Former Morenci resident Dan Green wrote the following essay that was published in the Observer in 1989. It came to mind recently when Jessica Stark from Little People’s Place called to place an ad in the newspaper. She wanted to sell the slide that’s been located on the preschool’s playground for years.
Wait a minute…isn’t that the elephant slide that stood inside the kindergarten room in Morenci’s old Union Street schoolhouse?
Sure enough. Former Little People’s Place owner Bob Dister confirmed it. Underneath the red paint is an elephant that provided so much fun for hundreds of Morenci students over the decades.
Jessica has heard that someone is interested in buying the old slide, but she hasn’t received any confirmation. If interested, it can be seen in the driveway at the preschool’s Locust Street entrance.
By DAN GREEN
When I was in kindergarten, my school had the usual outdoor play equipment, but there was also a little slide right in the classroom. There was a cartoon painting of an elephant on its wide metal side. When we climbed to the top, we went up the elephant’s back. When we slid down, we were zooming down its trunk.
The slide was great fun, as were the various toys available, and so were the furnace vents on the floor that made the girls’ dresses billow up like colored balloons as they walked over them. There was also chocolate milk on hand, every single day. It could have been paradise if not for the Hokey Pokey.
On a regular basis, Miss Gillen would get out her scratchy old recording of “Do the Hokey Pokey” and make us all stand in a circle. We were supposed to sing along as we did the dance. We were supposed to love it. We were supposed to know the difference between right and left.
We hopped and jerked around like puppets gone berserk, limbs flailing, as the record sang out instructions about what to do with our heads and arms. I was half paralyzed with self-consciousness. Inevitably, when the record said, “Put your left foot out,” my right foot would go. By the time I figured it out, everyone else had gotten to the “shake it all about” part, so I hastily threw in a few spasms. It was a disaster.
I imagined the critical eye of the teacher burning into me. I figured all the kids noticed my confusion and were covertly laughing. While they were joyously singing “That’s what it’s all about,” I couldn’t fathom any of it. I just wanted to go home.
“Give me reading and writing any day over that motor coordination stuff,” is what I would have said, had I known what to say. Words were something I could wrestle with. They’d give up their meanings without much struggle. The Hokey Pokey sent me scurrying to the bookshelves—or to the elephant.
Up the back, down the trunk—now there was a dance I could understand.