Thursday, May 1, 2008

KANSAS FARM LIFE IN THE 40'S - SCHOOL

I am sure it was an exciting September day 1943 for this 5 year old freckled faced lad. Hair slicked down with hair oil, combed, wearing bib overalls, a new pair of shoes and carrying a metal lunch pail, it was my first day of school. Little did I know that for the next 19 years school would be a part of my life.

The country school was called Prairie View. It was located one mile south of the seven-mile corner on highway 166. It was a large, one room building with a bell in the alcove, that was used to signal the start of the school day and when recess was over. A rather tall round coal stove heated the room. Other buildingss were a coal shed for storing the dusty black coal and a horse shed. A merry-go-round and tetter totter made up the playground equipment.

The teacher was my aunt, Lucille Metcalf. There were six students, my sister Cecilia, my clusin Wayne and the Coil children, Lester, Robert and Maxine. These student ranged from the first through the eighth grades.

Prairie View school was one and one half mile from our house. One of my parents usually took us to school and most of the time we walked home ubnless the weather was bad. I do remember riding a horse to school. Some times I would tie old Nellie up in the horse shed and ride her home. Ocasionally I would turn her loose and she would go back to the farm. She had to cross the hiway, but in those daays there wasn't a lot of traffic. The Coil's farm was probably one to two miles east and they normally walked through the pastures to and from school.

School started a eight o'clock, fifteen-minute recess at ten, one-hour lunch break, andother recess at two and school out at four o'clock. The teacher had to get to school a little earlier, get the fire started in the stove to take the chill off. In colder weather we wore our jackets until tthe room warmed up enough to take them off. One of the duties of the older boys was to fill the coal buckets from the coal shed.

In the second grade, there were three students. Lester had graduated, cousin Wayne went to a different school, sister Cecilia was sick, so the students were Robert, Maxine and myself. The teacher was Iola Gordon, daughter of Curly Gordon, who I think worked for Jarvis. She stayed with Joe Westbrook and wife, who then lived one-fouth mile west of the school. Unknowing to we students, romance took root from the school. Harold Pettigrew, son of Ray Pettigrew, (who lived southwest of CV) was back from the service and bought a farm that joined the school property. Iola and Harold later married. Harold died at a fairly young age and Iola I think still lives by herself on the farm today.

The school term was eight months. In those days the boys were expected to help prepare the farm for spring crop planting, so school was out the last of April. For the last day of school we had a picnic which was attended by students and parents. I received a $25 war bond , donated by Cora Wallace, proprietor of the seven-mile corner business. It cost $18 and matured in twenty years. What a greaat rate of interest. I remember thinking I would much rather have the money now. When the bond matured I would be 27, which seemed like forever.

Because of the lack of students, three country schools, Prairie View, Prairie Flower and Prairie Eagle, consolidated with students from these going to Prairie Eagle. (ie CV and Dexter consolidating now). School was now approximately five miles from home, so we had to ride the school bus. The school bus was my Dad's 1940 two door Ford. He picked up kids on the northern route, dumped them at school and went another route and picked up more kids. Someone else picked up the kids on the southern route.

From three students, now there were thirty-two. What a cultural shock that was. For the next four years the teacher was Carrie Johnston. Her home was in Burden, she didn't drive and she stayed with a farm couple about a mile from school. She walked to and from every day, regardless of the weather. Looking back, what an amazing woman she was. She had over thirty students, from the first through eigth grades. She was strict, dedicated and wanted her students to llearn. In my eight years of going to country schools, probably none of the teachers had a college degree. They probably had teaching dertificates, which I have no idea what education they had to have to qualify for one. The ability to teach a first grade student to read and write, while teaching other grades math, english, geography, history, spelling etc. all in one room. They were indeed amazing people,.

Recreatiobn was playing softbll, if we could get the girls to play. Some of our dad's put up two poles, made board backboards with iron hoops, no nets, so we could play basketball; anti-over the school building; red rover; tag and if it snowed, we would make a large circle in the snow, with spokes going into the center. The center was the free spot. Some one would be "it" and chase the other players around the circle or in the spokes and try and touch them before they got to the center. I don't remember what that game was called. During cold and bad weather we had to stay inside. I remember playing clue, rook, monopoly and other card games.

At Christmas we had a Christmas play. All students participated in the play, or recited poems or other readings.

Other students that I can recall that went to this country school and then to CV high, who might be remember by some of the blog readers were; JD Sanders, Dale Wolfe, Bonnie, Maxine, Kenneth, Louise and Chester Campbell; Carole Riley; Virginia and Steve Nellis; Steve, Tom and brother Shorter and my sister Patricia.

In looking back, while it is intriguing to have been part of a by gone era, educational wise it probably was not the best. By having one teacher that would teach only one grade, I think would give a broader and more in depth knowledge of the various subjects. Something that has affected me all of my life, which I think stems from going to school with few classmates, is the inter action social skills. High school was a scary and whole new world to me. Being somewhat introverted, I have never felt comfortable in groups. At one stage of my business career, I gave speeches and conducted seminars. While it was a terrifying experience each time, I gradually felt more at ease in groups and gained more confidence, which helped me in later years.

14 comments:

nbhowell said...

Gary, Enjoyed your article about going to a country school. It brought back memories of my first three years of school. The school I attended was called Pleasant View and was located about 8 miles south east of Cedarvale. I was the only first grader my first year and it sure wasn't easy trying to play baseball every recess with the older kids.! And yes, I know what you mean by cultural shock! I went from having about 7 classmates when we were consolidated and bused into school in Cedarvale.

DFCox said...

Yes Iola Gordon does still live on the place that she and Harold ranched. She is very active in the church family of Hicks Chapel.
Wasn't Blueberry Hill very near Prairie Eagle school?

Gary White said...

Gary, Thanks for sharing with me and all the other CV bloggers. I get emails from people who are reading the blog even if they aren't contributing. At least two people are printing out articles to read to aged relatives in care facilities. They report great interest in what we have to say.

So, Gary, and all CV blog readers, keep sharing your thoughts with us. We are providing entertainment for each other and for more folks than we know.

wayne woodruff said...

Gary, very interesting and enlightening. After reading about your education background, I understand a little more about the guy I knew in H.S.
A question? What was or who was the administration for those old country schools. Were they totally independent and controlled by the parents of the students at the time???
Thanks for the interesting article.

Gary White said...

Wayne, until Gary gets back with you, I can answer your question. There was a county superintendent of schools who was in charge of all the one-room schools in the county and also in charge of hiring teachers for those schools. Some counties even had "normal" training for prospective teachers. My grandmother Call was trained in the Chautauqua County Normal and taught in the county schools.

wayne woodruff said...

Gary, thanks for the answer. I was curious because both my parents taught in those little one room schools in Northern Kansas about one hundred years ago. Also, I know that neither had any more than a high school education.

Gary Metcalf said...

Noami, Gary, Wayne and Don - Thanks guys for your comments and Gary for answering Wayne's question. Don I do not recall a Blueberry Hill - the only Blueberry Hill I know of is where Fats Domino find his thrill - Thanks for the conformation of Iola still living on the farm...I certainly remember the Hicks Chapel community...it was the focal point of my youth..holding hands on hayrack rides, pulling taffy, softball games on Sunday afternoon etc. But thats another boring blog opportunity

Gary White said...

We won't be bored! Blog on. . .

DFCox said...

OK Gary, the hill north of Prairie Eagle School was/is Mockingbird Hill. Not Blueberry Hill--how silly of me--blame my advancing years.

Phil Foust said...

Depending no doubt upon the circumstances ... one room country schools were rewarding and fun. My experience was attending same in Riverdale (Sumner County) and also another a few miles north of Cambridge.

You learned not only from the instruction given your individual class but in that picked up from the recitals of others. I had one classmate at Cambridge and three at Riverdale. As I remember, spelling bees were conducted with all classes participating in one "bee".

My one-room schooling was interspersed with the fine Winfield sytem. In my less than learned opinion the basic instruction in the country schools was certainly not inferior. At the same time, the total learning experience was better at the larger schools because of "extras" such as elementary music education.

I have no idea about the degree of education possessed by my one room school teachers. That said, they were excellent!

Naomi said...

I too went to the "one-room school house" from 1st to 4th grades. I started out at Hardpan School with 3 students; Louise White, my sister, Eleanor, and myself. Our teacher was Miss Elliott who was 77 years old and lived with a family about 1 mile North of Hardpan School. She walked to and from school every day no matter what the weather. Our play ground equipment was a big log rolled up near the school house and a long 2x8 (or there abouts) laid across it for a "teeter-totter". The next year Hardpan closed and we rode the "bus" to Shiloh school. I don't remember just how many students were there but, as has been noted in previous comments, we learned a lot by hearing the classes above us recite as well as our own lessons. I do think that emphasis was put on the education of the "three r's" and less on extra curricular activities. However, I would not have wanted to miss those things that we had later when we came to "town school". I have felt privileged to grow up and experience the small town school where you knew everyone in your class and not just one of many.

Thanks, Gary for sharing and bringing back many memories from earlier years.

I believe that John Fry, the 4th grade teacher in 1948, was one of the last to graduate from "Normal School" and began teaching when he was in his late teens. I do not know just how old he was when I was in the 4th grade but I know that he got married the year my class graduated, 1957.

Submitted by Naomi I Remer

Lynn Petigrew-Norris said...

Hello neighbors & friends of my mother, Iola Gordon Pettigrew. Her teaching degree was through Pittsburgh State University where she obtained a lifetime teaching certificate. It is true that she lived on the family farm all those years after dad died - from his passing in 1975 right up until Christmas of 2016. We are all very proud of her for keeping it going all these years. And yes, my dad passed away all too young. He was a good one. Thanks for your stories. Enjoyed hearing about them. Mom was a great teacher all of her lifetime - as a teacher at Hicks Chapel and just helping us kids get our homework done. Thanks for listening & God bless. Sincerely, Lynn (Linda) Pettigrew Norris

Lynn Petigrew-Norris said...

Hello: Thanks for the information that you posted regarding my folks. My mother (Iola Gordon Pettigrew) did in fact live on the family farm from dad's passing in 1975 until the end of 2016 after Christmas. She still owns the farm. She received her teaching degree through Pittsburgh State - a lifetime teaching certificate. She was a teacher all of her life at Hicks Chapel and helping us kids get our homework done. We enjoyed hearing her stories about the little one-room school at the end of mom & dad's road. And whoever said it said it so well, yes, my father passed away all too young. Every time we are on the farm I can still feel his presence everywhere. Thanks for listening & God bless. Sincerely, Lynn (Linda) Pettigrew Norris

Carole Christenson said...

Marie smith and my mother also taught at prairie eagle. Both lived within two miles of the school. Dave Early was our other bus driver. That was before seat belts and everyone just piled on in.