Showing posts with label School days. Show all posts
Showing posts with label School days. Show all posts

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Poolville High School and the green bus

     The grades taught at Toto must have included the 9th because I entered high school as a junior. I was fourteen because I had started school early and had skipped the sixth grade. In those days there were eleven grades; the system changed to twelve the year I graduated, tossing me out into the world at fifteen (soon to be sixteen).
     All the Toto students did not move into the Poolville school. Some transferred to Peaster; some went to Weatherford, but those of us whose location made Poolville the best choice had an unique experience awaiting them: the opportunity to ride in the old green bus.
     It was indeed an oldie. The body was of wood, faded to a dull green. Although it had rows of windows, the were covered by rolled up canvas that was unrolled in cold weather. The seats consisted of benches running the length of the bus and in the center was a flat wooden rail meant to serve as a foot rest for those passengers seated on the side benches. On the other hand, the manufacturer may have installed it for safety; as a brace to prevent the riders from sliding off their seats if there was a sharp turn.
     For whatever reason the center board was meant, it was more often used for the last arrivals to sit upon if the bus was loaded. The pecking order also had a lot to do with the seating choices one had. Our bus driver was a quiet man named Arthur  Fuller. His passengers were either a quiet group or he was not bothered easily because I remember no disciplinary efforts being made.  One the other hand, he may have realized that completing the route often depended upon his passengers.
     If that seems strange, one must visualize the road conditions of those days. Any rain caused the road to be slick enough to lead to a quick slide into a ditch. Then the kids unloaded and contributed enough muscle to get "ole green" back on the road. A heavy rain activated those waiting mud holes and they became a lob lolly that held in their clutches almost any vehicle. Again, we kids lent our muscles to get us on our way again. On those occasions we did not get to school in a pristine condition.
     The weather did not always cause the problem. Once when making a wide turn at the end of the route, ole green suddenly sank to one side. Our driver, still seemingly unperturbed, asked us to unload so the problem could be corrected. All that was needed was a few strong boys to lift the rear of the bus so one of its wheels could be reattached. Making the turn had been the last straw, the wheel had come off and rolled away.
     If ever a vehicle had a personality, ole green had its share. And we kids may have learned a little from riding in it:  it was not sleek and shiny, but it got us there; if there was a problem, we fixed it, if we got dirty in the process, so what? We had done what needed to be done. Of course, in those days, child endangerment was not the issue that pushing a bus on slippery footing might be considered today. Can't your imagine today's mom's outrage..."You asked my child to do WHAT!"
     The Poolville school was a red brick building with its bottom floor housing the lower grades and the Superintendent's office. The top floor held classrooms for the upper grades and the large study hall or assembly room with its stage for programs...and the huge iron stove that attempted the impossible task of warming the entire area. On each side of the study hall was a stairway, more for safety in case of fire than to relieve congestion, for there were nothing resembling the crowds of today.
     Poolville had a janitor to tidy the place and load the wood in cold weather. It was never enough so the boys were often sent to the woodpile for more. Whenever we became uncomfortably chilled, we hovered around the stove and when warmed we returned to our desks.
     There were few discipline problems. The superintendent was a large man whose usual expression was rather stern. Although his blue eyes could twinkle, they also sent the message that he did not tolerate mischief in his school. And, make no mistake, as long as he was there, it was his school.
     School was great after I got over the strangeness of being in a new school and joining a group who had been classmates since the first grade. The classwork was more challenging and more was taught in class than that of earlier years when much of what was learned was in homework. Not that there was not still homework: there was loads of it. We had a civics (today's social studies)  teacher that gave a daily test on what he had assigned for study: Eddie Kannenberg, a German man who did not come back the next year. Whether he simply moved on to another school, enlisted in the army or was shunned because of his nationality, I never knew.  I remember him talking fast, being impressively through, and we were expected to listen. We did.
     R.L. Hodges, the superintendent, taught math. No nonsense in that class, either, although one April Fool's day the class climbed through the chubby hold behind the stage and hid on the roof. Class time arrived, Hodges arrived in the classroom, walked to the joining backstage area and said simply. "All right class, come on down now." We did and that was that: no giggling and no sermon; the usual classwork began.
     A new girl in a small school attracts a bit of attention among the boys so I had my share of dates, dodged all the goodbye kiss attempts, until the guy I ended up marrying came along. Perhaps by that time I had a crick in my neck! We dated two years before he joined the Naval Air Corp and left for the coast.
     This brought about a bit of long ago type of harassment. To date me this guy broke up with a girl who had a close group of friends, so I was on the receiving end of every snide remark that a group of teenage girls could think of, and make no mistake, teenage girls are very accomplished in that respect!  Sixty years later I received an apology!
     Regardless of that unpleasantness, school was great. We usually had time to play volley ball before class and at some time during the day we played basketball. Basket ball was, and remains, the game of the Poolville school and even that of the community. We played on a dirt court, one of the few in the county and we played our hearts out, but always with that disadvantage. Poolville finally got a gym and more recently a new school and a really nice gym. I do doubt that they love the game more than we did in our days on the dirt court.
     This was in 1941 and we had three months of normal school life. Although the war in Europe had been in the news for many months it was far away. News was limited to radio broadcasts, morning, noon and evening, and in rural areas, a weekly newspaper. It was a terrible shock to learn of the attack on our nation that December 7. The following day's assembly was called to listen to President Roosevelt's announcement that we were at war.
     As youngsters, we did not grasp the seriousness of that until some of the older boys began to be drafted and the next year our small class soon became smaller.
     Still, we played ball on our dirt court, attended tournaments, and our teachers did not neglect our education. And, we students on the south-east route continued to ride the green bus. It was old then and sixty-nine years later is there anything left except a few rusting parts? Could it be in someone's pasture, its canvas curtain hanging in a few rotten shreds and housing wasp nests and mice? The next year we had a normal appearing orange bus...but the roads remained the same.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Two Room School at Toto

Most rural schools were very similar; well-built box styles, divided into two rooms by a  folding partition. There was a front door opening into a cloak room provided with a wall of hooks for outer wear and a shelf for lunch pails and other bulky items. The back door may have been located by an indoor coal or wood storage room or have been near an outdoor shed. The two sides of the building were lined with large windows; remember there was no electricity so open windows were vital for air circulation and for light. The windows were far enough from the floor to discourage a lot of outside gazing at any distracting activities, but many kids did a lot of day dreaming while gazing at the clouds and tree tops on a drowsy spring day.

We moved from the Moss district at mid-term when I was in the fourth grade, and Toto was my school until the end of the eight grade when most of the two room schools were consolidated with larger schools in the district. That meant busing for the kids who had been tramping a mile of more along roads that were often muddy and sometimes rough with frozen ruts made by some passing vehicle.

Generally the walk to and from school was not too bad. It was a little over a mile for me but being a newcomer, with no protecting brothers or sisters, was being the target of all the teasing and devilment that ten or twelve year old boys can devise when they have access to rocks and acorns, old shingles and switches, and puddles of water along the roadside.

The years went by and we became grown-up friends and before that, friendly enough by high school to make my boyfriend husband-to-be a tad upset when I accepted their offer of a horseback ride one morning when walking the seven miles to school (you read it right). It seems that he'd have been a much happier young fellow had I walked the remaining three miles to school. He sulked all day! The problems of growing up! This was all in the future, four years later, when transportation, although a challenge, was usually available.

Toto school was much the same as Moss. Classes were arranged in rows. Our teacher, Miss Jewel Frazier, was a nice patient woman who never displayed any of the temper red hair is so often associated wit--but she did keep discipline and sent many wiggly, giggling little kids to face the corner.  She was dating a young man in a nearby community and they were married the next year. when she became Mrs. Buddy Ellis, she could no longer teach school because at that time, married women were not allowed to teach.

When I became a member of the "big" room, our games expanded to include softball and volley ball. Another favorite was something called Dare Base, that had two teams spaced far apart, the object being for players to leave their base and dare the other team to tag them and place them in the inevitable mush pot.  It was a Yah,yah, yah sort of game and we loved it, especially on cold, misty days. When the bell rang for classes to resume, we all rushed for the water pump and gulped down our drinks, either from cupped hands of the one cup that hung by the pump. Water splattered our feet and legs but we hardly noticed as we raced inside before the second bell.

We played with jacks with all the versions that we knew, each one going from the onesies through the tensies: eggs in a basket, chickens in a coup, horses in the stall, around the world, and many more.  The game of jacks is ageless, as is that of marbles, and when the weather was hot, we played marbles in the cool shade on the north side of the building.  We girls were allowed to outline playhouses out of stove wood and bring dolls to school. Of course, we couldn't leave them there so that was an extra load to tote home.

James Harper was over the upper grades and he encouraged us to compete in the Interscholastic programs of the time: art recognition, spelling, speaking and scores more, plus all the racing events. He'd load us into his old jalopy (all cars of that time and place were jalopies) and bring us into Weatherford. The sports events were held where the 9th grade center is now--on South Main--and once the location of Weatherford's second high school.  At that time this was a baseball field surrounded by a tall board fence. The scholastic events were held in the high school of that time, where the city hall sits today.  It was an exciting event for kids in those depression days and we were very keen on competition.

Each year there were school pictures but I have none. Other things were needed more than pictures; things like groceries and shoes---or more likely, new shoe soles.  When shoe soles wore around the edges, wearing out the stitching, Dad would get out his shoe lass and little tacks and fit the shoe over the metal lass and tack the shoe sole back in place, the metal of the shoe lass bradding the point of the tack so it wouldn't have a sharp point to stick one's foot---usually, but not always! When the old shoe sole had a hole worn through, there were half soles to apply to get some more wear. Duke and Ayres and other dime stores always had a hardware section toward the back and always stocked these half soles and glue to stick 'em on with; stuff with a very potent smell that I'm sure denoted some substance that would be illegal today!

When these patched together shoe soles once more separated while we kids were walking home form school, there was a special step that we soon learned to keep the loose sole from becoming totally ruined.
People of my age remember it; step with the foot wearing an undamaged shoe, kick with the foot with the floppy sole before putting it on the ground, and repeat all the way home. The kick made the loose sole lay straight on the shoe instead of hanging loose and getting doubled under as you walked. We did it so often that we hardly noticed our peculiar gait.

When the Toto school was established, the school house was built on an acre of land in one corner of property owned by the Robeson family. It was generally understood that the land had been donated to the school for their use and would revert to the family.  After the school closed it sat deserted for years until it was finally purchased  from the school district and occupied for years. Neither the Robeson family nor the purchaser's heirs were able to lay claim to the property as a result of muddled deeds or handwritten agreements. The building is gone, its foundation sits alone among a few scattered trees, all that remain of the ones we played under.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

School Days in the Two Room School House.

Moss school in about 1934;
Miss Geraldine Goulson, teacher. 

My first school was Moss, a two-room school located on what is now the Springtown highway. Then it was a gravel road leading to Springtown. There were about six school children in a small no-name community several miles east of Moss and we walked the distance in a scattered group in the mornings - a closer group in the afternoons.

No- it was not five miles in the snow and uphill both ways! It only seemed that way. It was probably less than two miles along a county road that had one section that had become impassable other than by foot or horseback, and travel by either of those means was questionable. By today's standards the entire road was impassable but this part crossed Willow Creek, a rather awesome waterway back in the days before government dams caught much of the rainwater before it gathered into a powerful run-off.

When the road had been maintained as an active roadway, the creek had a sturdy bridge with iron rails, but it was never sturdy enough to hold its own against the water that roared down Willow Creek after a heavy rain.  The rushing water filled the creek and overflowed in a brown foaming lake of water extending far beyond the creek's banks, and rearranged everything in its path. The old bridge was always left angled precariously and its repairs were usually done by man power and four-legged horse power. Until then, once it had been determined that the bridge was not going to completely collapse, our group of school children found the spot where the bridge still touched the creek bank and walked across the caterwauled structure.

Each year at the end of August, the men of the community would take teams and plows and go to the impassable section and plow a path through the tall Bermuda grass and weeds to enable us to walk without getting soaked from the morning dews and to be relatively safe from whatever might be lurking in the weedy growth. As "bottom land" land enriched by years of overflow, the Bermuda grass grew almost knee high and Johnson grass and Blood weeds were head high.

Foreseeing that there would be a time when a heavy rain during the school day might make the creek rise to a dangerous level, my mother made arrangements for me to spend the night safely with a family near the school. It did happen, and I was put to bed wearing my classmate's long-johns. How we kids had perfect attendance records is a puzzle, but unless you were ill, you went to school, rain or shine. In all those years I remember only a sprinkling of snow!

There were no fancy backpacks in those days; those were Depression years and we were fortunate to have shoes much less anything as fancy as a purchased carrier for books. Instead, there were homemade book satchels, usually made of canvas and having a wide shoulder strap to ease the burden of a load of books.

I suppose the school building had wide folding doors dividing the "little",  room from the "big"  room, (little referring to the first four grades and big to the next four). School buildings were used for both school activities and those of the community. School plays and monthly community singing, plus Sunday School and church services were part of the buildings double life.

There was one teacher for each room of children. Each class was arranged in rows across the room and the teacher moved from row to row, teaching each class their reading, writing or arithmetic-and spelling. Spelling was livened by spelling bees and winning made the student the proud owner of some dime store
doodad. Pretty things such as a barrette or tiny doll or a ball could be bought for a nickel or dime and the teachers of those days were the same as those of today - they dug into their own pockets for special treats for the kids. Until recently, I still had a small china elephant pin cushion that I once won.

I remember the Bob and Nancy readers and being an avid reader even at six years, I rushed through the entire book, making the reading class boring. We had flash cards for numbers, Big Chief writing tablets and a long wall of blackboards. My mother tried to teach me to write the way she was what was known as the Palmer Method. In that system, the writer rolled their writing arm on its underside, swinging the writing hand to form the letters. No cramped hand movement was allowed. One's letters were supposed to match those on a transparent writing chart. I failed all her efforts, hated handwriting in school and still do.

As the diphtheria vaccine was successfully reducing the illness, there was a special campaign to vaccinate all school children before school started in my first year of school. I expect that was a public health service throughout the nation, as in the '20s thousands of children were dying of this disease.

As a child, recesses and the noon lunch time seemed much longer than those in later years. We had time to choose sides and play team games or to swing or play on the see saws. All games were very active ones, often sending us home with badly skinned knees that scabbed and got hurt again and again. Looking back, scabbed knees appear to have been constant companions the same as those of missing teeth.

The games we played are mainly unheard of today and although we generally escaped serious injury, I'm sure many would be considered too dangerous for todays youngsters. There was Wolf Over the River, a game that involved a player attempting to break through a line of hand holding kids; there was Pop the Whip, a game of a line of running youngsters attempt to "pop" off the end of the line player, usually making that person fall, (another skinned knee). We played Hide and Seek and another hiding game called Sheep Board Down that involved knocking down "IT's" leaning board with getting caught and having to stand in the "mush pot." Please don't expect me to explain these names! Their meanings and/or pronunciation were probably corrupted by several generations of children before I even heard the words.
A few tamer ones were also popular. Drop the Handkerchief and Flying Dutchman and a blindfolded name guessing one were a few.  I doubt if the cold ever slowed us much but a heavy rain surely confined us inside with marbles, and jacks and that very best part of school--drawing paper and crayons!

In one of the running and hiding games, I remember fondly being "adopted" by one of the larger boys in the "big" room and carried on his shoulders as we raced around the building. It may have been the tall fellow in this photograph, a fellow who years later became a neighbor, or it may have been a boy I remember as being Robert Moore or maybe Maughon--- that was many years ago. I remember the Woodle boy who also swooped me up during running games. In later years one of his daughters was in my first Scout troop and I was saddened by his accidental death.

The school rooms seemed large then, even larger in cold weather when the huge cast iron stove could not produce enough heat to reach the rooms far corners. I'm sure the stove was at least five feet in height and probably had a diameter of three or four feet -- maybe more at it's pot-bellied widest spot. Each of the three schools I attended was heated by this type although heated is an exaggeration of the  rooms winter temperatures.

The old Moss school building still stands a short distance outside the city limits. Many years ago the property was sold by the school district and the building converted into a residence. Our old school obstacle course of a road is now paved and a modern bridge crosses the once mighty Willow Creek.
The little creek that had a bridge with no rails, permitting one of the older girls to swing me out over the edge in devilment, is hardly noticeable and the hour-long (kid time) walk home takes only minutes by automobile.