Happy New School Year – On Scene with Bill Wilson

The author in his kindergarten class photo

By Bill Wilson
Sentinel Photojournalist
Bill Wilson © 2011

It is difficult to get in a sentimental mood about the first day of school when it is still the middle of August. School never started before Labor Day when I was growing up.

I don’t have a memory of my first day at kindergarten, so I have to take at face value my mother’s memory of me being independent enough not to want her to take me into the school, but telling her to just let me out. She didn’t want the teacher to think I was an orphan so she took me into the classroom.

First day of school September, 1956 –The Wilson kids – Frankie, Marie,
John and David- ready for school.

Someone had the sense to capture my first day of first grade in 1956 on film. This day would have a greater significance than just another school year starting. Since I was the youngest of four children my going to school full time meant that my mother was not tied down to the house. She was free to get a job. She found one as a teacher. My father was a farmer and the fact that my mother was working five, not seven, days a week as he did on the farm, the fact that she got a three month summer vacation when he was working the hardest on the farm putting in many long hard hours and she was the only one putting money in the bank, made my father rather envious. So he also became a teacher.

The author’s third grade class photo. 1958. His first year as Bill.

I was named William after my grandfather. My uncle was also named William and both were known as Bill. Since the day I was born I was known as Frankie because my middle name was Francis. I remember that when the roll was called on the first day of class the teacher in both first and second grade said the same thing. They called my name, “William F. Wilson” and asked, “Do you prefer William or Bill?” I answered, “Frankie.” I decided that I was going to answer differently when I entered the third grade. We had moved to a new district I was starting in a new school. I had announced to everyone in the family and anyone else who would listen that I was no longer going to be known by my nickname “Frankie” I wanted to be known as Bill. So of course on the first day of the third grade when the teacher called the roll, she said, “William F. Wilson. I have a note here that you prefer to be called Frankie.” To which I replied, “No, it’s Bill!”

See Related On Scene with Bill Wilson Archive

Sentinel Photojournalist
Bill Wilson is a San Francisco-based veteran photojournalist. Bill embraced photojournalism at the age of eight. In recent years, his photos capture historic record of the San Francisco LGBT community in the Bay Area Reporter (BAR), The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The San Francisco Examiner, SFist, SFAppeal. Bill has contributed to the Sentinel for the past seven years. Email Bill Wilson at wfwilson@sbcglobal.net.

Comments are closed.