Memories of a One-Room Country School

“Hurry up, or we’ll be late for school!” yelled my two older brothers. I grabbed my shabby jacket, my one-gallon tin bucket containing a jelly soaked, homemade-bread sandwich and ran down the long country driveway to catch up with them. It was quite a trek for a six-year-old — two miles up and down three rather steep hills on gravelled roads.

Our school was a small white building with one large classroom for our eighteen students from kindergarten to grade eight. There were also a library, a coat room, and a room with a metal wash basin and a water bucket with an enamelled dipper from which we all drank.

The day started with pledging allegiance to the flag, roll call, and health inspection. If you had clean ears, had combed your hair, brushed your teeth, washed your hands, and were wearing clean clothes you received a small white sticker in the shape of an ivory soap bar to put on the health chart. You got a black sticker if you were dirty!

We sat in rows of desks facing the teacher’s desk, behind that were a blackboard with the alphabet written neatly at the top. When it was our class’ turn for a lesson, we went up to the front of the classroom and sat on little square chairs made out of orange crates near the teacher. Then we returned to our desks to do our homework while the next class had their lesson.

If I had to go to the bathroom, I wrote my name on the blackboard. Then I raced outside, down the sidewalk to the outhouse. In warm weather, the smell was enough to knock you over. Fat, creepy-looking spiders looked down at you from their tangled webs as they gorged themselves on unsuspecting flies.

Our teacher’s name was Miss R. Her discipline was swift and cruel. One time I was caught whispering to my friends while she was teaching another class. The three of us were confined to our desks after school. As she swept the floor, her shouts at us were punctuated with whacks on the head with her straw broom.

Recess was usually fun. In good weather, we played baseball, hide-and-seek or “steal the cobs.” For this game opposing teams stood facing each other at the center line, each with a pile of ten corn cobs placed about twenty feet behind them. The object was to break through the line, grab one of their cobs and get it back to your own pile without being tagged. Whichever team got all twenty cobs first won the game.

In winter, older students shuffled their boots through the thick snow to make paths to run in. Inside a very large circle was a medium-sized one and a safe spot called “home” in the very middle. Other paths crisscrossed the circles. There were the dreaded “dead ends” where you had nowhere to go. When you were caught, you became the next one to chase the others.

When school was out, we tramped off for home. We had contests to see who could kick a stone the farthest before it bounced off into the ditch.

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