By: Dr. Jacquelyn Simmons
“Daddy” attempted to enroll me in the first grade at Whittier Elementary School in Denver, Colorado. My baby sister, “Dena”, during that time, was too young to attend school.
Whoever was responsible for new enrollees, looked at me, a little skinny black girl who had excellent grades and credentials stating she was from a little unheard of town in Louisiana called Monroe (not New Orleans), probably could not adequately perform on the first grade level at Whittier.
So, after a meeting of the “powers-that-be”, I was demoted to kindergarten. But God…
After a few days spent in the kindergarten class, the teacher apparently called another meeting of the “powers-that-be”, plus others, and had me transferred to their advanced first grade class, or it could have been second grade due to the fact I finished from Manual High School in Denver at age 16.
During that same time, Louisiana schools graduated students upon their completion of 11th grade. Had I remained in Louisiana, I would have graduated at age 15 as did some of my relatives.
What the Denver authorities did not know was that our “Dad” had previously spent many hours by kerosene lamp light teaching me and “Dena” foundational subjects such as writing our alphabets, names and address, spelling, numbers recognition, etc.
I had been blessed also to have been chauffeured daily to Kindergarten by a male taxi driver, nicknamed “Ham bone”. It was operated by an excellent teacher, whose name was, Mrs. Goodman.
Her kindergarten which was located in her home, was a “shot-gun” house facing the same railroad tracks which cross Breard St. here in Monroe today. Again, “Dena” was too young to attend and by the time she “came of age”, “Daddy” had fled to Denver with us.
She eventually was enrolled in Whittier, also and kept me fighting “this one and that one” who had threatened or struck her (smile). Now-a-days, God lets her fight for me (big grin).
During our tenure in Denver, we became acquainted with peoples of other races which equipped us “somewhat” to be able to interact with some of them during the intergration crisis.
They began the integration process second semester which of course, found the school we were assigned to attend already organized for all student activities.
They already had working student councils, cheerleaders and dance squads, sponsors etc. All officers in every capacity had already been functioning all the school year. Well, what about our organized student council officers coming from Carroll? What about our elected or appointed positions? What were our majorettes and sponsors suppose to do?
Neither school had majorettes. Even when some of them soooo graciously tried to incorporate a very limited number of our already elected and selected students into some of their already organized organizations, our students had to do things “their way” because according to them, they had always done things “that way”.