For anyone who ever attended Thruston Elementary, this is going to feel like a love letter.  The truth is- I absolutely loved that school.  And, though it was torn down decades ago, I still carry my experiences there with me everywhere I go.  Honestly, I get a little sad every single time I'm on Hwy 144 and pass the place where the school used to stand.  I'm more attached to that building than any house I have ever lived in. I think a lot of my classmates will relate to this statement.  But Thruston is "the house that built me."

I'm sure most people feel the same way about their own elementary schools, but Thruston was an incredibly special place.  So many of the friends I made there are still friends today and we all share reserves in our hearts for each other and that school, its teachers, its amazing principal, our librarian, the best custodian ever, the lunch ladies, the epic Fall Festivals and that random ramp in the middle of the hallway where we used to take our flouride treatments.

I still remember, vividly, my first day of school there.  Oh my gosh!  It was 45-years-ago.  I can't even believe I just typed that.  But it's true!  I started kindergarten when I was 4-years-old and, trust me when I tell you, I was not feeling it at all.  I was terrified. I am pretty sure I faked the smile in this photo because it was gone about ten minutes later when my mom rolled that blue Maverick up into the Thruston drop off zone.

Judy Quinn
Judy Quinn

Oh, and yes!  My mom, bless her heart, pulled into the wrong parking lot.  She was supposed to drop me off at the school entrance by the library.  Instead, she dropped me off at the other end, which, if you'll recall, was the loading and unloading zone for the school buses.  Needless to say, the ole Maverick paled in comparison to the gigantic yellow buses.  No wonder I didn't want to get out of the car.  I would have been thrust into a winless game of Frogger.

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I would NOT get out of the car.  It's so funny looking back at that now.  I mean, let's be honest.  Over time, I morphed into quite the social butterfly.  But I wasn't in 1976.  In fact, Mrs. Jones, my kindergarten teacher, had to come out to the car and try to talk me into the building.  I can actually recall sitting in the car and not wanting to get out.  I had to rely on my mom to fill in the rest of those "first-day jitters" memories.

She said that Mrs. Jones came over to the car, opened up the passenger side door, lifted me up and physically removed me from the car.  Then, she simply took me by the hand and walked me inside the school.

I don't remember a lot about the first day, but I remember this.  Mrs. Jones had a fun exercise for the incoming kindergarten class.  We had to search the school for the Gingerbread Man.  He had gone missing and we had to find him.  In retrospect, it was actually a brilliant way to introduce us to Thruston.  By searching the school, we quickly got acclimated to it.  In a really fun, inventive and engaging way, we got to learn where the cafeteria was, where the restrooms were, we got to see the other classrooms and the upstairs (where the 4th and 5th graders were).

Full disclosure, I have polled the crowd and most of my classmates have zero memory of this.  Two of them, Charity Mabrey DeHart and David Roberts, recall some sort of "scavenger hunt", but don't remember what we were looking for.  The rest?  Well, crickets.  LOL!  Of course, we're all either fifty or pushing it, so it's understandable that our memories are a little foggy.  As my friend Gina explained, "It could have happened YESTERDAY and I still wouldn't remember."  That said, I was able to confirm this memory with Mrs. Jones.  We DID search Thruston for the Gingerbread Man.  Mrs. Jones says it was indeed "a way to tour the school."

It was that introduction to the school and the wonder of it that would completely change my life.  It changed all our lives.  Teachers that I had at Thruston as a child are now my friends in adulthood.  Mr. Pendley, Thruston's legendary principal who passed away a few years ago, still ranks as one of the most influential people in my life.  I mean, he's the guy who fell in love with the song "You Light Up My Life" and played it into our brains over the loudspeakers virtually every single day.

But, that's how Mr. Pendley felt about us.  And that's how we all felt about him.  And Thruston.  And its teachers.  And Ms. Nation, our librarian.  And Mr. Marx, our gym teacher.  And Glenn Pierce, Thruston's wonderfully talented and compassionate custodian still knows all of us by our first names. And Mrs. Jones, who, 45-years-ago, took a scared little boy by the hand and walked him into his first day of school and his first day of public life.

What started as a simple search for the Gingerbread Man became much more than that.  At Thruston, we started the journey and search for the people we eventually became.  I pulled up to that school for the first time in a Maverick I didn't want to get out of. I walked out of that school as a little "maverick" of my own.

I told you.  Thruston's the house that built me.  Yes.  The building's gone, that weird ramp's just a faded memory and, with the exception of an historical marker, there's literally no sign of the school.  But its figurative foundation remains and I am a smarter, stronger and better person because of it.

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