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Locals reminisce about their first days in school

Remembering their school days are, front from left, United Way president Barbara Tolliver, Sheriff Martin Pace, Deputy fire chief Rose Shaifer; second row, Supervisor Charles Selmon and Hinds Dean Hilton Dyar; third row, Mayor Laurence Leyens and supervisors Michael Mayfield and Carl Flanders; and back, VWSD Superintendent James Price and Alderman Sid Beauman.(Brian Loden The Vicksburg Post)

[8/1/04]George Flaggs, the state legislator and juvenile court counselor, ran away. James Price, the public school superintendent, wore a bow-tie. And Barbara Tolliver, the local United Way president, cried.

Each is a memory of the first day of school, the very first day, when mamas or daddies or big yellow buses deliver 5- and 6-year-olds to the doorway of the rest of their lives.

“The chairs were huge. The auditorium was simply the largest thing I’d ever seen,” said Price.

Today Price is superintendent of the 9,000-student Vicksburg Warren School District and the boss of 55 buildings and hundreds of employees.

In 1957, though, he was a first-grader at Halls Ferry Elementary School, and he was all dressed up.

“I don’t know why that’s what I wanted to wear. I quickly figured out that first-grade and a bow-tie weren’t compatible,” he said. “As a matter of fact, by the second grade I was wearing a leather motorcycle jacket because that was the thing to do.”

Thursday, about 1,300 kindergartners and first-graders will head to the public school district for their first day.

But 58 years ago, Joe Loviza, who was Vicksburg’s mayor from 1993 to 1997 and a longtime educator in Warren County, began his first year of school at the all-boys’ parochial school, St. Aloysius.

“We didn’t get to mix with the girls until much later,” he said. “And that was terrible because we liked them.”

And Price, too, said he was impressed with the girls at school.

“It’s OK to fall in love with everybody you see who really fascinates you,” Price said. “Every girl I saw I loved. I grew up in the sticks, and all I had was brothers.”

Digging up school memories for Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace meant remembering the sun shining through windows and heating up the counter top, the difference between the big-kid playground and the little-kid playground and peanut butter sandwiches in his lunch box.

“I remember walking in and actually only knowing only two or three kids in the room,” he said. “There were all these kids I’d never seen before.”

“All of us boys used to love to watch the principal, Mr. Ackerman, come and go from school in the morning and at night because he drove the coolest sports car.”

And catching a ride home with Principal William Bowman was part of the school day for Mayor Laurence Leyens at Ken Karyl Elementary School.

“Mr. Bowman used to give me and another kid a ride home after school, and we’d sit in the cafeteria and wait on him to be done with his work. I could have as much free chocolate milk as I wanted.”

Leyens later attended Jett Elementary School.

Charles Selmon, president of the Warren County Board of Supervisors and District 3 representative, was ecstatic to be heading to school as his big sister had done before him.

“I was excited because I was going somewhere,” he said. “I thought I could draw, paint and read better than the big children.”

The first day of school wasn’t as exciting for others.

Barbara Tolliver cried as her mother dropped her off as a kindergartner at St. Mary’s Catholic School.

“I cried all day because I didn’t want to leave my mother,” she said. “I cried until she promised me that if I’d go and stay all day she’d buy me a pack of banana kisses.”

The bribe worked.

Others, too, found the experience less than fun.

Warren County District 4 Supervisor Carl Flanders, a former teacher, and Hilton Dyar, dean of the Vicksburg-Warren Campus of Hinds Community College, both shed tears on their first day.

“I remember my dad took me, and I cried,” Flanders said. “But once I got my bribe in hand, I was fine.”

The bribe was candy from the school teacher.

Warren County District 2 Supervisor Michael Mayfield said he shed tears also.

“All I can remember is running down the hall trying to catch my mama’s dress having a fit not wanting my mama to leave,” he said.

Going to school wasn’t a problem for Flaggs staying there was.

“You could see my grandmother’s house from the window of my classroom,” he said. “On the first day of school, I jumped out the window and went home to my grandmother’s. I was scared, I guess.”

His grandmother promptly took him back to school, where he had to sit in the corner.

Deputy Fire Chief Rose Shaifer was a little scared to start the first grade but for different reason.

“My mother was a third-grade teacher at Kings Elementary School,” she said. “And I remember as far back to first grade, walking in, and thinking I didn’t want to disappoint my mother.

“She always told us that your attitude determined your aptitude.”

Going to school wasn’t as bad for some, however. South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman, recalled riding the city bus for a nickel to get to school.

“It didn’t bother me,” he said. “I mean, I knew I was coming home.”