School has begun for almost everyone here in the Midwest. The first 6 years of my formal education took place in a one room school almost identical to the one pictured above. Below is a picture of the country school I attended. It was built in the mid to late 1800's. I'm not sure when this photo was taken.
As you see, sometimes the mode of transportation was by horseback even during my six years. Many rode bicycles or walked if the parents couldn't bring the student by vehicle, often walking 1 or 2 miles.
The school had 1 teacher who taught grades 1-8 in this one room. The years I attended the school had approximately 21 students with 1 to 4 students in each class. My class was made up of 3 students including myself. The subjects were reading, writing, arithmetic, spelling, geography and history. I don't remember science being taught. We also had some art projects to do.
The first day of school always was an exciting time because I usually had new shoes, dresses, sometimes a new satchel or book bag, a new pencil box, a Big Chief tablet, and the most exciting of all...a new box of crayons!
The teacher started the day with all the students saying the Pledge of Allegiance. We would also say The Lord's Prayer and then recite a bible verse if we had memorized one. Teacher always taught how important memorization was. Music was played on the piano by the teacher and we would sing a patriotic song or hymn. Then classes would begin.
Below is a photo of a room very similar to the one I remember except the stove we had was in the back of the school. The teacher's desk was in front on the raised area we called a stage and on the right side, I remember a table and chairs for the students to sit at as they were called up for class.
While each individual grade was in class up front, the rest of the students would be busy doing homework. If someone needed to go to the bathroom or get a drink, or needed teacher's help, they would hold up the number of fingers that would tell the teacher what they needed. For instance, one finger was for help, two would be for a drink, etc.
We had electricity, of course, but no plumbing. Water was gotten from a well outside such as pictured at the top of this post. We had our water glasses all lined up on a shelf and a table held a container of water. I remember when the weather was warm enough, the teacher would pump the well and we would line up to wash our hands before lunch. The school was heated by a stove in the back of the school.
Our bathroom facilities consisted of "outhouses", one for boys and the other for the girls. They were spaced a good distance from each other. These were often very fragrant as you might imagine and very cold in winter! If I remember correctly, the girl's privy was a 3-holer. My biggest fear was of spiders and snakes, or a boy peeking in between the cracks! Below is a photo of outhouses by a one room school that I took last year. Ours were much further apart.
The piano sat about where the bookcase is in the photo below. The desks looked much like these in the first years, but eventually we got new desks that had desktops that raised up and books were kept in the well below.
I remember desktops being raised and a lot of whispering and giggling going on behind them when teacher had a class in session! The teacher rang the bell several times to signal we better quiet down. Discipline was very much in use in those days. A ruler was used to rap knuckles or the student was made to sit in the corner on the stage. Occasionally, a paddling might be called for.
I always felt as if George Washington was watching me when the teacher wasn't. That kept me behaving most of the time. I'll never forget sitting down at the table at the front on my very first day of school. And started whistling! Teacher reminded me very quickly that whistling wasn't allowed and I remember looking at President Washington with that look of his as if to say "mind your teacher!"
Recess and lunch time was the best part of school to most of us. We got to play fun games like Anti-over, Red Rover, Tag, Hide and Seek and softball. We ran races and jumped rope. We had a nice swing set with several seats to swing on . And, in winter, played Fox and Geese when we had snow and also brought our sleds for sledding . When weather was bad, raining or too cold, we played musical chairs with the teacher playing the piano, had spelling bees, and games played on the blackboard or chalkboard. Teacher would ring a hand held-bell to signal that it was time to get ready for class. The final bell meant you better be in your seat!
Another highlight was the Christmas program. We had a cedar tree decorated with paper chains, tinsel and lights. The stage was outfitted with curtains to draw and to box in each side as changing rooms. We had skits, recited poems and sang Christmas songs. The pageant was last. After the program, Santa came through the back door bearing a sack filled with treats for the kids, usually a sack of candy with an orange.
At the end of the school year, there would be a graduation ceremony for the eighth graders who would be moving on to high school. That was followed by a picnic with lots of good food, visiting and games.
At the end of my sixth year, reorganization was taking place and the district voted to cease operating the school and go in to the city school district. All of the rural students would be bused to town. Most all of the one room schools in the county were closed about that time as well as I remember. The building was bought by my father and the land became his as well. The building was used throughout the school years for the 4-H Club, the PTA met there, and various other meetings were held there. About 9-10 years after my father bought the building, someone set fire to it and it burned down. Sadly, that has been the fate of many of these country school houses.
The schoolhouse is gone but so many wonderful memories of those days remain. I wish everyone could have attended a one room school just once. I can't find the words to express what a unique experience it really was.
The transition from the country school to a "town" school was fairly smooth. Academically we were able to keep up with the town students, but fitting in socially was a bit of an adjustment. Especially for those of us who were shy. It was certainly an adjustment going from 3 students in your class to 60. I think it is interesting that the 3 of us in my class that went to the same country school and high school ended up going to the same college.
Even well-known people have attended a one room schoolhouse. Tomorrow, I'll show a photo of another country school that I took last year and tell you who went there.
Until next time...