I don't know the exact date, but by no later than 1965, my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Granted, this can happen at any age, but this is a disease that's more likely to occur as a woman ages. According to the National Cancer Institute, "Breast cancer rates are highest in people aged 55-64 years." My grandmother would have been right in the middle of that age range.
No one explained to my eight-year-old self what the ramifications were of that disease. I was fascinated by her mastectomy scar, and remember that her left arm (the side of her body where the disease was centered) became swollen and painful. She took time off for surgery and recuperation, and I spent even more time with my great-grandmother. However, it was around this time that my great-grandmother (who was in her 80's) fell and broke her hip, so she had health issues of her own. Despite that, she continued to live independently, in her own house, until just a few months before she died in 1973.
|The last time I saw my great-grandmother -- at a family wedding in 1971.|
My grandmother went back to work as soon as she was physically able. She couldn't afford not to.
In early 1966, my grandparents decided to sell our house and move. They told me it was because they wanted me to attend a different junior high school. That's possible, but that was still a couple years off, as I was still in 4th grade at the time. I suspect the real reason was that they could no longer afford the house where we lived.
|The house that I remember as "home."|
When I came home from Girl Scout camp that summer, we had moved to the new house. (I knew it was happening, so it wasn't a surprise; just easier to do without me around.)
|The house on the left -- it was white back then -- was the last place I lived with my grandparents.|
Ever since I'd started school, I'd been riding with my grandmother, and the plan was that at the new house, I'd be able to walk to school. Unfortunately, the house was, literally, about two blocks beyond the attendance boundary of the school where my grandmother was teaching and where I had attended 4th grade.
|P.S. 57 -- then a K-8 school.|
For some reason, the decision was made that I'd instead walk to my assigned elementary school, approximately a mile in the opposite direction. This was the norm in the 1960's -- I didn't ride a school bus until 1967.
|P.S. 77, then a K-6 school. (It's been renovated since I attended.)|
My grandmother would get me up in the morning, fix my breakfast and get me ready for the day. Then she'd leave and I'd be responsible for getting myself to school on time. All I can say is that I was usually successful.
Music (and art) programs were recognized as valuable in those days, and in 5th grade I continued playing the clarinet that I'd started the previous year. My music teacher that year was heart-broken that I didn't want to play the violin -- she said that I had the talent and skill to become an excellent violin player, after observing me merely hold the instrument. I think perhaps she was exaggerating, but now I do wish I'd learned to play. What I'd REALLY wanted was to play the flute, but by the time it was my turn to pick an instrument, they were all taken. Alas.
Of course, my primary instrument was still the accordion, which I'd started playing in 1963, at the age of seven.
|Circa 1965 -- my first full-size (120 bass) accordion.|
I also continued with Girl Scouts, although I had to join a different troop when we moved. I'd started in 4th grade, as a Junior Scout, and thoroughly enjoyed the program.
|4th grade, my first year as a (Junior) Girl Scout.|
In 6th grade, I joined the Safety Patrol. This was a big deal then, as it meant you were considered responsible enough not only to watch out for your own safety, but for that of others as well.
|Not MY school, but pretty representative of what a typical Safety Patrol looked like.|
We wore white shoulder belts and a silver badge and had assigned locations where we would watch traffic and remind the other kids only to cross the street when there were no cars coming.
Because it was a position of responsibility, we had to both maintain good grades and exhibit good citizenship. If we broke school rules, we received demerits, and after a certain number of demerits a student could no longer be on the patrol.
I never knew why, because I was afraid to ask the sponsor, but I received several demerits. In fact, I received them three or four weeks in a row and was close to being booted from the patrol.
Although I wasn't officially removed from the patrol, I would soon have to quit anyway, as more -- and even bigger -- changes were on the horizon.