Has there ever been a person, besides your family, who you have always wanted to thank for making a significant contribution to your life, but lost contact with? Maybe someone as far back as childhood?
When we grow older and think about who we are and where we came from, there can be revelation in how certain individuals made an impact on our lives. You may not have known it while being with them, but comes to you later in your journey.
There are several individuals who I’d like to thank, but the foremost in my mind is Mr. James Croft. Before I tell you about him, let me tell you about the context in which I knew him.
Gregory Elementary was an extremely small rural school located outside of Inola, Oklahoma. It was a 3 room building with each combining grades of first & second, third & fourth, and fifth & sixth. Each class was taught by one teacher for all subjects, beginning on one side of the class and then moving to the other side. Lunch was absolutely home made by Mrs. Mootry and her daughter Mrs. Keener. Fresh baked from scratch rolls, entree, vegetables and desert. It was unbelievable food, and after each student would clean up they would hug Mrs. Mootry before leaving the lunchroom. Like a family in a downright country schoolhouse.
We had sports, and since there were so few students, we could start playing elementary basketball and track in 3rd grade. Our recess was a free for all and always ended with a lucky student who was allowed to ring the big brass bell from the front steps.
I remember hardwood floors, the tornado cellar we scampered to several times, the mini interior gym, the stone exterior of the building, teeter-totters, tetherball, playing basketball against the Mennonite school with their kids in overalls, and our 6th grade graduating class that had five students. That’s right, five! And all boys! Imagine how much we were looking forward to the girls at Inola Junior High where there were going to be 50 or so students. Huge!
This brings us to Mr. Croft. Now follow along here. He was our 5th and 6th grade teacher. He was also the Principal. And the girls and boys basketball coach. And the track coach. And the bus driver. He was involved in every aspect of our education and our growing up at Gregory. Mr. Croft and his wife would have us all over to their home. He would play games with us and fun practical jokes on us. If we ever deserved it, he would discipline us with a board on our behind. The man was essentially a parent to us and as I look back on it now, like a father figure for me.
Gregory School was like growing up in a bygone era. Schools like that just don’t exist anymore that I know of. Today it is no longer a school, but the building still stands and serves as someones home now.
So with all of that said, I would like to thank Mr. Croft for everything that he did and the sacrifices he surely made. I hope he knows the impact he has made on not only my own life, but countless other fortunate kids who got to attend Gregory Elementrary. I have heard that he’s still somewhere in Oklahoma and I will try to connect with him. If I do, I’ll write about it you can be sure.
The photos below are:
1) Gregory Elementary School