School Days Formed Lasting Memories | TheFencePost.com

School Days Formed Lasting Memories

Maxine Bridgman Isackson
Brady, Neb.

Photo By Maxine Bridgman IsacksonStudents presented a hillbilly comedy skit for an audience of family and friends. Parents would pitch in and work on costumes and help the teacher and students create the stage and curtain.

It’s that time again. It seems to arrive earlier each year. The older children involved in sports start practices even before school begins. It all makes for a short summer vacation. It’s an exciting time, this starting of a school year. I think of the beginners enrolling in kindergarten. Most of these little ones have attended pre-school so it isn’t as traumatic as it once was when this was the first break from home and mama.

I recall when I was in high school with grade school held in the rooms below. There was one little girl who cried the whole morning long. She kept this up for a good many days before she finally accepted the inevitable.

I remember my first day. My mother had me wear bib overalls over my dress for I was to ride horseback to school. My dad simply leaned down from the saddle, took a grip on the suspenders and lifted me up to sit behind his saddle. I carried my lunch, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and an orange in a paper bag. Some of the other students carried theirs in syrup buckets. Some students had sandwiches that were two slices of homemade bread stuck together with syrup. These were brought by a family that lived in a sort of dugout shelter and were very short on funds. None of us, for that matter, attending that little clapboard school forlornly perched among the hills, came from affluent backgrounds. Our teacher was a farmer’s daughter who boarded at the home of one of the school board members. Her supplies were limited and she improvised a great deal. There was no school ground equipment. We had a ball someone brought so we could play Anti-I-Over. We played such games as Steal Sticks, Red Rover-Red Rover, and Pump, Pump Pull-away. Some days before the ground froze we played in a nearby sandy blowout creating miniature towns and roads.

Our water was brought in a cream can that still gave off the faint odor of sour cream when the lid was lifted. We all used the tin dipper that hung on the handle of the can. If we picked up germs we seemed to slue them off for we were a healthy lot.

Friday was always the highlight of the week, at least for me. This was not only the last day of the school week, but it was the day we had “art.” We always had seasonal decorations to color and cut out for the windows. And free-hand days were great when we could choose what we wanted to draw. Friday, however, was also “test day.” Spelling! History with dates to remember. Geography with capitols of states and countries to have memorized. Penmanship using those funny little quills with metal points to dip into the ink wells to practice cursive writing. And yes, ink did get spilled and fingers stained. There were no school rooms that didn’t have at least one desk with ink stains, usually more.

School programs were always big occasions at any school. Some teachers were known for the entertainment they managed to provide with whatever number of students they might have on any particular year. Comedy skits were especially popular. Music depended on if the school had a piano and if any of the kids could carry a tune.

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The parents would pitch in and work on costumes. Men would come and put up the wires that sheets could be hung on to provide stage curtains. In the early days, most schools had a platform at one end. Newer ones didn’t have the platform, but one could be assembled from boards and cement bricks stored in the coal house.

The country students felt discriminated against because the 8th grade students had to go to the county seat and be given an examination by the County School Superintendent to see if they were qualified to graduate. Town students were not required to do this. “Not fair,” we said. And I don’t think it was though there were few country students that didn’t make a good showing.

I remember my 8th grade teacher worried herself sick over our scheduled exams and her three 8th graders were scared to death we’d fail. We drilled one another and made the 30 mile trip to town with trepidation. When the results came back we had all three made the honor roll.

Looking back in some old school records I see that the curriculum of 1913 when my father-in-law attended our local school, consisted of some subjects that we did not have in my day. Below is the list: Reading, Physiology (health), Writing, Orthography (spelling), Mental Arithmetic, History, Grammar, Geography, Composition, Arithmetic, Drawing, Civics, and Agriculture. Through the years the curriculum has continued to change. Think of it! We’ve moved from slates and chalk to individual computers.

During the WWII years I attended town school. For the first time I rode a school bus. We had a different room and teacher for each subject. Teachers were scarce during the war. Many had taken war jobs or were in the service. Some of the teachers the school boards had to settle for lacked knowledge and people skills. The playgrounds were thronged with children up through the sixth grade. There were teachers assigned to patrol the grounds, but they missed a lot. Some of the older boys were aggressive and used foul language. They were often fist fights off at the edge of the grounds. The culprits, if caught, were sent to the principal’s office and whipped. Such punishment was not illegal in those days.

Some of the students had poor housing and were in need of baths. There were cases of head lice. The story was that if you had head lice they would take you to the dreaded principal office where they dipped your head in hot oil. This of course was not true, but it did give you a tingle up your spine at the thought.

This was my first experience riding school busses. Do to shortages, the busses had to make more than one run to pick up students. The children that were unloaded from the first runs had to wait outside the buildings until the second runs unloaded. This was pretty uncomfortable on winter mornings.

We were served hot lunches that would make today’s students really turn up their noses. Teachers with no-nonsense faces stalked among the tables making certain that each plate was slicked clean. There was to be no waste. There was a war on. The particular item I hated was grapefruit and raw cabbage salad. I don’t recall that it even had a dressing, but it was healthy.

After the war ended we moved to Colorado for the rest of the year. Lunch time became a joy. Tasty hot dishes followed by such treats as fresh apricot cobbler were common fare. But, when it became time for me to enter the 8th grade we were back in Nebraska. Once again, I attended a country school with all grades in one room. We had a grand teacher who ran a firm but fun ship. There was an artesian well in the yard and a snug barn for those who rode horses to school. We all carried our lunches in regular lunch boxes with thermos bottles of milk or hot cocoa. Friday was still test and art day with the addition of a club meeting. This club was aimed at making us more aware of citizenship and its responsibilities. I felt I’d come back home.

It’s that time again. It seems to arrive earlier each year. The older children involved in sports start practices even before school begins. It all makes for a short summer vacation. It’s an exciting time, this starting of a school year. I think of the beginners enrolling in kindergarten. Most of these little ones have attended pre-school so it isn’t as traumatic as it once was when this was the first break from home and mama.

I recall when I was in high school with grade school held in the rooms below. There was one little girl who cried the whole morning long. She kept this up for a good many days before she finally accepted the inevitable.

I remember my first day. My mother had me wear bib overalls over my dress for I was to ride horseback to school. My dad simply leaned down from the saddle, took a grip on the suspenders and lifted me up to sit behind his saddle. I carried my lunch, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and an orange in a paper bag. Some of the other students carried theirs in syrup buckets. Some students had sandwiches that were two slices of homemade bread stuck together with syrup. These were brought by a family that lived in a sort of dugout shelter and were very short on funds. None of us, for that matter, attending that little clapboard school forlornly perched among the hills, came from affluent backgrounds. Our teacher was a farmer’s daughter who boarded at the home of one of the school board members. Her supplies were limited and she improvised a great deal. There was no school ground equipment. We had a ball someone brought so we could play Anti-I-Over. We played such games as Steal Sticks, Red Rover-Red Rover, and Pump, Pump Pull-away. Some days before the ground froze we played in a nearby sandy blowout creating miniature towns and roads.

Our water was brought in a cream can that still gave off the faint odor of sour cream when the lid was lifted. We all used the tin dipper that hung on the handle of the can. If we picked up germs we seemed to slue them off for we were a healthy lot.

Friday was always the highlight of the week, at least for me. This was not only the last day of the school week, but it was the day we had “art.” We always had seasonal decorations to color and cut out for the windows. And free-hand days were great when we could choose what we wanted to draw. Friday, however, was also “test day.” Spelling! History with dates to remember. Geography with capitols of states and countries to have memorized. Penmanship using those funny little quills with metal points to dip into the ink wells to practice cursive writing. And yes, ink did get spilled and fingers stained. There were no school rooms that didn’t have at least one desk with ink stains, usually more.

School programs were always big occasions at any school. Some teachers were known for the entertainment they managed to provide with whatever number of students they might have on any particular year. Comedy skits were especially popular. Music depended on if the school had a piano and if any of the kids could carry a tune.

The parents would pitch in and work on costumes. Men would come and put up the wires that sheets could be hung on to provide stage curtains. In the early days, most schools had a platform at one end. Newer ones didn’t have the platform, but one could be assembled from boards and cement bricks stored in the coal house.

The country students felt discriminated against because the 8th grade students had to go to the county seat and be given an examination by the County School Superintendent to see if they were qualified to graduate. Town students were not required to do this. “Not fair,” we said. And I don’t think it was though there were few country students that didn’t make a good showing.

I remember my 8th grade teacher worried herself sick over our scheduled exams and her three 8th graders were scared to death we’d fail. We drilled one another and made the 30 mile trip to town with trepidation. When the results came back we had all three made the honor roll.

Looking back in some old school records I see that the curriculum of 1913 when my father-in-law attended our local school, consisted of some subjects that we did not have in my day. Below is the list: Reading, Physiology (health), Writing, Orthography (spelling), Mental Arithmetic, History, Grammar, Geography, Composition, Arithmetic, Drawing, Civics, and Agriculture. Through the years the curriculum has continued to change. Think of it! We’ve moved from slates and chalk to individual computers.

During the WWII years I attended town school. For the first time I rode a school bus. We had a different room and teacher for each subject. Teachers were scarce during the war. Many had taken war jobs or were in the service. Some of the teachers the school boards had to settle for lacked knowledge and people skills. The playgrounds were thronged with children up through the sixth grade. There were teachers assigned to patrol the grounds, but they missed a lot. Some of the older boys were aggressive and used foul language. They were often fist fights off at the edge of the grounds. The culprits, if caught, were sent to the principal’s office and whipped. Such punishment was not illegal in those days.

Some of the students had poor housing and were in need of baths. There were cases of head lice. The story was that if you had head lice they would take you to the dreaded principal office where they dipped your head in hot oil. This of course was not true, but it did give you a tingle up your spine at the thought.

This was my first experience riding school busses. Do to shortages, the busses had to make more than one run to pick up students. The children that were unloaded from the first runs had to wait outside the buildings until the second runs unloaded. This was pretty uncomfortable on winter mornings.

We were served hot lunches that would make today’s students really turn up their noses. Teachers with no-nonsense faces stalked among the tables making certain that each plate was slicked clean. There was to be no waste. There was a war on. The particular item I hated was grapefruit and raw cabbage salad. I don’t recall that it even had a dressing, but it was healthy.

After the war ended we moved to Colorado for the rest of the year. Lunch time became a joy. Tasty hot dishes followed by such treats as fresh apricot cobbler were common fare. But, when it became time for me to enter the 8th grade we were back in Nebraska. Once again, I attended a country school with all grades in one room. We had a grand teacher who ran a firm but fun ship. There was an artesian well in the yard and a snug barn for those who rode horses to school. We all carried our lunches in regular lunch boxes with thermos bottles of milk or hot cocoa. Friday was still test and art day with the addition of a club meeting. This club was aimed at making us more aware of citizenship and its responsibilities. I felt I’d come back home.