Delaware County NY Genealogy and History Site
Welcome Page of the Delaware County NY Genealogy and History Site . . . | . . . Table of Contents Page . . . | . . . Contact Site Manager
Some Casual Recollections
Sally Edwards Jack
John W. Jack
For several years the Delaware County (New York) Genweb has served as a focal point for people interested in genealogy or local history related to that particular area. One of the most rewarding aspects of subscribing to the Delaware County email list is the truly amazing amount of help, support, and information available whenever anyone asks. Equally interesting is the dispersion of list subscribers. People from all over the United States participate in the WORKINGs of the list, often reflecting an interest in an ancestor that lived in Delaware County a few-or many-years ago.
In late 1999, JWJ was WORKING on various parts of his family history and genealogy project. At the prompting of SEJ he drafted a chapter on his early education experiences in the Delhi New York public school system in the WW2 era. As the chapter evolved it became clear that the experiences in the one room Friseur School held many long forgotten memories. Writing about the one room school was actually fun! As an occasional contributor to the Delaware County list, JWJ shared his discovery with the list. Several list members responded with brief comments about their one or two room school memories.
From that early exchange we decided to bring together in written form some recollections from our respective one-room school days. JWJ & SEJ agreed to compile anything that list members wanted to share regarding their one or two room school experiences. The results are what we have chosen to call "Our One Room Schools-Some Casual Memories".
These materials make no pretense to be academically or stylistically elegant. Rather, they are presented solely for pleasure: the pleasure of each contributor while writing down long forgotten or neglected memories; the pleasure many readers of a particular age may feel as they visit, once again, youthful experiences; the pleasure other readers may experience reading about events or circumstances that were important to their parents or grandparents.
JWJ & SEJ grew up in Delhi where they graduated from Delaware Academy. Each has strong Scottish roots that survived for several generations in the rocky Delaware County soil.
JWJ's paternal & maternal lines left Auchterarder, Perthshire in the spring of 1832 and were multiple generation farmers in the Delhi/Hamden/Andes area. The immigrant Jack couple is buried in the Old Flatts cemetery at the location of the Scottish First Presbyterian Church near the College golf course. The immigrant Amos (maternal line) couple is buried in a long forgotten Cabin Hill cemetery. Both families have a multi generation involvement with the First Presbyterian Church of Delhi.
SEJ's maternal Scottish grandparents came to the US in 1910. After some time in Philadelphia, the family moved to Delaware County (Andes/Bovina area) where they lived for many years. SEJ's mother and aunt trained as schoolteachers and both made teaching their life work. Her mother's last teaching position was in the Peakes Brook (Delhi #15) one-room school in 1943-45.
The following individuals shared one or more of their one and two room school memories. Louise Little, Harriett Tait Schultz, Paula Allan Clark, Jayne Davis Szaz, George Rhinebeck, Marsha Clark, Patti Gottschall Schuknecht, Eleanor Jack Howard, Beverly Strube, Chris Noll and Kim DePew.
The following is a description of the rural one room schoolhouse as it was reported in the late 1800's and early 1900's. The building still sits by the side of the road on the Bagley Brook side of Scotch Mountain. This write-up is contained in a family history of the Wight and Little families who settled the Fall Clove-Cabin Hill area between Andes and DeLancey, New York (Louise Little and others are revising this family history for expected duplication in 2000).
"A short distance from the house stood what was called the old Scotch Mountain schoolhouse. Another schoolhouse was located more properly on Scotch Mountain, but this one in general usage got the name. It had in one end a large stone hearth that took nearly one third of the floor space. On one side of the chimney was a hall or entry through which the students went in and out. On the other side of the chimney was a small compartment shelved off for dinner baskets, shawls and bonnets. A wide shelf or desk as they called it ran continuously around the other three sides of the room with benches in front on which they sat with their backs to the desk when studying their lessons. Often their faces were to the wall to take their writing lessons or to rest their slates. Writing was an important part of the program. The pupil was fitted out with a few sheets of Fools Cap paper, a bottle of ink and a goose quill of which the teacher was expected to create a pen. One of the requirements of the teachers was their skill in the making of a good quill pen. Many of them were old farmers who had followed the business (of education) from youth. Most of them were adept at one thing--to swing a long low beech- (meaning a good spanking). Pupils in those days often attended the home school until they were full-grown men and women. Often the old school house was packed like a box of sardines. As an example the winter of 1853 the school had an enrollment of sixty-three. At this school all of the Wight children received their first instruction. Three of them, William, George and Thomas (3) became schoolteachers and each taught one or two terms in the old school house."
"The road past the schoolhouse led south. Where it ran into the east and west road from over Cabin Hill and down the valley called the old Esopus turnpike (now the Bagley Brook road between DeLancey and Andes) stood a large frame building which had been built for a roadhouse. It was fitted up with a ballroom, a bar room, a large wagon house and horse stables, a blacksmith ship and other accessories kept by a man named Beardsley. The place was known as the 'Big House'. George Wight always designated it that way as long as he lived."
The DeLancey one room school was in the village. Children walked to school from as far as two or three miles I guess. It had a rest room for boys and one for girls at the back near the entrance. There were hooks there for our coats. The desks faced the front away from the entrance. The smaller desks were in front and the larger ones in the back. They were of the type that had a fold up seat attached to the front of the desk behind your place. The larger ones in the back were wide enough to hold two people. I now wonder how students could refrain from sharing and talking when sitting so close. Large windows were on each side of the room and in the front were the teacher's desk and a large blackboard.
There was a heating stove in the middle of the classroom with grates on the top. Sometimes for lunch we had potatoes that were cooked by placing them on top of the grate. Everyone carried a lunch from home.
Grades one through six were together in the room and in 1941 Miss Mable Vantran was our teacher and in 1942 Miss Edna Tiffany. I was in first and second grade those years. There were probably fifteen or twenty students. We could hear exactly what other grades were doing. I think that is why some students skipped grades. They learned from listening to the other classes. My parents wouldn't let me skip a grade, because you are then so much younger than your peers in high school. My older sister had skipped two grades.
When the spelling test was held, the teacher would give it to every grade at once, giving the first grade word, then the second grade word and so on. A music teacher used to visit periodically, maybe once a week. We had a Mr. Marlott and Mrs. Florence Walker who later taught stringed instruments at Delaware Academy and directed the orchestra there. Mr. Marlott used a pitch pipe to get us started on the right note.
I remember the most about recess time. The schoolyard was fenced in. There were some trees and it backed up to a steep slope. The boundary was at the top of the slope. We played doctor and nurse under the trees pretending to hook the instruments on branches. One unpleasant memory is that the maples had worms on the branches and leaves. The bigger boys would love to chase the little girls with the worms. I didn't like that. They probably chased the big girls too, but I just remember hating those ugly worms.
I think the younger children were dismissed earlier than those in the upper grades because I usually stopped at a friend's house and played before going on home. I don't think I was with my older brother.
I remember that we put on a play at Christmas time and our parents came. That is all I remember about it except that we had to move things around a bit.
When I was in third grade I went on the school bus to the big school in Delhi, because I had moved to a location and was no longer eligible to continue at the country school. Even though our move was mid-year, they let me finish the year before going to the big school.
Harriett Tait Schultz
The school was located in Terry Clove, Town of Hamden, Delaware County, NY in the fork of the road between east & west Terry Clove road.
Students ranged from First Grade thru Sixth Grade and - depending on the location in the Clove - went either to Delhi Andes or Downsville to complete Junior and Senior High School. We had one or two students in each of the six grades once in a while and sometimes one or two were skipped. From this distance I don't remember how many were where. I do know for sure that there were two in fifth grade and three in first grade when I started first in 1938.
First Grade (there was no kindergarten then) consisted of learning to print, simple reading from the Dick, Jane and Spot series. I used to keep one ear open for what was going on in the higher grades as it interested me - especially history. To teach us uniformity as well as legibility, we spent many class times doing the up and down between double lines as well as concentric running circles and ovals between double lines - all with the proper slant, of course. Second Grade saw us learning by flash cards and chalk board work; addition, substraction, multiplication and division - the simple kind. Reading, writing, sentence structure & diagramming, history, geography, spelling and composition writing became ever more involved as we progressed to the fifth grade. I can't help but wonder how many third graders can today write a 100 word essay on any subject.
The day began with raising the Flag, Pledge of Allegiance followed by the Lord's Prayer. In nice weather, this all happened outside by the Flag Pole.
We girls - there were three of us and sometimes four or five - after reaching second grade - made the soup for lunch and heated it on the stove which sat more or less in the middle of the room. We all also had our sandwiches, fruit or dessert to have with the soup du jour. Our choice, naturally.
When the weather was nice, we often held classes outdoors under the big trees that surrounded the building on three sides. This allowed the first graders to roam and play a bit if we so desired. We all had our own dolls and a few other toys. One huge blessing - no little black flies to contend with.
Recess - twice a day and usually 25 minutes +/- and lunch hour - found us playing games in the front yard of the school. These were Simon says, keep away, tag, hide & seek and others that I can't bring to mind. I sat down on a rock near the flag pole one day to eat my lunch, felt something wiggling under me. Lo and behold a garden snake. Paid a bit more attention to where I sat henceforth.
Drinking water was carried by the pail full each day from the farm to the east prox 300 feet - good spring water drawn from the constantly running faucet in the milk house. The two oldest boys always had this responsibility. They were also on deck for carrying in wood from the wood house which sat to the side and front of the school house. I seem to recall a ladder which sat crossways the wood stacks to the left and right of the entrance. We did minor acrobatics on the rungs.
Winter found us riding down hill on the strip of Terry Clove Road which ran in front of the above farm on our sleds we brought to school in the winter time. The creek across the road from the school house made for "skating" when frozen over. A couple times some of us got our feet wet from not paying attention to thinner ice.
I don't have any photos of this school but perhaps I can do a word picture.
The building was white and faced West Terry Clove Road. It was set back probably 50 feet. The entrance was in the middle of the front with windows on either side. To the right as you entered was the bench for the water pail, dipper & cups. This area was prox 6 feet long by 3.5 or 4 wide. Thru the inner door - to the right was the boys cloak room and to the left was the girls. The rest room inside was sort of scary to a small child - it was of a chemical nature (acid type) about eight feet deep and heaven help you if you fell in.
The main room had and Organ and one row of desks on the right & two rows of desks on the left with the teacher's desk facing students. Between the Organ and the desks was enough room to hang a curtain to pull so that players and speakers could not be seen before going on stage when the Christmas program was being presented. The "stage" was an area in front of the desks about 6 or 8 feet deep and as long as the width of the building (maybe 20/25 feet). We also strung a curtain across the front to be drawn as well when necessary. Miss Edna Stevens was always the organist for the Christmas programs and spent many hours rehearsing with us.
My first teacher was Mrs. Marvin (Gertrude) Bull. It was necessary that she drive from Downsville every day passing by our road. We (my brother, cousin & I) were able to ride the two miles to school with her. We did this as long as we went to this school. Mrs. Bull, during the preparation for the Christmas program of 1939 got a long pine needle stuck in her throat, became ill with something else and never came back. Mrs. Sherman Shields replaced her. There were a few substitues here and there thru the years: Mrs. Harold (Mary) Reynolds, and even my own Mother a day or two. Mom was a teacher at a one room school above Livingston Manor, Sullivan County, before her marriage to my Father.
My Grandfather was the Trustee for the school, thereby enabling us to know before anyone else whether the teacher was to be replaced. This was prior to the days of tenure.
We lost this school when I was half way thru the fifth grade. The wood was piled a bit too close to the back end of the stove and by morning spontaneous combustion fire had a good start before being discovered. There was much discussion and eventually a vote about whether we would centralize with Delhi or Downsville. I have never had reason to be sorry that Downsville was the choice made.
Currently the Terry Clove Community Hall sits in this location. This building is the Pepaction Grange Hall which was moved there when the Pepacton Reservoir was built and filled. There have been some improvements to this building since and is used for many functions of the neighborhoods of East & West Terry Clove.
Paula Allen Clark
It was 1941 when I took my first steps towards learning in a one-room schoolhouse. It was the same schoolhouse that my mother attended until eighth grade.
It was located three miles up Horton Brook Road. I can still see it standing alone at the end of the road past Edward's Pond. A gray clapboard building consisting of a hallway and the one room where classes were held. There was no electricity, running water, or inside plumbing. Our heat came from a pot belly stove which stood in the middle of the room and our light from the windows on each side when the sun shone, otherwise we had kerosene lamps in black wrought iron brackets lined up high above our heads.
The teacher sat at a desk on a platform in the front so he could keep an eye on all the students. Our desks were benches with a desk on the back. You would sit on one bench and use the desk on the bench in front of you.
Each morning one of the older Boys in the neighborhood would start the fire in the potbelly stove so it would be warm when we arrived. The wood was cut and hauled by neighbors. This was part of the Roscoe School System so I imagine they paid for the wood and janitor service.
The only other buildings were a woodshed and two outhouses, one for the boys and one for the girls. Twice a day we would march outside to these little building. In the winter we would have to put on our coats and boots for these excursions. A brook ran along side of the school with a small footbridge across it where the spring was. We had a water jug with paper cups inside but at noon we would go to the spring to get cold water.
This year at school was unusual because we only had four children in the entire school. I was six and one half, my sister, Muryle just turned five in September and there were two boys that walked down off the mountain. Their names were Albert and Ronald May. We were all in the first grade. Our teacher was Lynn Maynard from Fishes Eddy. He would stop at our house and give us a ride to school each day.
I remember one day when I was the only one to show up for school the teacher and I went fishing all day. He caught a trout and gave it to me. I thought this was a great present and took it home and cleaned it so my mother could fry it.
Of course we had no gym equipment or music classes. We got plenty of exercise at noon playing outside. One particular day one of the boys had a long stick and was poking it in a swamp that was in back of the school. All of a sudden he started to yell "Alligator, alligator". I did not know what an alligator was so I ran to the teacher, who was sleeping in his car, and told him Ronnie had an Alligator. He wasn't very happy about being woke up and told me there was no alligator. I finally persuaded him to look and when he pulled the stick out of the swamp there was a large snapping turtle on the end of it. That old turtle snapped and hissed at us all the while it was crawling down to the pond.
In the spring when the sap was running in the maple trees we hollowed out willow branches and using a nail we pounded a hole in a tree and hung a paper cup on the willow spile to catch the sap which we drank like kids drink soda today.
I think the only thing we were taught was the three R's Reading Riting and Rithmatic. I did learn cursive writing, adding, subtraction, multiplication and division. Because I was left-handed Mr. Maynard decided I should use my right hand and he changed me over. I still write with my right hand but use my left hand for most everything else.
We carried our lunch in a brown paper bag. It usually consisted of one sandwich or a cold pancake spread with butter and sprinkled with sugar. Later on in the year the school system sent some cans of pork and beans and grapefruit. Mr. Maynard whittled spoons out of wood for us to eat with and would warm up both the beans and grapefruit for us.
This was the only year for me at this school because we moved and I had to go to a large school and print my letters, sit still while the other children learned their arithmetic, eat in a cafeteria and play in a gym.
We moved back to Horton Brook when I was 14 and the old schoolhouse was still there, just as I remembered it. It was being used as a church. Every Sunday morning we would go and sing the old hymns for both Sunday School and Church. There would be special speakers from time to time and of course the Christmas plays and pieces.
This building brought the neighborhood together and provided me with so many good memories. Even today when I visit relatives in the area I pay a call on my first school and recall the days when life was so much simpler.
John W. Jack
Where to begin? Well, my formal education started in the Town of Delhi Public School # 18, a one room school located about a mile from my childhood home-the property later known as the Jack Family farm at Frasers, New York. Readers of these recollections & anecdotes may think that all children of my age group had the experience of attending a one-room school-but, such a conclusion would be incorrect. My mother attended such a school during the early part of the 20th century. Likewise, my older sisters were required to attend such a school. By the late 1930s when I was ready for school, quite significant changes had taken place -in the facilities & and in the educational process. Beginning in the 1920-1930 era, most parts of rural New York began to pave highways & plow snow throughout the entire winter. Clearly these changes made profound differences with how rural people lived. Now, rather than relying on horse drawn sleds or other similar primitive transportation schemes, rural folk, including school children, were able to get to the nearby population center-hamlet or town or village. Importance of these changes can not be over emphasized-because now rural folks could access services previously not easily obtained. One of my college faculty [SW Warren] referred to these changes as "The Coming of the Snow Plow" age-basically improved transportation opened the possibility of living in a rural area while availing oneself of opportunities previously available only to town dwellers.
Elsewhere I have made reference to the fact that my particular generation is in many ways a transition generation-we are old enough to know about or to have experienced many things in common with earlier generations-out door plumbing, lack of electrical service, no central heat, etc. We did not necessarily experience such deprivations in our daily life. Rather, we heard about it from our parents & older siblings & sometimes observed the described situations in the homes of others-not necessarily our immediate family. So, while we claim a WORKING knowledge of such deprivations we almost certainly did not routinely experience such things as part of our every day life. Another reason that we [my wife & I & our peers]claim to be a transition generation is that our children and grandchildren are so far removed from such experiences that they will almost certainly be unable to understand or relate to many of the things that were commonplace & mainstream to rural life in the mid 20th century.
So, what was my first school & education experience like? Let me try to describe the building, the students & the teacher. Both of my older sisters attended a one room school located on the Little Delaware Road, near Federal Hill Road. By the time I reached school starting age of 5 years , my family had relocated to the Jack Family Farm located on Route 10 near Frasers. This seems to have had some impact on my earliest years of schooling. First, we were now living on a major state highway, with [relatively] frequent travel by trucks & cars, many driven by non local folks. This meant that if I were to walk to the school, as did every one else in the district, at age 5 I would need to walk along a busy highway with no shoulder or sidewalk of any kind. Also, there were no older kids for me to walk with, which my parents deemed to make the trip even more inappropriate & unsafe. Second, by 1938 the Delhi School District, in common with many other rural communities, had established a centralized school district-this meant that a system of busing was established to carry children to the "central" school building. Initially, only children of high school age were included in the central school student body. Rural folk came to realize that the central school could offer a much wider array of courses & activities, so most of the independent one room school districts voted to close and send children of all ages to the central school.
The Fraser School was one of the holdouts that did not follow the common pattern. Local people preferred the continuation of this one room school several years later than most others in the area. So, at age 5 I was in a bit of an unusual situation: my parents did not want to send me to the central school for an entire day kindergarten experience [much too long for a 5 year old]; availability of a one room school was somewhat unique; danger [real or perceived] of walking along a state highway also needed to be considered. How did my parents resolve the matter? The solution was really quite simple. The school bus that went past our farm house each day stopped to pick up my older sister to transport her to the central school, so it was no big deal to let me get on the bus at the same time. Then, the teacher at the Fraser school lived in the hamlet of DeLancey & rode the same bus daily. Guess what-I could get off when the teacher got off! So, my early education did not involve walking along the highway -rather, I could ride to school on a warm bus-thank full!
The school building was a very simple affair-one walked up several steps to the front [and only] door. Inside, the door was a small vestibule/cloakroom, perhaps 6 or 8 feet deep and extending across the entire width of the school house. Here, we removed our rain or snow gear, according to the season and hung our coats, snowsuits,etc. on our designated [and labeled] hook [a rigid metallic affair mounted on the inner wall of the vestibule]. Another doorway lead from the vestibule into the classroom. Within the classroom, several items competed for dominance. In the exact center of the class room stood a large wood burning stove, the only source of heat for the entire class. The teacher's desk was the second largest item in the room. At various times, it would stand at the back of the room or at the front, according to wishes of the teacher. I recall that it was moved several times each year, but to this day I have no idea why. Two large blackboards were located on the class room side of the wall that divided off the vestibule. A large map rack hung on one side wall.
Note that I have not mentioned the location of several important features. First, what of the rest rooms? Easy answer, but tough to comprehend-we had no running water in the building so we had the happy experience of using an outhouse. A tall wooden [plank] fence extended from the school building straight back to the outhouse, presumably to provide some semblance of privacy when one walked out to take care of basic human functions. The outhouse was a good size structure divided into two parts:; one side containing two "holes" designated as for boys and the other side two "holes" for girls. As far as I can recall, most students had electricity and running water at home-we certainly did-so my outhouse experiences as a youth are those associated with the one room school. Perhaps we will have more about that later-especially as it relates to winter or rainy weather or hornets!
Second, what about lights-surely we had electricity in the school? In a word-no! I can state categorically that I have no particular recollection of ever experiencing any particular discomfort or problem associated with the lack of electricity. I guess that on dark or stormy days our teacher must have raised the shades or possibly had us do work on the blackboard, rather than reading or some other activity requiring more generous amounts of light.
Given that we had no electric or running water, how did we perform the most basic things-such as washing hands, obtaining drinking water or drying wet jackets or mittens? The student body consisted of several children of varying ages. Each morning, one [or more] of the older boys would be instructed by the teacher to walk the [approximate] quarter mile to a neighbor [usually Fraser or Burgin Farmhouse] with a 10 quart pail and ask for a pail of water which was then carefully carried to the school. At the school, we had a large glass container with a bottom spigot, which held the supply of drinking water. Any water remaining in that container at the end of the day was transferred into another storage container from which we drew water into a metal basin when needed for hand washing purposes. When the pail of fresh water arrived each morning, it was poured into the appropriate container and the cycle began again.
A large potbelly stove provided all heat for the school-in my earliest years it was wood fired while in later years it was coal fired. Unless the reader has first hand experience with a potbelly stove it is difficult to communicate the essential flavor of the experience. Use of a fireplace in a home, perhaps in the evening or on a weekend, can give only a mere hint of the work involved in heating with a potbelly stove. So, let's agree that you really must experience the process to fully comprehend all of the intricacies.
A wood fired stove must be fueled with-wood. This statement, while accurate, is not fully explanatory. Wood comes from trees, of which there are many species or varieties. Each species has different characteristics, which influence its desirability as a fuel: some wood burns very rapidly at a high temperature, while others burn more slowly or yield a lower heat. Wood needs to be seasoned [dried] for at least a year after cutting before it will serve as a satisfactory fuel, necessitating stacking in some type of storage area. After allowance for these factors, the next consideration relates to the disposition of waste product-ashes. This residual must be removed from the stove each day and proper disposal arrangements completed. Again, a somewhat dusty, dirty task that must be performed. In an earlier time-such as when my parents were in school- one or more of the residents of the local school district would arrange to provide the appropriate quantity of wood of desired characteristics. I don't think that was the system in my one room school; rather, a woodcutter from elsewhere cut and split the wood, dried it for a year & then delivered a truckload in the autumn of each year. I recall some of the wood being stacked inside the vestibule area-perhaps a large enough supply for a month; the rest being stacked outside. As the inside stack became smaller, pupils took turns bringing additional wood in from the outside stack-it was considered important to have an adequate supply of properly dried wood to ensure easy, reliable burning.
A wood burning stove requires attention at least twice a day-ashes must be removed, fresh fuel added, damper and draft adjusted according to wind and weather conditions. Typically, these tasks are performed first thing in the morning and last thing at night, with the expectation [hope!] that the arrangement will last to the next service time. In my school, the teacher had responsibility for management of the fire. This included the ability to start a new fire on Monday morning-the untended fire would go out over the weekend. Monday mornings in mid winter could be a very chilly experience; we would remain dressed as for the outdoors until the fire began to heat up the room, then begin removing snowsuits,etc. I recall a few times when the teacher drove to the school on Sunday afternoon to start the fire-what a great feeling to come to school on Monday & find it already warm!
Sometime during the 1940s [WW2 era] the wood burning stove in my one room school was converted to a coal burner. I am not sure why, but would speculate that with most able bodied men in the military or WORKING in defense industries no one was available to cut wood, thus the need for coal as a fuel. Coal has some of the same attributes as wood as a fuel-especially the need for twice daily servicing and ash disposal; however, coal fires last longer, emit a more uniform heat and can be banked in such a way that they will last overnight. Our potbelly stove could be stoked with a large amount of coal, then the dampers set for very slow burning, and on most Monday mornings we would come to a warmish school building-what a great improvement in creature comfort!
The physical description of the school-a one room structure with a vestibule/cloakroom & an outhouse-is useful at several levels. It provides some sense of the conditions under which we were taught basic educational values; also, it reiterates an easily overlooked or not well understood point-the entire student body [of varied ages] & the teacher were in close proximity at all times. This was probably a good thing from several perspectives: disciplinary issues could be dealt with promptly, older kids could help younger ones [sometimes], younger kids could be exposed to topics & subject matter being taught to older kids. Probably the greatest value was developing the habit or skill to concentrate on your work assignment regardless of other sights or sounds taking place in the room- a skill often useful in later life. Since the geography & history lessons appropriate to the older children were taught within the hearing of we younger children, we were able to learn about places and events most often considered beyond our capacity.
My one room school experience was shaped and guided by one remarkable woman-Jenny Wanamaker Gray. Mrs. Gray was an experienced teacher-I do not know her formal educational attainment, but would expect it to consist of a rather limited college experience; probably a one or two year "training class" for teachers at Oneonta . She was a deeply religious woman, second wife to a much older man, Arnie Gray, who had also been a school teacher. Mrs. Gray, reflecting the prevailing values & customs of the times, read a chapter from the bible each morning. This was followed by the Lord's Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. This pattern was consistent with the public school experience in most American communities in the 1940s-in fact it was not significantly altered until some Supreme Court decisions in the 1960s or 1970s declared such behaviors illegal. Mrs. Gray was a Presbyterian, as were most people in the immediate community, so her teachings probably reflected the dominant main stream protestant view point. It seems appropriate to note that the flag salute & the Lord's Prayer were an everyday event in each class room in the "big central" school as well as in our little one room school. It was also the custom for the teacher to read to the pupils for perhaps 10 or 15 minutes from some children's classic, such as Swiss Family Robinson or Black Beauty.
The Delhi Central School district arranged for pupils in the one room schools to receive some enriched services. A music teacher from the central school routinely visited our little school-perhaps on a weekly or biweekly basis-I really do not recall the frequency. This was a special time for all of us-the visitor would bring a "suitcase" filled with a variety of simple instruments suitable for use by young students-drums, triangle, cymbals, and other simple percussion instruments. Then, we would each be allowed to chose the instrument that we wanted to play. To this day I can not verify that our music was profound or of the highest quality-I can verify that we played with gusto & that we thought we were playing in an important ensemble. From time to time an art teacher would visit the school- I can vividly remember several of the music teachers, but my memory of the art teacher[s] is very vague. I believe that a male teacher visited for one or more years and then entered the military-I do not recall any other visiting art teacher. Mrs. Gray, our primary instructor did work with us on special art projects reflecting the seasons-a Pilgrim, a turkey, a jolly Santa, George Washington- as appropriate. But the more elaborate art projects, if any, were probably done under the guidance of a specialized teacher & I have forgotten the particulars.
Another type of enriched service involved a trip to the village of Delhi. Twice a year a school bus of station wagon size would take our entire student body & Mrs. Gray to the main school. Here, we would receive several health type services. Our first stop would be with the school nurse: here we would have our first service- a physical exam, usually performed by Dr. Orin Q. Flint. This would include the usual chest & back thumping, etc. Next we would move to another area where our hearing was tested by the nurse or some other professional. Then, it was time for the service that we all disliked-getting our teeth cleaned. The woman that did this in the 1940s was a rather stern individual and not especially gentle with the tools of the trade. Suffice it to say that to this day I have bad feelings about any kind of dental care! This completed our health related services.
Now, we could turn to more interesting things. One very popular stop would be in the library-here there were many books on many subjects. By my 3rd grade year, arrangements had been made by which kids in the rural schools could request books on loan from the central school library-to an avid reader this was a very powerful-and interesting development. Another fun experience would be an assembly. Here, the grade school kids from the rural schools would gather in the central school auditorium and be treated to entertainment. I distinctly remember an early assembly at which the feature was a movie-"Abe Lincoln in Illinois" starring Raymond Massey. The movie had script writing on the screen and I was not yet old enough to read, so George Bolles & I asked our teacher to read it to us! Sometimes the assembly would include a band concert or a play performed by junior high or high school youth-all of these cultural events were exciting & interesting to rural youth with very limited opportunities to socialize or experience life away from their own immediate locality. [ Remember-no TV, limited access to radio, family tradition/expectation that youth would do farm or housework, war induced shortages, etc.]
Another fun experience was to use the playground equipment. Here, they had real swings made of chain & metal- a far cry from our one swing suspended from a tree branch and using an old rope donated by one of the local farmers [I believe Tom Burgin's family]. So, we were carefully herded out to the playground when the younger pupils from the central school were not using the equipment. The pure glory of using good equipment can not be fully appreciated until you have experienced "make do" equipment.
Some years we [my school only] would walk from the central school to the Cannon Free Library, the community library. Here, an entire new world opened for us-the first & most impressive thing was the presence of a large sword fish mounted on the wall. Again recall that we were hundreds of miles from the ocean and that we did not have the cultural advantages of the Discovery Channel or any similar information source. The visual impact on rural youth of a, perhaps 15 foot mounted fish was very great. Also, on the floor in the library was a polarbearskin rug! The rug still had a full snout, fangs, glass eyes and scared the stuffing out of me for years! But, it was all part of the process of broadening the experience of kids with limited cultural opportunities. Mrs. Gray showed us how to use a card catalog to look up books on various topics-once again as I write these recollections more than 50 years after the experience, I marvel at the creative ideas & approaches she used to challenge & educate rural youth. Anyway, she introduced us to ideas that have stayed with me for a lifetime. One great regret of my life-I never told Mrs. Gray how much her guidance & direction influenced my life path. Perhaps, she knew -without my ever verbalizing the thoughts-at least I hope so.
Since the main reason for a school is to educate children, perhaps it is time to discuss the student body. The Fraser school only educated kids through the 6th grade-at least in the time that I was familiar with it. In this dimension, it differed from some other rural schools, such as Meridale & Hamden, where the classes extended through the 8th grade. Both of those schools were really "two room" school buildings with two teachers.
I have two distinct & different recollections regarding the students at the one room school-each memory seems to be heavily influenced by my age, and consequentially, my role in the social pecking order of the student body. My earliest years are very vague-there were several "big kids"-probably all boys. I do recall Harold [Zeke] Fraser, Howard & Clifford Fitch as very large & very tough boys that talked back to the teacher-probably they were in their last year at the school while I was in first grade.
Later years-probably grades 3,4,5- are much more easily recalled. Starting in first grade, George Bolles and I were at the same grade level-that was great because it meant that we each had a buddy & also a competitor. Other kids, slightly older than George & I, included Billy E., Donald C. & his brother Leland C. These latter three lived with Andrew & Sophie Jamison- later I came to understand that these boys were wards of the county welfare system who were placed in what was essentially a foster home situation. These three were only in our school about 2 years and I have no idea as to their eventual life pattern. About the third or fourth grade, George & I got to be the biggest kids in school-that meant we were responsible for getting the water & for helping with the other chores. Three younger kids joined our student body-Tom Burgin, Barb Engert & Everett Bolles, George's brother. For my 4th & 5th grade years, we were the entire student body-5 kids. Some readers might feel sorry for Barb as the only girl-not to worry! As the first born child of a hard WORKING Hamden Hill dairy farmer, Barb routinely did any & all of the chores on a farm that we boys did & she never asked for-or received- any special consideration when we were playing rough games.
One might reasonably ask what did we do for recreation in a one room school. Well, we did not have enough kids to play baseball or any other game requiring several players per side. As I recall, we had two recess periods and a lunch hour for games, or reading after making the inevitable trip "out back". Our team type games were really quite simple-one involved throwing a medium size ball over the school house roof and shouting "here it comes" to the other team stationed on the other side. The object was to trick the other team into waiting at the wrong place, so that they could not catch the ball. We also played a lot of "kick the can" which was sure to bring forth a lot of argument as to specific rules to be followed-they could change daily or even more frequently, depending on the situation or the mood. A variety of types of tag were always popular. Another favorite was playing fort-remember this was the era of WW2, so all kinds of war type games were popular. Just a short distance from the schoolyard, in the pasture of the Burgin farm, was a very large rock-perhaps 10 to 15 feet in diameter. Using smaller stones and our hands, over a period of several months we managed to dig out a quite substantial "foxhole" with the intention of hiding there when the German or Japanese bombed Delhi! The reader can laugh or consider the entire idea ridiculous-but, you were not there! Unless you are of an age that lived through WW2, it is almost impossible to understand that our days were completely filled with information about the actual shooting war [on the front with the troops] and the home front [WORKING in the defense industry]. Our government mobilized civilians-kids, elderly or other civilians- to form plane spotting units. Basically, these were volunteers trained to recognize the several types of airplanes flown by the US & by our enemies-the idea was that civilian spotters could serve as a "first alert" for enemy planes intent on bombing the USA. From the perspective of 55 years later, it seems rather doubtful that the German or Japanese would risk flying bombers thousands of miles across the ocean to drop bombs on hayfields in the middle of Delaware County! But, in the 1940s, our entire country was at war & by golly, students at the Fraser School were determined to do our share for the war effort! In my adult life I have noted that kids, especially boys, love to play fort as long as it involves digging in the dirt & making a place to hide.
When the weather was nasty-too wet or cold to play outside, after lunch Mrs. Gray would read to us for the balance of the lunch hour. Again, recall this was long before the advent of the teacher unions and mandated free time. Rather, the custom and tradition was that the teacher was responsible for all aspects of the pupils life and the conservative, hard WORKING parents would settle for nothing less.
I note that so far I have not made mention of any events at the school that involved the parents or neighbors. We did have a few such events-at Christmas we would put together some kind of little play related to the season; in the spring we would celebrate arbor day by planting a bush or some type of flowers on the school property. In June we always had a school picnic-some years the parents [actually the mothers] would participate in a nice picnic on the last day of school. I assume the dads were busy WORKING on their farms-actually, men did not often go to such events, especially during the day. After the picnic was over and the last game played, the parents would help the student empty out a years accumulation from his desk, load it into the family auto & then all would head for home & summer vacation. I can recall one or two years that parents did not participate in our school picnic. Mrs. Gray loaded us all into her car and drove us to a privately owned camp [ actually a cabin located on a stream] where we could play in the water and hike on some type of trail through the woods. As I recall, there was an outdoor fireplace where we could cook hot dogs & marsh mellows over an open flame. I'm not sure where the cabin was located, but it might have been on either Platner, or more likely, Peakes Brook. Again the recollection is just too foggy to be precise.
It might be of interest to discuss what we did for lunch at the rural school. First & foremost, we all carried our lunch in a lunch pail or bucket. This carrier, made of some type of metal-probably tin, was a hinged affair with two important parts. The top was rounded and included a thermos bottle of milk or cocoa while the bottom part was rectangular and was the place to carry the sandwich, cookie[s] and fruit that was an important part of our every day life. These were the weekly staples in the diet of many adults that went out to work each day, as well as of school children. By contrast, adults in most farm families ate their large meal at noon [ and called it dinner] and ate a hot, but much lighter , meal in the evening [and called it supper]. Some time during the war-perhaps 1942 or so, the school district began to provide the ingredients for soup or stew. Basically, this meant that in cold weather the teacher placed a pot or kettle on the potbelly stove, probably about 10:30, added the prepackaged ingredients to the pot & then served a hot dish at noon. The soup smelled so very good, especially on a cold or damp day-surely it served the purpose of perking us up for the afternoon. It also added one more chore-some one had to wash the dishes each day!
I am very pleased to report that the former Delhi School 18 at Frasers still stands in exactly the same spot as when it was used for educational purposes; the property reverted to the Burgin family, owners of the farm from which the land for the school was originally acquired. In 2000, it is maintained in an excellent state of repair by my lifelong friend & former schoolmate, Tom Burgin. While he uses the schoolhouse as a shop, the American flag still flies proudly over the structure. Long may she wave!
West Exeter, Otsego County, New York State by
Jayne Davis Szaz
My older brother Wayne was privileged to start school two years before me. Often during those two years I haunted our front porch in the late afternoons of the months school was in session, waiting for him to arrive home with his reader. Oh, Dick and Jane and Spot! How I longed to learn to read!
In September 1935 when I was five years old, my turn came to start first grade at the one-room school in the hamlet of West Exeter in Otsego County, New York. After consuming a breakfast of plate-sized pancakes with butter and maple syrup and a couple of glasses of milk, Wayne and I would walk the mile and a half to school as Wayne had been doing for the previous two years alone, but the day I entered the first grade, our father drove us, and our mother and younger sister and brother, in the Essex.
Now that the time had come for me to commence my formal education, I forgot how much I wanted to learn the meaning of the characters in Wayne's reader. I sat hunched forward in the back seat and watched with dread the dirt road we lived on, and then the two-lane paved road of the hamlet of West Exeter, disappear under the car. I was frightened to death. What happened in school? That Wayne had come home safe and sound every day for two years didn't console me then.
Our teacher was Miss Marion Burch, a tall, dark-haired woman who soon quieted my fears. Jimmy and Mildred enrolled in the first grade with me. The other students were in grades two through nine or two through twelve; I do not recall whether the school taught students through grade twelve. Wayne was in grade three that year.
Inside the front door of the wood schoolhouse was an entrance area where we left our snowsuits, scarves, hats, mittens, and overshoes in cold weather, and jackets or sweaters in warmer weather, and lunchboxes in all seasons. To the left was the boys' room and to the right the girls' room, and beyond the entrance area one large room with windows the length of both sides which served as lunchroom as well as classroom..
I might not remember the girls' room except that one day when I was there with another little girl, she told me she wasn't going to invite me to her birthday party. I wasn't sure what a birthday party was since I had never attended one, but I remember the hurt to this day.
I don't remember whether the boys' and girls' rooms had privies or flush toilets, but the schoolhouse may have had electricity. The farmhouse where we lived had no electricity (the Rural Electrification Administration delivered electricity to the farm soon after we moved away in 1940), indoor plumbing, or telephone, but the houses of those relatives who lived in hamlets and small towns and, of course, cities, had these amenities. Our grandparents on both sides were farmers and likewise had no indoor plumbing or electricity, but they did have wall telephones. A caller lifted the receiver from the cradle on the left side of the telephone box and turned the crank on the right side to ring the operator. When she answered, the caller gave her the telephone number of the person with whom he wished to speak. It was never a good idea to talk about confidential matters as those rural telephones were on party lines and anyone on the line as well as the operator could listen to all conversations.
As for lunchboxes, we carried plain black ones (I don't remember that there was any other kind then); thermoses filled with good, raw milk straight from our cows were secured by springs in the rounded lids. Some people who carry their lunches use the same kind of lunchbox today. Our mother gave us each a sandwich of some kind; peanut butter (our mother had to combine the ground peanuts with the oil standing on top of them before spreading the mixture on the bread) was undoubtedly a favorite. We sometimes had a piece of fruit, and Mother often made us graham cracker squares held together with chocolate frosting or gave us Baby Ruth candy bars, which cost five cents each then, for dessert.
In the winter it took Wayne's and my short children's legs long enough to walk to school that my fingers were half-frozen by the time we arrived. Many winter mornings Miss Burch sat down with me by the pot-bellied black stove at the back of the classroom to comfort me and rub my fingers until I stopped crying with the pain.
When the weather was particularly bad in the winter, our father would drive us to and from school in the sleigh drawn by our horses, sturdy brown Dick and dainty black Molly. I remember one particular blizzard that started during the school day. Dad had us lie down in the bottom of the rectangular wooden sleigh that he normally used for jobs such as hauling wood he had cut to be burned in our stoves and covered us with blankets and rugs.
Walking home was easier than walking to school in the winter because the temperature was higher in the afternoon than in the morning, but we had to be careful when we passed Mrs. ______'s house at the corner of Carson Road and ________ Road. Joe H., a welfare kid who lived there, liked to come out and engage Wayne in battle; he was older and bigger than Wayne so the outcome was never in doubt. One such battle was especially memorable because Joe pushed Wayne's face into the snow and held it so long that I thought my brother was a goner. Protective by nature, I wanted to help Wayne, but I was also timid and, well, a little girl; I could do nothing but protest while standing by and hoping for the best.
My report cards show that Jimmy, Mildred and I studied oral reading, silent reading, spelling, English, arithmetic, writing, and phonics in the first grade and the same subjects minus phonics in the second grade.
As much as I loved letters I hated numbers and dreaded being called on to go up to the blackboard at the front of the room to work a problem. One day when Mildred earned a 90 on her arithmetic paper and I only an 80, my competitive spirit compelled me to tell her that 80 was higher than 90 and I had therefore "beaten" her. How did I think I could deceive her when she had done better than I in the very subject having to do with numbers? She held her ground; she didn't believe me
Reading was another matter. The alphabet gave up its secrets quickly and I soon became an omnivorous reader and excellent speller. Once I learned to read, my mother had difficulty prying me away from my books for any reason.
To help us develop good penmanship, Miss Burch showed us how to hold our pencils and draw closely overlapping circles on lined paper, using two lines for each row of circles.
Discipline was never a problem when I attended school. Teachers and students alike took good behavior for granted. I don't remember the nature of my infraction, but only once in the two years I attended the one-room schoolhouse did I have to stretch out my hand, palm up, for a few swats with a ruler.
Miss Mildred Dutton was our teacher when I entered the second grade, Miss Burch having joined the faculty of the West Winfield Central School in the fall of 1936, as Miss Dutton did in the fall of the following year.
In September 1937 when our younger sister Beth was old enough to start the first grade, our parents decided that the three of us should attend the consolidated school, the West Winfield Central School. After walking the usual mile and a half to West Exeter, we boarded a school bus. The driver, Mr. Harold Mumbalo, kept a firm but kind eye on us students as we journeyed toward West Winfield, a town of about one thousand souls that was to us farmbound children a great metropolis.
I don't really qualify as having gotten my education in a one room school house however I feel fairly close:
I was born and raised to adulthood in Walton as was my mother. Mom was born on Dunk hill and attended the one room school house there. She later boarded with the Fancher family in Walton while attending High School. She went on to get a "Training Class" certificate to teach and started teaching in the same one room school house on Dunk Hill, walking to and from school every day from her parents home. My dad was a truck driver who drove the milk route over Dunk Hill and he would give mom a lift to school that was how they met and the rest is history.
I can remember believing that Mom had to walk about 5 miles to get to school as I have driven the route many times. My brother and I were reminiscing just before mom's funeral as to the hardship. He went out and drove the distance again and discovered it was only just over a mile. It's amazing how time changes the perception of distances.
My only other recollections of one room school houses:
One summer we rented a house in Finch Hollow. There were two boys on the adjacent farm who became playmates. Their school started a week before ours did in town, so I attended school with them as a visitor one day. I most recall the walk to school - Maybe a mile (hard pressed to remember distances - see above:-) ). More memorable was the walk home As we played in the small brook that ran along the road and the farm kids teaching me how to catch brook trout with my bare hands.
Another time I went with one of my cousins to spend a day at the Gould's Schoolhouse between Fishes Eddy and Long Eddy. I don't recall much about that day - it may have been the last day of the school year and a minimal day of instruction or something. As I recall I was spending several days with my Uncle on his farm either for instruction or to give my parents a break. Can't remember now. The cousin was several years older than me maybe 11 or 12 to my 6 or 7.I digress though (he died this past February),
I agree that the rural school houses were an important part of the development of the education system if for no other reason than they kept the education grounded in what was important to the community . I can recall my mother talking about Archie(?) Tweedie who was her School Trustee and lived on the farm next door to or across the road from her school and the support he gave her as a new teacher.
As I said I don't really think this is on topic but if nothing else it gives an old man an opportunity to ramble. I haven't lived in Walton since 1952 and geography prevents me from attending the Gathering, but maybe one of these years I will get back to my old stomping grounds.
When my parent's divorced in the late 30's my mother got a job as a Housekeeper on a farm outside Hamden, at the foot of Mallory Brook. Therefore I had no choice, but to attend the little one room schoolhouse-Hamden #1. (Ed. Note: Clifford Sprague purchased the property in 1955 after the school was no longer needed for educational purposes; in 2000 it became the property of Tom Sprague. Reportedly,the Sprague family uses the old school as a place for occasional family gatherings)Since I was a city kid this was a very different experience for me. Our teacher's name was Margaret Salton. She was very STRICT but I liked her.
I used to make fun of the younger kids learning to read in their sing song voices. That also makes me remember the number of times getting whacked on my knuckles with a ruler when I was aping or laughing at them while they read. Sitting on a stool in the corner was another form of punishment. Seems like I was in trouble a lot of times.
We had a big pot bellied stove in the middle of the room that kept it cozy in there in the winter. If I am not mistaken, I remember some limburger cheese smelling up the schoolroom that was placed on top of the stove by some enterprising boy. No girl would ever do that!! We all took turns going to the neighboring James Sprague or Roger Murray farms on either side of the school house to get a bucket of water for drinking purposes. And the outhouse sure was cold in the winter, and the girls all worried the boys might have put a snake in there in the summer. One time we all rushed through the meadow to a neighboring house belonging to the very well known Jenny Young, a spinster and great cookie maker. Her house had caught fire and we battled the blaze with buckets of water till the fire truck got there.
The Christmas program the year I was there was a source of embarrassment to me. Mrs. Salton had invited a former student named Marian McDonald to sing carols. So she paired us up together. Marian had a beautiful soprano voice, and I thought I was a terrific alto singer. We sang several Christmas Carols, and my voice kept getting higher and higher until we weren't harmonizing, but singing in the same key. And I was no soprano. I don't really think Marian would have been a buddy with me after that.
I have a great recollection of the other kids attending classes there. Anna Belle Terry, and her brother Bill. The Sanford kids, Alton, Clara, and Glenn, little Tommy Sprague, the 3 McDonald boys, Ward, Harold, and Bernard, and Malcolm and Marshall Terry, and little Rosena Kilmer with her long carrot red hair.
After leaving New York State I always went to visit Mrs. Salton where she was living in Downsville. I remember telling her I had taught my own children how to remember the names of the Great Lakes by remembering the word HOMES. She gave me a very disapproving look and said she would never have told her students that. She was a great teacher, and I will always remember her. A very nice lady, she passed away recently. These are some of my memories from the one room school.
Reflections on a Catskill Childhood Submitted by Patti Gottschall Schuknecht
This is already on the website at: Uncle Sam's Verse
Some Long Term Memories
Eleanor Jack Howard
My grade school building is alive in my memory. The white clapboard building nestles on state route twenty-eight, three miles east of Delhi. A small hallway with wooden pegs on one wall for hanging coats and hats, the neatly piled kindling wood and an enamel pail of drinking water with a communal dipper beckon the children to enter. In the classroom, a large slate blackboard is across the front of the room with the alphabet in cursive writing charts above. A framed picture of George Washington and one of Abraham Lincoln hang above the chalkboard. An American flag hangs from a wall mount secured to the wooden frame of the chalkboard. The flat top oak teacher's desk has a handbell on one side, several textbooks cradled across the front and pupils' homework papers on the other side.
The pot-bellied wood stove occupies the middle of the room. A long wooden bench is anchored in front of the stove for warming cold bodies and drying wet mittens. A recitation bench is fastened to the oiled pine floor in front of the teacher's desk. Maple student desks where pupils keep textbooks their parents purchased line two sides of the room. Older students store straight pens and bottles of ink as well as pencils and erasers. Each student has a five-cent tablet of lined paper,
Four-foot double hung windows on two sides of the room provide daylight. A tall, narrow cupboard contains the school library. A large rotating globe of the world sits on a small pine table. A donated pump organ stands in the left front of the room.
It is near Christmas, the windows have red and white tissue paper curtains thumbed tacked along the casing to make the room festive. Red and green paper chains decorate the top of the blackboard. The district Christmas program lies ahead.
Some Noon Hour Delights
The announcement of "noon hour" from the teacher sent pupils scurrying to the cloakroom to fetch their homepacked lunches. Some lunches nestled in brown paper bags, others in metal dinner pails, with a thermos of cold milk on warm days and homemade cocoa in the winter. Everyone ate sandwiches made with homemade bread or white store bread. Homemade crabapple jelly, blackberry, or elderberry jelly filled the sandwiches. Dessert consisted of homebaked chocolate or yellow cake, or rolled molasses or sugar cookies. Sandwiches and desserts were wrapped drugstore style in waxed paper or in store bread bags. Pupils carefully folded the wrappings and took them home for use the next day. An apple or pear from the family orchard completed the lunch.
The boys and girls donned outside wraps, including artics and snow pants in stormy weather, and rushed to the schoolyard. The older pupils usually decided which games to play. Common games for the five to fifteen year olds to play together were red light-green light, statues, keli-i-over, hide and seek, tag, and soft ball. One student brought a ball from home while another brought a bat,
On stormy days, hide the eraser, pass the chalk, tic-tac-toe and cat's cradle were played inside. A fresh fluffy snow provided an excellent base for a game of fox and geese in the schoolyard. Packing snow assured the schoolyard would be adorned with robust snowmen made during noon hour. Pupils often brought their sleds from home, Flexible Flyers being the favorite. Riding down hill in a farmer's pasture adjoining the schoolyard provided the best noon time fun for everyone. The pupils thoroughly enjoyed 'noon time.'
Welcome Page of the Delaware County NY Genealogy and History Site . . . | . . . Table of Contents Page . . . | . . . Contact Site Manager
a service of the Delaware County Historical Association located at 46549 State Highway 10, Delhi, NY 13753
Online since 1996 - created and managed by Joyce Riedinger