Wednesday, July 2, 2014

B97. Grandma Remembers Her School Days

My Grandma Vestal was born July 4, 1914, exactly 100 years ago this week. In 1994, at the age of 80, five years prior to her transition, she wrote a column of  memories for the local newspaper about her childhood near Boonville, NC.  I don't know how many articles she wrote, but I have copies of three and would love for any family members who have others to share them with me.  Leading up to her 100th birthday, this is the second in a series of these stories.  Grandma said:

It was probably three-quarters of a mile from my home to the school I attended through seventh grade. My older brothers an sister had to walk much farther when they were in school.  Our schools were one-room buildings with one teacher for all seven grades.  There were a few two-room schools, but they were scarce. Schools were heated by a wood stove that stood in the center of the room. Teachers always had a long bench by the stove where they held classes. While the teacher had warm feet, most of us pupils only warmed ours during lesson times.

Teachers worked out schedules as they saw fit, then we went to the long bench to have our lesson.  Teachers had to be dedicated and tough to teach an average of about 30 students in all seven grades. At that time, high school grades were 8-11.

Most teachers were very conscientious, though, and we learned many things that weren't in books which helped us through life. Parents were strict also, and very few pupils broke rules because if we had to be punished at school we would also be punished at home.

Our entertainment was our recess, of course. Sometimes on a Friday afternoon the teacher would let us have spelling bees. We formed two rows on either side of the room and were graded by head marks. We sat on two long benches and as each correct word was spelled we crossed over for a head mark. We would move up a space. The side with the most head marks at the end of the match was, of course, the winner for that week.  I really enjoyed this because spelling was one of my favorite subjects and when we were chosen I would be one of the first picked.

Sometimes we had a community spelling at night, and the adults and some parents took part in our bees. This was a lot of fun because some would spell words the way they sounded which didn't always work.

We always had a Christmas program and tree and at the end of school a commencement program. I remember wondering why we called it a commencement when it was at the end of school. At both times every child had a part in the play, saying a recitation or, for the very bashful ones, songs for all to sing. We would be so nervous knowing our parents and other family members were going to be out there to hear us,  But the very worst thing for me, my daddy would have me stand up at home to practice my part before the family.

One of my very special memories was at Christmas. My daddy and youngest brother put two boxes under the tree for me at school.  Daddy's gift was a small basket made of siver wire, and my brother's was my very first compact with powder and puff. I was about 12 years old then, but that made me feel grown up.

Back then, we wore warm clothing because of the long walks to and from school.  We wore long underwear tucked inside long, dark-colored stockings. On wet and muddy days, rubber overshoes covered our high top shoes. We usually wore the same outfits all week. When we arrived home from school, we changed into other clothes to do our chores, keeping our school clothes clean. We always wore overcoats and toboggans. No one ever went bareheaded as they do now, not even in the summertime. Then they wore bonnets or straw hats.

Photo: Grandma's family - She's the baby.

Related posts:
B10: Grandma's Childhood Memories
B11.  Grandma's Childhood World
B12. Grandma's Childhood: Memories of Family
B13. Grandma's Birth and Ancestry
B14.  Grandma's Special Memories and Favorite Pastimes
B15.  Grandma Meets Grandpa
B16.  Grandma's Kitchen
B17.  Grandma: Children, Grandchildren, and Random Musings
B96.  Grandma Remembers Corn Harvest and Corn Shuckings

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