A 90’s Kid Christmas at East Three Notch
By: Amanda Rawls
Our little town has grown so much over the years. You can’t help but beam with pride that there are so many new and familiar faces around Andalusia. There’s a new buzz that mingles with the old magic that has always been here and I think it’s just the loveliest thing. For the new hearts that have moved to our community, I thought it would be a good idea to give a little history as well as some Christmas magic memories that were charmed within our younger lives as children by our teachers, families, and friends at Christmastime. Also, to build a window into what it was like going to school in such comparatively unique places to what our local children experience today.
There were 2 Elementary schools in Andalusia; East Three Notch and Church Street.
I went to East Three Notch. She was the building where Andalusia City Hall is located today. It was always exciting for me as a child to step into such a pretty school building. I’d see pictures of manor houses of England in travel books my Dad would bring me from his trips. My little mind immediately thought “Wow! That looks like my school.” When my Dad traveled for work he always wanted me to see the great sites he saw, even if I wasn’t with him to see them. He’d bring back items from the places he visited and I’d take them for show and tell. But one item I didn’t show; I just wore. A perfect white wool scarf from Harrold’s department store. Harrod’s is the Macy’s of England so that felt very special to me as a child. Well, South Alabama weather being what it is even in the early 90’s, it wasn’t always cold enough to wear my prized white scarf to school. But when the frosts came Momma said yes. It wasn’t a kid’s sized scarf so I could wrap it all the way up to my ears and not have to wear a soogin. This was a plus for my mother because I was forever losing my soogins on the playground at school. Lost soogins on playgrounds are like socks in dryers, once it’s gone that sucker is gone. Being picked up after school without my soogin got me eye rolls and a “Lord have mercy child! Do you give them away?” from my Momma followed by a big sigh and a kiss on the forehead. Then we’d drive on down the street waving at my friends and schoolmates waiting for their parents to pick them up.
There were no school buses that picked kids up for the city school system at that time. Everyone was either taken to or picked up from school by family, carpools, or they walked home. The pick-up and drop off area of East Three Notch is now where folks drop their payments for utilities. The left side of what is now City Hall used to have a long elevated concrete area attached to an annex building. That building was the school cafeteria. There were red benches all along the brick siding of the cafeteria building where we all sat and waited in the afternoons waiting for our parents to come get us. On cold mornings during the holidays sometimes we could see our friends through the wiped frosty windows of the cars idling in the long line. If we weren’t hurried off by a teacher, worried about us catching a cold, we’d wait on them at the corner of the walkway that led to the main double doors. There we stood full-on 90’s kids born in the 80’s. Our iron-on Christmas scene sweaters with gold & silver paint borders shimmered in the sun. We wore giant holiday bows in our hair to the back, top, or the side of our heads. Because all of that was simply not enough we wore single jingle bell necklaces that rang with every move we made and drove our teachers crazy. JoJo Siwa, eat your heart out. We’d huddle together or hop and jingle in place to keep warm until our friends ran to us from their cars. We’d walk in tandem together giggling and clutching each other for warmth. With red noses and frozen cheeks, we’d head up the outside steps. We were either greeted by a teacher or Danny & Mrs. Irene, the best custodians ever. A kind nod with a bright “Morning” greeting from Mrs. Irene and a high five from Danny & up the wooden steps we’d go onto the first floor of the schoolhouse.
When it was freezing cold the old building’s stairs & floors creaked and moaned at us underfoot louder than usual. But once we entered our classrooms our stiff faces were hit with a thawing tropical warmth from the old ticking radiators. Thinking back it’s amazing to me now how they still worked and pumped out solid, sometimes stifling, heat all day long through that school. When it was time to make room for the Christmas trees in the classrooms which of us got sat near the radiator was a tricky business. Number one: You only had so many layers you could take off before indecency and number two: Too many of us liked to stick our broken crayons on the top of the radiators and watch the wax melt all that way down to the floor. Rainbow radiators and “Lauren Russell wuz here” marked on the desk. Yes, that’s right. I just tattled on one of my oldest friends 25 years later. But honestly, what could you expect from the Great Granddaughter of Judson Ward. A student who ran a cow down the middle hallway of East Three Notch when he was young and later on was the first man in Andalusia to own a car! A vast improvement on mode of transportation to be sure. Over the years, East Three Notch has had so many class clowns, tricksters, and strong personalities trampling, skipping, and running through its halls it’s a wonder the old girl is still standing. Especially with all the excitement of over 100 years of Christmases. Especially when it was time to deck the East Three Notch Halls.
Our Christmas tree in Mrs. Hyles’ class was a real one. Fragrant and the perfect size that we could all reach to put our handmade decorations on by ourselves. After our desks were rearranged and the teacher’s pet was sat next to the radiator to avoid another indoor rainbow we began to decorate our classroom. In between lessons Christmas art, coloring pages and cutout paper puzzles were an everyday thing. Our white paper snowflakes were woven with brown string at their tips and draped like scalloped curtains along the entire width of the huge white frame windows. The inside circle of small paper dessert plates was cut out in the middle and painted green for tiny Christmas wreath ornaments. We also got to make a loud, crinkling mess and rip apart red tissue paper to be balled uptight to and glued to our paper wreaths for holly berries. Once the green paint was dried it was go time for the sticky white glue and the red paper holly berries. If the paper wasn’t rolled tight enough it stuck to your fingers & stained them red and the boys would ball them up and act like they were sneezing them out their noses. “Hey look! It’s too cold! My nose! Oh No! Ahhh-choooo!” revealing a big handful of red paper “boogers”. A massive “Ewwww!” from all us girls followed and of course lots of laughter from the other boys. Even Mrs. Hyles hid a smile and a small chuckle. She had seen it all and still loved kids. Once enough paper berries stuck to our wreaths and they were drying it was time to clean up. We had glued enough excess tissue paper to the bottom of our shoes, our desks, each other to wrap a few presents by then. But what a gift those simple, seemingly little projects were. I still have that wreath.
We all really have to hand it to school teachers, especially in Alabama. They have been getting creative for your kids for generations before “ballin’ on a budget” or Pinterest were even “things”. Teachers don’t just do what they have to do for the students. They do more and then some. To misquote Arthur O’Shaughnessy “We are the magic-makers, And we are the dreamers of dreams.” That’s what I believe teachers are. Especially the ones we had at East Three Notch. They were and still are the magic-makers.