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Fond memories of my class trips

"It's May. It's May. The lusty month of May!"

The quotation marks mean that I didn't think that up. Either Lerner or Loewe did - whichever one wrote the lyrics for "Camelot." I could look it up, but I'm way too busy. If you are in any way involved with the education of our youth, or even if you are just an innocent bystander, you know exactly what I mean.

The things we try to cram into this month! We have proms and graduation and exams and awards nights and sports playoffs and tryouts for various squads for next fall and ...

I get worn out just thinking about it.

One would think that after 34 years as a classroom teacher I would be used to the hectic pace of this final month of school - but I'm not. May used to be a lot simpler, though. What didn't?

I remember when I was a kid, growing up in Porterdale. We looked forward to May for a lot of reasons, not the least being that May 1 marked the day we could finally go barefoot. Most of us only got one pair of school shoes a year, and we got those around Labor Day - when God and Horace Mann intended for school to start. (Horace Mann was the Father of Public Education, in case you were wondering.) By the time May arrived, those shoes were pinching our toes pretty good, no matter how much "room to grow" our mamas had factored in. But no matter how tight our shoes were, we had to wear them until May 1.

It could be 93 degrees in the shade on April 30. You better not get caught outside without your shoes on. Conversely, it could be 43 and wet on May 1. No shoes - no problem. The magic date had arrived.

The arrival of May also meant that the date of our annual class trip was quickly approaching, and the class trip was the highlight of the academic year. What a wonderful occasion! No books that day, and no pencil or paper or enlightening instruction. It was the one day a year set aside to play - and I mean play in a big, big way.

The entire class would load up on the big yellow school bus - a treat in and of itself for those of us, like me, who walked to school every day - and head for a fun-filled destination that most of us wouldn't get to visit at all if the school didn't provide the opportunity.

We aren't talking Boston or Washington, D.C., or New York City here - which are all places my own kids have visited on school outings. We are talking Stone Mountain and Lake Spivey and Grant Park - much less ambitious than the aforementioned cities, but just as magical - or maybe even more so - to all the little linthead children on those yellow school busses.

The trips started simply enough, understand, and then got more elaborate as we advanced through the ranks. In the first grade, our class trip consisted of a picnic at Salem Camp Ground - which was maybe three miles away. But when we had a picnic at Porterdale School, we had a picnic. It was prepared by Mrs. Effie Boyd, who ran the world famous restaurant at the Porterdale Hotel. Fried chicken, deviled eggs, potato salad, pimento cheese sandwiches. I get hungry just thinking about all the delicious delicacies she provided. If Effie Boyd were alive today, she would make Paula Deen look like a Tenderfoot Scout cooking in tinfoil.

In the second grade, we rode the school bus to the Covington train depot - which was about three miles in the opposite direction - and rode the passenger train to Conyers, where we toured the Coca-Cola bottling plant before heading back to school. I don't think the train stops in Conyers anymore, and I am positive they don't bottle Co-Colas there.

Third grade meant a trip to Stone Mountain. Yes, we climbed the mountain, and looking back on the experience, I am amazed that our teachers actually made the trek with us. There wasn't a lot to do at Stone Mountain back then, of course. The rock itself was the big attraction - that and Mrs. Boyd's fried chicken - but it has been almost 50 years since I was in the third grade, and I bet I remember more about that class trip than my daughter will remember about her school trip to New York City in 50 years.

Once we reached the fourth grade, we started alternating between Lake Spivey and Grant Park. There was much to be said for each. Grant Park had the Cyclorama - which was a big deal for those of us who were enamored by the history of the recent unpleasantness between the North and South. It also had the zoo - and the zoo had Wille B., Atlanta's most famous gorilla. But Lake Spivey had rides and a beach and swimming in the lake, so it was really pretty much a trade-off.

Oh well. Nothing's the same anymore. Lake Spivey is a distant memory, and my May will, sadly, not provide a chance for me to visit Stone Mountain.

But if someone could come up with a picnic lunch like Effie Boyd prepared - I bet I would make time.

Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. E-mail him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net.