Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Happy Times

These are my 4-k and 5-K graduation photos from Valley View Kindergarten, circa 1971 & '72 respectively.
These photos are proof of two things
1) I was blonde as a child
2) I've favored only two hairdos my entire life...extremely long ponytails and chin length bobs.
I remember I loved that yellow dress and the part about it I loved the most, a yellow satin rose, my mother refused to let me wear.
I loved Valley View and many life long friendships were forged there.
When my baby brother was old enough to attend kindergarten, my mother went to work, so it was necessary to not only find something to do with him, but something to do with me after school as well.
Enter Happy Times.
Happy Times was a magical place with a large play yard that had several school-style swingsets, a jungle gym and slide. The yard overlooked the Little Cahaba and there were always mother ducks and ducklings waddling about or playing in the creek, just beyond the chain link fence. There were tons of toys and activites and everything was child size, including a special group of toilets.
The best part was that I could play with my friends until my mother came to collect us.
The worst part was Mrs Grimes.
Mrs. Grimes owned Happy Times, and you didn't dare cross her. She was a stern disiplinarian and the sound of her voice struck fear in the hearts of all who crossed the threshold at Happy Times.
In the three years I spent there only once did I ever face the wrath of Mrs. Grimes and to this day, I maintain it was not my fault. (Thanks Russell!) I remember her taking my face in her hands and bringing it close to hers and sternly telling me that I would behave or else. I just knew she hated me.
In the summer, we would go to the city pool for swimming lessons and then swim until lunch. We'd go on field trips on the big bus and generally have lots of fun.
When I was a life guard at the city pool in my late teens, I always looked forward to the Happy Times kids. Yes, there were a ton of them, but because of Mrs. Grimes, they were always well behaved. Heck, I was an adult and she scared the bee-jeeseys out of me.
By the time my own children were ready for daycare, there was only one place to go. Mrs Grimes had long since retired, but sold the business to her cousin, who ran it with the same passion as she did.
One of my best memories of Happy Times, was not while I was a student, nor while my children attended there. It was the summer I turned 21. My 21st birthday to be exact. My last year as a lifeguard at the city pool. Just before I got my "real job."
The last bus-load of Happy Timers had just arrived and everyone was to be on the pool deck, waiting for their swimming teachers. Usually this part of the morning was very noisy and busy, but as I stepped out of the pool house onto the deck, it was deathly silent.
Assembled on the pool deck, was the entire group of Happy Timers, waiting patiently. Mrs Grimes, grinning from ear to ear, lead the group in "Happy Birthday" in as perfect a unison as one can orchestrate with several dozen children, ages 3 to 12. When they were done, I was mobbed, everyone trying to give me a birthday hug.
But most special was one from Mrs. Grimes. She put my face in her hands and brought it up close to hers and said "I'm proud of you."
Happy times, indeed.

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