….and there were no “snow days”
Starting school is a memorable day for any child. Having started as a first grader in a one room schoolhouse becomes more unique every day. With parents living in a lumber camp in deep woods, school necessitated moving to live with grandparents who lived near a country school- no problem with residency: the school board was happy to add one more kid to the 9 enrolled. I supposed my parents paid in some way, but I was never aware of it.
On with the adventure. There was no such thing as kindergarten in rural central Idaho; into the education mill you went when you reached six. Of course, the three bachelor uncles on the farm had lots of stories about school and especially the one I would attend- once their school for a total of, maybe 4 or 5 years. With lots of priming I approached the big day, and I was a big boy (little man?) so it was determined I would go by myself for the half mile walk that quickly degenerated to a slowing trudge. Fear soon began to well and tears followed, but- I was a man!!- so on to the unknown!
I was met at the door by my teacher Sigred Lappinoya an all-business Finnish lady who took me in with grace and set me up with a tiny desk at the first-grade end of the room. She lived in a 2-room house on the property. There were two girls who would be my classmates and she introduced us and defined some rules. At some point all 10 of us in the school were gathered and more introductions and backgrounds took place. One girl- a fourth grader- became an unofficial assistant teacher for us 3 first graders. I don’t remember many details, but she must have done a creditable job and we were soon deeply immersed in Dick and Jane and Spot. My uncles quizzed me on each day’s progress so by the re-enforcing theories of learning I became well grounded. We obviously progressed to more reading, writing and arithmetic but I do not remember any details except one. We were taught penmanship with a machine that held your hand and arm at the proper angle for holding the pencil for smooth writing. It was kind’a tough for a boy who was used to scrawling across the page in bold strokes.
The school had a big potbelly stove in one corner, and it was up to the bigger boys to keep it stoked. With winter temperatures reaching the -20’s (yes minus) this was no mean chore in an uninsulated building. Pulling the rope to ring the big bell in the tower was a reward for good work. As winter sets in, the farm roads become impassible for cars, so transportation was walking, skis, or horses. I walked and never missed a day; just wore plenty of clothes although we didn’t think we needed much for the usual temperatures in the mid- teens. Several kids who lived 3 or 4miles from the school normally rode horses so we had a barn as well as an outhouse on the property. I think we had a couple of “snow days” during some frightful blizzards. I do recall an uncle walking me to school during a minor blizzard. No problem thawing out at the big potbelly.
We gave a Christmas show for the parents and I still remember the closing song “Good Night parents, good night friends, were going to leave you now etc.” The building still exists in rather sad shape. The bell is gone, and the windows are boarded, but she bravely waits, hoping children will soon arrive.
I also went to second grade at this school, but by third my parents were home for winters in the big town of McCall, Idaho (800 residents), and I started in the ‘big grade school” with two grades in a room and a one- mile walk. My record walk to this school was somewhere in the vicinity of -22F: again, no snow days!
In our bedroom, I have the old wall clock from this school! How I got it is another story. I faithfully wind it once a week and it keeps near perfect time if I adjust the pendulum length as the season changes. How many kids today would believe my story?
Contributed by: Ed Koskie
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