My family moved from downtown Harrisburg to Camp Hill in the summer of 1944, just in time for me to enter sixth grade. That first day at Schaeffer school is locked in my memory. Culture shock was not a term that a skinny 11-year-old Greek girl would be familiar with, but that's for sure what summed up my first day of school in Camp Hill.
Entering a new school where I knew no one, naturally, I was anxious about how I would fit in. Would I make any friends on the first day? Well, my initial encounter with a new classmate didn't help much to quell my anxiety. I was very small for my age, and I had barely entered the sixth grade classroom when Wally Lester approached me and said, with a kind, helpful tone of voice, "This is SIXTH grade." I assured him I was aware of that fact and promptly commandeered the nearest desk, sitting in the too high desk with my feet dangling, but ready to defend my right to be there. they sent for a desk from the second grade and let me stay.
The rest of the morning went well. I was a good student and the class lessons and activities did not present any problems for me. Later in the afternoon, the bell rang for recess. That's when things became interesting. First of all, the boys and the girls went out to recess...TOGETHER! And the playground was a BIG GRASSY FIELD! Back in my city school, boys went out for boy's recess and girls went out for girls' recess and everyone went out on a macadam playground. The boys ran around playing boy's games and the girls played hopscotch or jumped rope. Boys and girls NEVER played together.
Next, I saw that boys and girls picking sides to play baseball. Well, it was softball, but I didn't know the difference. Although I had never played baseball and had never attended a game, I did have a vague idea of the rules. I watched closely the play while waiting for my turn at bat. OK, I thought to myself, you hit the ball to get on base and then you run around the bases when the ball is hit until you reach home. Or you can steal a base if you are fast enough when the pitcher throws the ball to the catcher. Well, I knew this, I can do that! This was my chance to show these Camp Hill kids how good the new little skinny kid could play their game.
My turn to bat. Somehow I managed to hit the ball and made it to first base. I landed there feeling really pleased with myself...and with a plan for even greater glory for me. I would demonstrate what a good baseball player I was...by stealing second base. The pitcher threw the ball. I ran to second base. Safe! I though, with a proud feeling of my speedy feat. But to my dismay and consternation, instead of cheer of approval, everyone was yelling at me and I was quickly called out.
My brief study of the game had not made me aware of a basic rule: you cannot have two runners on the same base. Unfortunately, there was already a runner on second base. No cheers, no impressed classmates. I was sure my team thought the new kid was a real dope and I had to slink back to the sidelines, a sadder, but wiser, baseball player.