Newton Elementary School, Torrance
Memories from the 1960s

Kindergarten: Mrs. Heilmann, 1960-1961

I was in the morning class in Room 1, on the left as you look from the street. There were swings, monkey bars, and sand right out in front.

There was a form that the parents had to fill out -- something about school funding for families in the military. The form had two halves, separated by a perforation: one half with the form to be filled in, the other half with the instructions, which could be discarded.

I brought my completed form to school. I wanted to show my friends how smart I was. I said, "Look, you can tear this part off, it's not needed," so I tore it off and ripped it into about 30 pieces. Then, to my horror, I found that I had ripped up the form, and kept the instructions! The teacher's aide taped all the pieces together, like a jigsaw puzzle.

Grade 1: Miss Mantlas/Matlis (?), 1961

I'm not sure about the teacher's name. I think she was on the younger side, and had dark hair and was thin. If you know her name, please tell me. I was afraid of her because she was really tough.

A boy named Steve was caught chewing gum. His punishment was to put the gum on the tip of his nose and leave it there until recess, which was about 45 minutes.

Another time, something wrong was done (spill? clapped erasers?) and nobody would confess. So the teacher forced everyone in the classroom to write "I will not (whatever it was)" repeatedly, forever, until the guilty party came forward. No sooner did I write the word "I" on my piece of paper, a girl broke down crying and confessed.

Another time, a girl asked to use the restroom, and the answer was "No, you should have used it at recess!" She ended up peeing on her chair.

Fortunately, I was promoted to second grade in the middle of the school year.

Grade 2: Mrs. Parr, 1962

Mrs. Parr was very good to the students and was well-liked by the students. We put on a play for the school, in which George Washington visits Betsy Ross and asks her to sew the first US flag. I deliberately chose on non-speaking role, an assistant to General Washington. However, during rehearsal, Bruce (who played Washington) had a bright idea, why not let General Washington's assistants introduce themselves to Betsy Ross? That way, they get a chance to say something! So I had a small speaking role after all.

The play went well and Mrs. Parr said it was good enough to be on TV. She was exaggerating, but the students said "Oh no! We could never be on TV!"

Grade 3: Mrs. Parr, 1962-1963

I had Mrs. Parr again for third grade. But I can't remember anything happening to distinguish it from second grade.

Maybe that was the year I threw up all over my desk, soiling the corner of my math book. I promptly announced "I'm sick!" as if it weren't quite obvious. I feel sorry for whoever was my desk-mate.

Grade 4: Mrs. Clements, 1963-1964

I remember what Mrs. Clements looked like. She had permed curly hair and the pointy eyeglasses that were popular at the time. But I don't remember much about what happened in class.

The only thing I remember was the Kennedy assassination. We came in from recess, and the teacher announced in solemn tones that the president had been killed. We observed a moment of silence. Then the teacher left the room to talk with the other teachers. After she left, a boy named Hugh blurted out, "Madame Nhu did it!" I didn't know what he was talking about at the time, but he must have been an astute third-grader to know so much about the current political news.

Grade 5: Mrs. Barilone, 1964-1965

Mrs. Barilone was a good teacher and a good sport. For PE we were tested for the number of pull-ups we could do. Some students like me couldn't do any at all. A student challenged the teacher to see how many she could do. So she tried it and couldn't do any either.

Grade 6: Mr. Nobles, 1965-1966

Mr. Nobles was my first male teacher. He was from Kansas and loved to tell stories. In fact, he spent as much of the school day telling stories as he did teaching. Some of his stories could be regarded as "tall tales." For example, he claims to have witnessed a motorcyle-truck accident in a rural area, after which he picked up and carried the victim's severed head several miles into town.

Grade 7: Mr. Fine, 1966-1967

In seventh grade we had six different teachers. Mr. Fine was the math teacher and my home room teacher. He challenged the students with a "problem of the week" posted on the bulletin board. However, later in the year, I got lazy about submitting my solutions and he became lazy about making up new problems to solve.

Mr. Fine also offered an extra after-school class to challenge the brighter students. I remember graphing a parabola for the first time in that class.

Grade 8: Miss Munson, 1967-1968

Miss Munson was my reading (English literature) teacher in eighth grade and my home room teacher. The students would take advantage of her good nature.

For example, the students turned the classroom clock forward by a few minutes and said, "Look, something's wrong with the bell! It's past three o'clock and it's time to go home!" So the class got off early. The second time this trick was attempted, the clock fell off the wall and was caught by a girl named Jackie. The third time, it fell to the floor and shattered.

One day Miss Munson brought some magazines from home to use in the classroom. A boy in our class copied down her address from the mailing labels, and starting writing anonymous love letters to her as a prank.

Most of the students at Newton went on to South High School in Torrance.

Notes From Readers

Linda B (c. 1961):  I remember in first grade going to the restroom and a girl in there had cinnamon toothpicks. She gave me one, I put it in my mouth for a minute, and it was good! But before I went back to class I threw it out. I remember the teacher asking a few minutes after I was back, "who has gum in their mouth? It's not allowed! Who has a mint?" And she waited and waited. Nobody said a word, nobody breathed. I was petrified of being caught, and I didn't even have anything in my mouth! She finally gave up. So stupid how polarizing adults could be back then, and to ridicule a kid like that with gum on their nose. Can you imagine that today? She'd get sued for harassment!

Karen R (c. 1961): I was so terrified to ask to go to the restroom during class that I sat and wet my pants one afternoon at the very end of the day - instead of helping me out discreetly she announced to the entire class, "Jack Moos, go get the janitor - Karen wet her pants!" This is one of the stories my kids have gotten the biggest kick out of over the years.

Kim H  (c. 1969): The Miss Amador story is still SO funny…to me, anyway!  I was QUITE the little devil in 8th grade…always in trouble over one prank or another and ALWAYS in the principal's office!  Remember the set up in the Spanish class?  Four double desks, pushed together so eight of us could use the headphones.  One day I smuggled a big bag of TINY bright yellow feathers into class.  I passed the bag around and everyone took a compressed handful.  I whispered, “one….two…THREE!!’  And we all BLEW the feathers into the air!  Miss Amador had a FIT!!!  It was AWESOME and worth every minute of punishment!

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©2009 Gray Chang