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  • Writer's pictureMJ Rodriguez

School on Island 26

Updated: Jan 14, 2022

My family moved to Island 26 in the Mississippi River when my twin brother and I were about five. We started first grade in the fall when we were almost six and were the only two in the first grade. The one-room school went from first grade through eighth grade with two or three students in each class. The teacher, Miss Nell, drove an old gray Packard car that we called the “Old Gray Goose”. My twin brother and I were her pets, and she would take us onto her lap and teach us to read. My brother George and a girl we called Jelly-Bean were the only second graders, and my brother Edward and a girl were the only third graders. The school population sure had a boost when we moved there!

The Island was about three miles wide and five miles long. We rode a ferry to and from the Island, and when the water was low, dirt was pushed up on either side and the ferry boat was used as a bridge until the water rose again. We lived on the foot of the Island, and the school and a store at the head. The best I can recall, Dad transported us to and from school, since it was quite a way to walk. Sometimes Miss Nell picked us up or took us home in the Old Gray Goose. She drove the standard car with one foot on the clutch and the other foot on the gas, and we bumped and jerked all the way to school. To us, that was so funny.

My siblings and I played freely around the place without a care or fear. One time my brothers found an old doll and brought it to me. The body was in tatters, but the doll’s molded rubber head was good. Mom removed the old body and made a new one, attaching it on the wooden neck that attached to the head. She put a dress, a coat, shoes, and a bonnet on the doll, and I named her Flossie. Her head turned, and her eyes closed and opened when I laid her down. I took her to school even though she was almost as big as me, and when my teacher first saw her sitting in the seat next to me, she commented that I had brought a friend to school. I still have that doll, Of course, I’ve had to make a few new bodies for her through the years, but she is still pretty, and I cherish her.

Living on the Island was quite an experience for all of my family. Because of my age, my memories began there. I have only a few vague memories of life before the Island. Those times were fun and carefree for a family (at least for the children) that worked hard and played hard together.

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