Monday, July 3, 2017

Penny Lane

You have to know, first of all, I don’t care much for The Beatles.

Oh, sure I enjoy watching Ringo Starr in “Caveman.” And their song “Yesterday,” well I like that one quite a bit. But generally, their music is pretty insipid (their songs make about as much sense to me as the video embedded below). And they’re oh-so-stuck on themselves.

But there’s no song that conjures more memories of elementary school for me than The Beatles’ “Penny Lane.”

I only need to hear the opening bars of this tune and I’m at Lincoln Elementary near Idaho Falls, Idaho. Stinkin’ Lincoln, our enemies in Ucon and Iona called it, due to its proximity to the sugar factory that snowed our playground with ash and the stink-sweet mixture of wildflowers and burnt sugar.

More specifically, I’d be in the combination gym/cafeteria at Stinkin’ Lincoln. Drawing a series of concentric circles on a chalkboard. Or attempting to jump rope. Or performing other feats meant to help us refine our fine motor skills.

And we couldn’t stop until The Beatles had finished wailing out “Penny Lane.”

Sometimes the record – brought in by one of the teachers or aides, I never knew – would skip:

In the pouring rain, very strange. Very strange. Very strange. Very strange. Very strange. Very stra –

And one of the aides would wrench the needle across the record to a new groove, and The Beatles would continue singing and we’d continue jumping or drawing circles and then this nonsense song about the pouring rain and selling poppies and fish pie and blue skies and that fireman with a picture of the Queen in his pocket would end, and we’d go back to class.

Second grade, I think. The year I was with Miss Kidd, in the “old building” at Lincoln – we had a campus, consisting of the “old building,” with offices, classrooms, gym/cafeteria and a second floor fire escape that was a slide and we were NEVER to use it unless a fire was burning; a “new” building with four classrooms and a little library tucked between them; and later on the district bought the neighboring LDS Church building and converted it into more classrooms. I’d gone there to church as a kid, so I knew all the neat places to hide. There was one classroom you could get to via a flight of stairs, and the only way out was down the stairs or out a window and the windows didn’t open, so the school didn’t use that classroom and they blocked the stairwell but sometimes we’d try to sneak up the stairs but someone was always watching.

Mrs. Kidd. There’s another lady connected to a song:

Wishy-wahsy, wishy-washy, we get the clothes so clean!

She’d sing this, arms akimbo, and we’d follow enthusiastically because we were second graders and we loved to sing and we loved Miss Kidd and we loved the wishy-washy song. The rest of the words are lost. But there is a tune. Not by The Beatles, fortunately.
And so on. I could probably go on for pages.

But all of that is triggered by one song – Penny Lane. Just imagine what you can do with your writing and memory if you sit down with a box of photos, a little music, a trinket or two, as you begin to write your personal essays. You’ll have a lot of memories to pick from.

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