Friday, September 5, 2008

School Days - Part 1

My dad got his grade 1 through 9 in a one room school house less than a mile from our farm. My sister got her grade 8 and my brothers got grades 6 and 2 before the school was forced to close in 1959. There were only 7 students left in the 11 square mile district - one each in grades 2, 4 and 7 with two each in grades 6 and 8.

The school district was created in 1894 and was formally dissolved in 1961. Over the lifetime of the school many of my aunts, uncles and cousins attended this small country school that also served as a community gathering point and a place of Sunday worship. In the early years there were 15 to 20 students. Depending on the teacher's qualifications they were paid anywhere from $35-45.00/month. By the time the school closed in 1959, the teachers' salary was $228.00/month!

In the early 1980's my mom and I spent a few years doing research to update our family history. We wrote a book on her family first and then worked on one for my dad's side. While we were doing the research on dad's family, we came across so much info on the school, that we ended up compiling a third book on it's history. We contacted every former student, teacher and resident of the district that we could find and asked them to send us stories and pictures. So many people contributed that the project snowballed and the next thing we knew, we were holding a community meeting to organize a reunion and dedicating a marker on the site of the former schoolhouse. More than 30 people attended that first meeting in July 1984. The book was done by late spring, 1985 and a marker was dedicated at a reunion in June 1985. Over 100 people attended the reunion/dedication.

It was really interesting reading and hearing all the reminiscences of the students, teachers and residents of the district. In a lot of ways, I wish I could have gotten to have that country school experience. My parents could have sent me to another nearby country school when I started grade one in September 1964, but that school was also facing closure due to lack of enrollment within the next couple of years. They opted to send me to the town school 9 miles away, right from grade one so that I wouldn't have to readjust in a year or two.

I did get a sense of that small school atmosphere when I attended Bible School in the late 1970's as there were only about three dozen students on campus, but it wasn't the same. It sure would have been nice to be part of a country school and experience that one room multi-class atmosphere with a small group of people.

Going to a town school was a little hard at first, as I wasn't used to being around a lot of people and was actually kind of shy. I liked music, math and art classes. I was never great at science, geography, or history. Spelling and grammar have always been a bit confusing with all of the rules and exceptions. My dictionaries were always dog eared from looking up how to spell words! My penmanship was horrid - in large part due to my sight and lack of eye/hand co-ordination.

School sports were a real pain. I was so uncoordinated that it was a bit pathetic! Our elementary school had a program that divided all the students into four teams (Comets, Jets, Meteors and Rockets). Each new student was assigned to a team when they came to the school and stayed with that team through every grade. Attendance, participation and placement all earned points for the team. At the end of the year, the team with the most points was given a trophy and there were ribbons for all the members. I was a "Rocket" which, if memory serves was always in last place!!

I remember the names of all my elementary school teachers and most of my high school ones. Someday I'll write a post about some of the teachers. I'll have to do some thinking on that topic! Tomorrow, I'll share some memories of getting to and from school and a bit about high school.


No comments: