The First Day

When I was only twenty five I was made principal of the Fayetteville Grammar School. I had been teaching at Fayette County High School for three years and now I had my first administrative assignment. The work was twice as difficult as before for not only was I principal of a school, I had to teach four classes at the high school. But I was proud of what I considered a promotion.

The first part of the day was spent at Fayetteville Grammar School. That building was renovated and is now Fayetteville City Hall. The next four hours were spent teaching at the high school across town. As I returned from the high school I went by and checked on the fifth grades housed in a couple of old buildings on the old fair grounds. I ended the day back at Fayetteville Grammar School .

At the end of the first day of this assignment, as the second load buses left and the teachers all went home, I stood exhausted, disoriented, and somewhat bewildered in the schoolyard at the south end of the building where the buses always loaded. In my back pocket I had a pair of gloves that someone had found, in my front pockets several pencils and pens that others had lost, and I was holding two books and a tablet that had been left on the side steps. What a day! I hoped I’d make it through the year.

Now alone, I turned to walk back into the building. Suddenly, I heard the faint sobbing of what sounded like a child. I looked behind the school’s steps and in the restroom at the end of the building, but I saw no one. I walked back into the yard and approached an old 55 gallon metal drum used to burn waste paper. The sobbing grew louder. I looked into the drum and there was a small boy all curled up, tears and ashes running down his cheeks.

I pulled him out of the drum and dusted him off as much as possible. This was his first day in the first grade and his day had apparently been as confusing as mine. I understood quite well why he’d found refuge in the drum. If there had been enough room, I might have joined him; however, I was the principal. I asked him his name and the name of his teacher. He only knew his first name and had no Idea who his teacher was.

“What’s your daddy’s name?” I asked thinking this might reveal his last name.

“Daddy,” he responded.

“Does he have another name?” I continued.

He shook his head, “No.”

Now what was I to do? I was alone with a child who only knew his first name and the sun was setting rapidly.

“Where do you live?” I asked.

“Fayette County,” he answered.

I should have known that if he didn’t know his full name, he couldn’t give me directions to his home. In desperation, I put him in my car and drove south down 85 highway.

“Do you ever go down this road?” I asked

“No,” he mumbled.

I continued driving down one road after another while asking if he recognized anything. His answer was always “no”. Finally I drove north on 85 highway.

As we passed Geechee McEachern’s gas station, I asked, “ Have you ever been there?”

By this time we had become buddies and he was talking more. “Yep,” he answered, “Daddy always stops and buys me candy.”

I made a sudden turn into Mr. McEachern’s station. We both got out of the car and met Mr. McEachern in the door of the station.

“Hi there, Buddy! What are you doing out here?” Mr. McEachern greeted the boy.

I told Mr. McEachern what had happened and asked if he knew where the child's parents lived. Mr. McEachern knew the boy’s father very well and told me how to get the boy home.

Mr. McEachern gave him some candy and we headed to his home thankful that our first day was over.