A unique arrangement existed between Ninth Street Elementary School and the Leadville High School in the 1940s and early 1950s. For our exposure to music, the chorus director and the band director from the high school used to come to Ninth Street School for that purpose. Most of the time the chorus director would sing the songs to us and then blow his pitch pipe for us to begin learning and singing the songs. We didn’t have pianos in every classroom so he had to improvise. The electronic world of musical instruments was a few years away from that time. I used to really look forward to those singing classes. In the fourth grade they used to line up the girls on one side of the class and the boys on the other and we would sing the song “Reuben and Rachel” to each other. My favorite song from those singing class days was “Sweet Betsy from Pike”.

My older brother Edward played the clarinet in the high school band. That clarinet was silver and consisted of one long piece. I played it in the fifth and sixth grades. That clarinet was handed down through most of my many brothers and sisters over the years. We had plastic reeds that lasted longer but were more difficult for me to handle with my exhalations. The wooden reeds were easier to blow but didn’t last as long. I always thought the sound was much better with the wooden reeds. I took three years of piano lessons from Mrs. Florence B. Fitzsimmons when I was 14, 17 and 18 years of age. I took voice lessons from her during my senior year in high school.

The teachers at Ninth Street used to call my younger sister Mary “notes” because she could read music so well and could play the piano and the organ. Those teachers used to call me “words” because I knew the words to so many songs which I easily memorized and retained so well. I am proud to still be able to tell you the names of my teachers at Ninth Street School. Miss Shadle, first grade; Miss Davies, second grade; Miss Joyce, third grade; Miss Cavanaugh, fourth grade; Miss Smith, fifth grade; Miss Metcalf, sixth grade; Miss Bentert, seventh grade; Mrs. Pitts, principal and mathematics teacher; Mr. Huggins, basketball coach.

I have very fond memories of my formal education school days and always looked forward to going to school. I appreciated our school board members, our administrators, teachers, custodians and all the folks who helped make our excellent education possible. I want to give a big hand to our parents, too, for all of their encouragement and support during our school years.

Emmett O’Leary

Pueblo West

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