This is another story written by my mother about the days in a one room school house in New Prospect, Wisconsin. She attended school there from about 1927 until about 1934. Later she became a teacher and taught school there.
I received my early education in a one room school house in Wisconsin. One teacher taught all eight grades.
The school house was a big square room with an entry way and a cloak room on each side: one for the boys and one for the girls.
On top was a bell tower. In the early days the building had also served as a church on Sunday. That accounted for the fact that a cemetery was next door to the school. This fascinated all of us children. I can remember watching funerals from the school house window while the teacher tried in vain to get us all back to our desks. She considered it undignified but we just thought it was interesting.
All of the students from the surrounding farming community walked to and from school in good weather and in bad. I had to walk about a mile and half from my home. I walked with my older sister and sometimes our big brother.
Our school was heated by a big coal burning furnace that stood in one corner of the room. It was encircled by an picket of aluminum so no child would fall against the furnace and get hurt. The teacher was also the janitor but often the big boys would help with carrying the coal.
Water was gotten from a hand pump in the schoolyard. The water was carried from the pump in a bucket to the water cooler in the back of the classroom. Each child had its own collapsible tin cup.
I loved school. I was happy when I could read. I remember my first yellow reader. History was probably my favorite subject. We had to memorize a lot of verse. This was good training for the mind. I can recite part of Longfellow’s “Evangeline” to this day.
Our school operated on a very small budget, so there was very little money for library books or reference material. We did get books from the county traveling library. One of my favorites was “Ox Team Days On The Oregon Trail” I read it many times and thought the children in the story were so lucky to travel in a covered wagon. Little did I dream, that when I was all grown-up with a husband and little girl of my own, I would travel along many of those same areas in an automobile on super highways to settle near the end of the Oregon Trail.
One big advantage to a one room school was that one could always get a review of anything forgotten by listening to the class below our level. If you were bored with your own classwork you could learn a lot by listening to the upper classes. I also had a brother and a sister to defend me on the playground if need be.
The student body was really like one big family with the older children looking after the younger. It was sort of a buddy system.
Recess and noon hour were great times. In the spring and fall we played baseball or “Run Sheep Run.” In the winter we went sledding on a hill a short distance from the school. In march we would walk to a nearby forest of maple trees and watch the cooking of maple syrup. In early Ma we would go to the same woods to pick Mayflowers and violets. There was also a swing set on the playground and it was here I met with an accident.
An eighth grade boy was swinging with me and I was a first grader. I sat on the seat and he stood on the seat and pumped the swing higher and higher. We all did this all the time but one day I fell off and landed with a thud on my stomach. I was knocked out and vaguely remember someone picking me up and carrying me into the school. Some time later I came to and saw one of the upper grade girls fanning me. I tried to stand up but the room spun around and I felt sick to my stomach. I laid down until it was time to go home. My brother tried carrying me for awhile but gave it up when he was offered a ride on friend’s bicycle. My big sister stayed beside me as I staggered home. I’m sure I must have had a concussion, but not called a doctor. A doctor was for big things – like broken legs.
Can you imagine a child today being allowed to walk home after an accident like that!