Kids loved it because it meant three months of freedom. Teachers loved it for the same reason. But kids had the additional bonus of going up a grade the next year. Of course the lucky teachers gained another year of tenure, where applicable. But the rest got a year closer to retirement. And even the staff that had to keep working, like maintenance, finally got to tackle jobs that required shutting down parts of the buildings.
So the last day of school was without a doubt a good deal for all involved individuals.
The school year would start with a resigned acceptance of circumstances. Summer was fun, often involving a real vacation and perhaps some weekend campouts and fishing trips, But the days had grown shorter, the air had turned cooler, and it was time to get back to the dreary business of studying, learning, and (my biggest challenge) behaving yourself.
But eventually we would settle into the routine. Thanksgiving would provide a big fat four-day break, Christmas and New Year’s an even longer two-week hiatus, and, assuming we didn’t have too many snow days, a spring break of a week.
Once you got those precious April days off behind you, it was a short jog to the freedom of summer. You walked to school with an extra spring in your step. The weather was warm, leaves were popping out on the trees, and everyone was in a better mood.
Soon, you were in the very merry month of May. You were taking end-of-year tests and getting more free time in class for your own personal use (as long as you were quiet, another big challenge for your webmaster). You were free to draw airplanes, wars, space ships, or any other objects of kids’ artistic endeavors.
By the time I made it to junior high in the early 70’s, I was going to Bentonville, Arkansas Middle School (NOT junior high, according to our principal!). There, I obtained a taste of a spring tradition in that small town (at least it was back then). That tradition was progressive squirt gun lenience.
Get caught with a squirt gun in September, it was three licks in the principal’s office. But the same violation circa May the 5th would warrant a mere 100-word essay. And when school let out at the end of the month, your water-dispensing weapon was COMPLETELY LEGAL!
The only offense that would draw discipline was squirting the teacher. But some of the more light-hearted educators didn’t even mind that. So after a day of joyful dowsings from fellow students while delivering as much return fire as possible, you finally loaded your tired but exuberant body onto the school bus and went home.
It’s a shame that, as adults, we no longer have an annual explosion of joy like the last day of school. We could really use a day of unrestrained, innocent revelry every year.