Sour Gripes


This is not the first spring when I have questioned “Dick and Jane”. It may seem completely ridiculous to us today but a very simplistic and idealistic (although today it would be considered racist due to the exclusion of other than whites) family influenced our early years. Should I say those of us over a certain age? The family consisted of Dick, Jane, baby Sally, Mother and Father as well as Spot the dog and Puff the cat. I’ll admit I had to search my memory for Sally and I had no recollection of Puff the cat and oh yes Tim the teddy bear.

Since the 30’s, first grade students in our area as well as in the U.S. (80% at one time), were introduced to Dick and Jane. The idea was to teach to read by sight (Look –Say). I suppose that it was tied in with the alphabet above the black boards and simple words like “cat” and “dog”. Don’t we all learn to speak by associating people and things with their names at first? Today most children by the first grade are probably well ahead of “Oh, oh! See Dick” or “See Jane run”. The principle was to introduce one new word on each page and every third page to combine them. Each story was very short and included no more than five or six. Progress has been described as glacial (slow). It is interesting that as the years passed the Sears catalogue was used to keep pace with “modern” clothes and vehicles. By 1955 the swing to phonics was on. Black and other races were included in 64 or 65 but the “ Look –Say” system was in rapid decline though it carried on in some areas until 1970.

During this time travel you probably question my sanity (once again). I was thinking today as I drove through a bit of ice pellets that the pictures of Dick and Jane and Sally prancing around in warm rain stomping in puddles is somewhat premature most years. Who among us did not want a dog like Spot or a cat like Puff? I know that the pictures of Dick running and flying a kite in the March winds seemed like a great idea for years (Still does). So it was to be March winds (no sign of snow), rains of April to grow the May flowers. It came to me that Dick and Jane’s family must have lived somewhat south of us. Although the pages had very few words obviously the pictures of a happy family and their activities have stayed with me. The sexist nature of Mothers’ and Dads’ activities was not so far out when I was a first grader (1954?) but that was rapidly changing. Mom still stayed home and cooked hot dinners and suppers that were on the table shortly after 5 when Dad got home from “The Cement Plant”. I guess life wasn’t too far off the books then. Nobody really gave it much thought. As we wanted more, and better, things changed. In the name of progress many things did change (and do) but it’s not all for the better.

If you wonder what could possess me to babble on about trivial things past I’ll tell you. On another day when politics in Ontario makes me want to bury my head I have done just that.

ASIDE: It is indeed nice to see how much the crews working the down town appear to be doing as much as they possibly can to accommodate merchants, shoppers, pedestrians and motorists alike.


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