Ready memories

November 22, 1995|By Beverly J. Weston

I CANNOT remember where I left my car keys this morning. Yet some events are etched in my mind forever. Thoughts of high school bring back myriad memories every day, or at least every year.

Samuel Ready School no longer exists. What remains is a stately, two-story gray stone mansion surrounded by lush green grass, hundred-year-old oak trees, delicate pink and white dogwood trees -- and ghosts of innocent youth.

Samuel Ready was a private school for girls. When I entered at grade seven as a day student, the entire student body totaled 300 girls, 50 of whom were boarders who lived on the second floor.

Fab Four formation

I quickly became friends with Rosemarie and Jane, who also came to school daily from city neighborhoods of rowhouses and blue-collar families. Rosie's mother and sister had been Ready girls, too. All three were musical and used their talents at many school functions. Jane was the athlete. She played field hockey, basketball, volleyball -- any sport the school offered.

I sang and played sports, too, but only as required for music and phys ed classes. Nevertheless, our friendship was cemented in the seventh grade. Nancy joined us the next year. She aspired to be a model, no mean feat in our uniforms.

We were the Fab Four before the Beatles invasion.

During our freshman year, our headmistress called a town meeting of the upper grades girls. Mrs. Walters, very conscious of her height of nearly six feet, hunched over the podium clutching her ever-present sweater. Even the most confident of seniors cowered in her presence. But we all hung on to every word as she announced our annual Christmas project.

This year, she said, we will record your well-practiced Christmas music and send it to a school of less fortunate children in far-away India. The entire student body gasped with joy. What an honor! What an adventure! We were going to a recording studio like singers we heard on the radio.

Under the leadership of our music teacher, Miss Moyer, we practiced and practiced and practiced some more. We sang until our raspy voices stuck in our throats.

In mid-November, Miss Moyer pronounced us ready. We would be taken by school bus to a professional studio across town to record our program, eat a boxed lunch, record some more and return to school.

Finally, the big day arrived. As we boarded the buses, the Fab Four jockeyed for seats together near the back of the bus away from the teachers. We were amazed when, as he drove down our school driveway, our friendly driver turned on the radio . . . to a rock and roll station. In a bus full of excited, chattering girls, we didn't hear much of what was playing until a favorite song came on. Then all talking ceased and we sang along with the Beatles, the Supremes and the Four Tops.

When we arrived at the studio, we exited the bus in orderly fashion, properly thanking the driver for the safe trip and the music. We entered the building awe-struck, feeling like professionals when we saw the microphones hanging from the ceiling. Miss Moyer arranged us according to our voices. She sat at the piano, played a few notes, lifted her arms and then lowered her hands as she began the prelude. With all eyes riveted on her, we breathed deeply as with her head she signaled for us to begin to sing. And sing we did with all our hearts. So well practiced were we that we seldom looked at our sheet music, instead watching Miss Moyers' commanding direction.

After the final song, Miss Moyer stood and, with tears in her eyes, told us of her feelings of pride in our work. Jane and I held hands as we listened. Suddenly, as if out of the heavens, a chorus of voices filled the room with a familiar melody. We were listening to ourselves. Hearing what those Indian children would hear. Our Christmas present to them!

Feeling like professional recording artists, we boarded the bus to return to school. But this ride was different. The driver did not turn on the radio. The teachers up front were whispering to one another. What had we done wrong? We thought Miss Moyer was proud of us. Was Mrs. Walters so stuffy that she couldn't stand another minute of rock and roll? But no one would dare ask.

When our beautiful gray stone building came into view, Miss Moyer stood and told us to go directly to Lyon Hall. Her unusually stern manner spelled trouble to me. I was sure we were about to be lectured on our unladylike behavior on the bus and/or the evils of rock and roll.

We filed into the meeting hall still exuberant from our recording debut yet curious about what lay ahead. Nancy, Rosemarie, Jane and I went to the front row of wooden chairs and sat next to a couple of seniors. Mrs. Walters, looking more stooped than usual, entered from the back of the room. As was our custom, when any adult entered a room, all students stood and waited for permission to sit. It was given, we sat and waited for Mrs. Walters to speak.

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