I wasn’t college material. Mr. Youngman told my mother, “Duane can do anything that he wants.” Of course, it was only one opinion out of 5, so she discounted it.
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Updated 30 March 2023