Noe Valley Voice September 2005

Florence's Family Album

Starting School, 1926

By Florence Holub

In this short essay, reprinted from the October 1988 edition of the Noe Valley Voice, Florence Holub remembers her first days at Edison Primary School.

I recently encountered a photograph of Edison School, once located at 22nd and Church streets. The photo brought back fragments of my almost forgotten childhood, and my first few days of school.

In 1926, my family had just moved into the lower flat of a building on Chattanooga Street (which still stands today), next to the piles of broken brick and concrete that were created to make way for the new Edison Primary. I remember the groaning sound of the 11-line streetcar as it turned the corner at 22nd Street, and the rapid clanging sound it made as it picked up speed in front of our house and headed for 24th.

We had recently moved from the flat, quiet, sparsely populated plains of northern Idaho to San Francisco--an exciting place, so richly peopled, so magical in comparison to our rural farm. Soon after we arrived, my father took us for a thrilling fast ride in our Model T Ford, up and over the Dolores Street hills. With each high, we three children in the back seat would fly up to the roof of the car and down again, squealing with the same joy we would later experience on the "Chutes at the Beach" ride at Playland.

There were so many things for unworldly 6-year-olds to remember: "Look up and down the street before you cross," "Don't take candy from strangers" (even then), and especially "Come straight home."

But the walk to and from school was full of distractions! Strange and beautiful flowers bloomed everywhere--lush red geraniums that could only be grown in pots in wintry Idaho, a shrub with leaves that smelled like lemon when you crushed them, and a large bush of white, heavily-scented, bugle-like flowers that can still be seen around Noe Valley.

I remember the long walk from Chattanooga Street up the steep 22nd Street sidewalk steps that led to the sunny, expansive schoolyard and the lower-level first-grade room filled with unfamiliar, wide-eyed, frightened 6-year-olds like myself. Although I have forgotten her name, I shall never forget my teacher's warm and friendly manner, her encouragement to all of us. She taught the class to stand up, put our hands over our hearts, and solemnly repeat after her: "I pledge Elly Janz...." I thought my teacher knew just about everything. She even knew my friend Elly Janz, back on a farm in Idaho.

Many years later, my son, who is now grown and married, attended the new Edison School on Chattanooga Street, where we, as parents, were able to observe and be grateful for those gentle and caring souls who decide to become primary school teachers.