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Kentucky Color: Brown Corduroy

By Billy Joe Fudge

Once upon a time in the Great Wooded South there was a big ol' schoolhouse right smack dab in Downtown Breeding. It was the days of outdoor toilets, well water pumped by hand, metal water coolers with water purified by bleach dropped in from a medicine dropper, natural air through large raised windows during hot weather and an attempt to keep down on incidents of frost bite with a large pot-bellied, wood stove in each room.

It was the middle 50's but yet I can never forget the long stove pipes suspended with wires from what seemed to be 20 foot ceilings. Even when it was just moderately cold, children who were not near the stove would be shivering. I can remember when it was really cold that the teachers would bring everyone's desks up near the stove and forgo the normal protocol of desks facing the huge blackboards. I remember the blackboards had both printed and cursive letters permanently embossed along the entire width of the top of those blackboards.

I remember a lot of things, many of which were extremely unpleasant at the time. But today, in the annals of my mind and the gold depository of my heart, I cherish each and every memory, including those which were unpleasant. I remember how excited we all were to leave Downtown Breeding behind to move to the North a few miles to our new school in Downtown Sparksville during my 6th grade year. I could go on and on about central heat and air, no more pumping water, no more medicine droppers and White Monday Bleach jugs, indoor toilets, etc. but I won't for now.

I was in the first grade during the winter of the 56/57 school year. Miss Edra Page was my teacher.

Sometime earlier I had carried a paper home to my Momma about getting my picture taken. I was really nervous about the formality of getting my picture taken, especially the dressing up part. On that particular day it was really cold and my Momma told me a couple of things to remember and it went kinda like this.

"Now Billy Joe" she said, "it is really cold and your best warm coat is this corduroy one. I know it will be cold in the room but DO NOT forget to take your coat off when they take your picture."

I am fairly sure that I answered something much like this, "okay Momma, I won't forget."

It is a funny thing how the human mind works, especially the mind of a six year old. It is amazing how something can be in there but never roll out in the open where it can be seen. That "mental block" thing is a very descriptive, scientific term. It was like "corduroy", "coat" and "picture" were crammed back up in a dusty and dark corner of my mind where that mental block thing had them scotched so securely that they would never again see the light of day.

But as is the nature of things, time passed and one day at school there was a box from some photography company sitting on Miss Edra's desk. Sometime during the day we received our pictures to take home and all at once, somehow or the other I tripped over that "scotch" and fell right over into that dusty, dark corner where "corduroy", "coat" and "picture" had been hiding for several blissful weeks. I was immediately aware of my failure to remove my coat during the picture taking event! Thus, I must report that my first experience with revelation knowledge was a mighty unpleasant one. Hyperventilating did not show up in my vocabulary for several years but I suddenly was struck with an insane desire to go get my lunch bag and breathe in and out of it!

The rest of the day at school and the bus trip home that afternoon were consumed with the possible negative ramifications that might be coming my way because of my horrible lapse in remembering to remove my coat. The only relief I could glean from the tragedy awaiting my arrival at home was that "maybe my Momma or my Daddy or my Ma or Pa Fudge would not notice that I had not removed my coat!" I made every effort to contact the Supreme Deity, who I was sure had already seen the pictures, and shamelessly begged Him to intercede into this situation with His Divine Favor. I am forever grateful for His intercession and not allowing either of the four of them to notice that "Brown Corduroy Coat" in the pictures!

This story was posted on 2021-03-28 08:39:30
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Kentucky Color: First Grade Portrait

2021-03-28 - Adair Co., KY - Photo courtesy Billy Joe Fudge.
The school portrait that caused six-year-old Billy Joe so much worry.

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