It was a privilege to be able to pick up Owen, my grandson, starting grade one for the first day.
As we approached Glad Park Elementary, here in Stouffville, everything was buzzing with activities. Buses had pulled into position to load, children bearing back packs on their tiny bodies, were attempting to line up behind pylons and then a large crowd of parents, grandfathers, grandmothers, moms, dads and nannies stood straining to see over others to pick out our designated little person. Not chaos but maybe tumult would describe the noise and activity.
Finally, I caught his eye in the milieu and I stepped in to “claim” my precious person. He is not a shy boy and is full of confidence, which is good, because I would think it would have been scary for some of us. Of course, he has already experienced two years of Kindergarten, so he is well seasoned in these matters. He had expressed concern to his mom that morning that his best friend might not be in his class, but he was able to report that Linden was indeed in his class and he was happy.
I began to compare Owens experience with mine, and realized, that was something I didn’t need to concern my self with, there was always the same children at our school. Rarely, did anyone new move into our rural community.
Taking the risk of letting my readers think I am “old” , I will share today , some memories of my one room school house experience. How I wish everyone could have their first years of education this way.
Firstly, the setting of the school, was so lovely and peaceful. The yard was rimmed with maples, a couple of pines that were good for climbing, lots of lilac bushes in the corners, that we did what we wanted with, which included carving out little rooms and then our imaginations went wherever we wanted, playing “house”. We had imaginary horses and furniture, everything we needed. There was a pump in the corner of the yard, near the road and one of the older boys would bring a pail into the classroom for drinking water. When the bell rang, in we would file, all twenty of us.That is eight grades I am talking about.
I recall the first day of each school term, the wide board wood floors had been oiled, leaving a unique smell. The tall Gothic windows south and north were clean and letting in lots and lots of natural light. Between those windows were slate blackboards. There was a small radio on one of the window sills that the teacher, would turn on at 11:50 AM to CFRB with Gordon Sinclair and the news. The teacher’s desk was front and center with of course the wall behind her, covered by blackboards, with maps that pulled down like window blinds. To the left was a piano, and to the right was a section of shelving that contained our “library”. It was a very small selection of books, but I still remember a few titles. There was a travelling library as well. This cupboard also contained our whole years supply of paper, scribblers etc. How careful we were with those supplies. Lets say the teachers were careful and of course that rubbed off on us. Not just at school, at home also, there was so little waste.
The atmosphere in the classroom and the playground was orderly, never oppressive. We opened every morning with the Lord’s prayer, and Mrs Nigh dismissed us with the scriptural benediction “May the Lord watch between you and me, while we are absent one from another”. Isn’t that a pleasant way to end the day?
It seemed to be left to the individual teachers, although I do believe daily Bible reading was required. Of course, no parent would object, because it is safe to say, back then there wasn’t any children other than Christian in attendance, at our little country school.
Lessons were thorough, math questions covered the blackboards and that way the teacher could point each grade to the designated board, and off she would go to listen to little ones read or some other lessons. I am still so impressed with the education we got there, very effective with basic math, language arts, music, geography(maps of the countries in all continents) art every Friday, and once a month, a man came with a movie from the National Film Board, (usually a documentary but still quite a novelty for us, TV still not around.)
Recess, in spring meant skipping for us girls, summer, was baseball for some of us, and how pleased we were when our teacher would join us.
Recently, Jon invited me to go to a Blue Jays game and he said he had wanted to bring me, because everything he knew about baseball he learned from me.Really!?
We did take ball playing seriously, and due to the small group to pick from the big boys had to pick some of us younger ones. I recall there was only one glove for the game, It was for the catcher, and I bet it had been there for a generation. No one even thought about the school system being cheap or that we were deprived. It was just the way things were, and “we liked it that way”.
I could go on about the Christmas concerts we worked so hard on, doing chalk drawings on all the black boards, several fathers came in to put up a little stage and the mom’s sent their best white sheets for curtains. A fresh tall spruce was set up and decorated. We sang, recited and acted out plays. Santa came and gave us little bags of hard candies and an orange and a gift exchange. Definitely, a highlight of the year.
When the school day was over, we wandered out of the school yard and turned to the north or the south and I would say sauntered home at our own pace, no adults to supervise and pull us along because they had other things to do. We devised all sorts of pretend games on our one mile and a quarter, and arrived home when we arrived home. I can’t remember my mother ever asking where we were.
I do wish every child could have this experience for the first eight years of their education.
My one room school house group, 1948. All eight grades. We look happy don’t we? I am first left on the second row. My brother Ken is behind me with the stripped shirt. Overalls were “in”.