During my elementary school years I attended the old Annie Belle Clark grammar school in Tifton. It was a huge red brick structure that resembled something out of the Victorian era. I can still picture the rooms and the basement of the school which had several classrooms which had been converted from storage rooms. No windows. Nothing but artificial light and a musty smell that still lingers in my mind. It's funny how certain smells never really go away. My grandmother's food pantry was that way. Still smell it today and wish I could get back into it. Annie Belle Clark grammar school was used for everything when the community needed a large meeting place for some event. I remember the Halloween Festivals when hundreds of people would descend on the school for an old fashioned fun time. There was a room where an auction was going on for various objects that were sold to help the PTA. A Mr. Crum was the auctioneer and he was very good at it. He did it for a living also. He could talk so fast it was mindboggling. He would have made a good person to talk at the end of medicine commercials and warn one of the problems that might develop if that particular medication was taken. I tried to mock him but my tongue just wouldn't move that fast. Then there was the "Go Fishing" room. Fishing poles with gem clips on the end of the line and people behind a sheet that had been hung on a wire putting a "prize" on the end of the line. Then they would pull the line like a fish bobbing a cork. Well....it was fun for kids. We always had a "horror" room where, in the dark, spaghetti became brains and grapes in some kind of goo became eyeballs. There were all kinds of things to do at the Halloween Festival.
I remember that the school installed a fire escape from my second floor second grade classroom. The teacher was Mrs. Branch. It was a big round tube that went from the second floor to the ground down below. It was about thirty six inches in diameter and it was great fun to play in. We lived right across the street from the school and my friends and I would get some wax paper, climb up that long curved tube and slide down on the wax paper. You could get up more speed like that. It became a community plaything. So, the school was a center of activity of many different kinds.
A person would stay at Annie Belle Clark school until they finished the fourth grade, but the year that I was to enter that grade, they moved the fourth grade over to the Junior High School on 12th Street. So my class went from the third grade straight to the Junior High School. Well, a person usually stayed at the Junior High through the eighth grade and then went to Tifton High School to start the ninth grade. But, the ninth grade class I was in was held back that year and kept at the Junior High School. So, my class spent six years at the Junior High School. During my seventh and eight grades I developed a friendship with a young lad who was from a rather poor family. His daddy had a small farm in outlying Tift County. I remember he always wore overalls to school. He was always neat and clean and had a nicely done shirt he wore with the overalls. He had on a different shirt each day. He also wore brogans to school. Those are high topped work shoes. We became really good friends and for a period of time we ate lunch together each day. He would always have a banana sandwich and I would have a lettuce sandwich. Occasionally I would have something different like a very healthy peanut butter and jelly sandwich and once in a while he would bring a Spam sandwich. The good thing was that we would always swap halves of our sandwiches. That gave us some variety which, when you have a lettuce sandwich, was welcomed.
My mother was a wonderful cook but when you are getting five ready for school, well, you do the best you can I guess. Here's what she would do. She would buy a real good lettuce. It was not just the regular old lettuce variety. And, it was good lettuce. She would take white bread; spread mayonnaise on it pretty thickly; and then she would put salt and pepper on it. Believe it or not, it was pretty good. The salt made it. I discovered that you can put salt on just about anything and make it edible. It even makes broccoli pretty good and that's a hard job. Anyway, we would sit out on the edge of the campus under a particular pine tree and eat lunch. Sit down, swap sandwich halves, eat our sandwiches and get into some pretty deep discussions for two seventh graders. I'm sure that it was the steady diet of banana and lettuce sandwiches that helped us develop such strong, inquisitive minds. I remember one day we were eating and looking up at the moon. It was a crystal clear day and the moon was full as I remember. I told him one day that it wouldn't be long before someone went to the moon and walked on it. Of course we mused about such a thing but that prophecy came true. It would be only about twelve years later that President Kennedy would challenge the nation to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade of the sixties and we did that in 1969.
Over the years I have related to people about how I used to take lettuce sandwiches to school for lunch. They always act amazed and shocked that my lunch was made up of that humble diet. But, don't feel too badly. Those sandwiches were good and they have provided me with many a good laugh. They were tasty. And, they were almost trouble free to prepare. My little friend and I had some really good times but none better than our lunch time when he would share with me and I with him. And, just think....a major part of that friendship was a result of my mother's delicious Lettuce Sandwiches.
William F. Harrell