Friday, February 21, 2014

One-Room Nation, Part 2

Honey Creek School, Monroe County, IN

Getting There

Today most students take buses to visit historic one-room schools. But in the old days, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything powered by gasoline or diesel. 

Every year across America kids find out what it was like to attend a one-room school. Here, scholars are leaving Honey Creek School. Students at this summer program had to leave buses and cars behind at the end of the lane.

Not too long ago three former one-room scholars shared stories about how they got to school. They were students in the 1920s and 1930s in Iowa, a state that once had more than 20,000 country schools.

Bill Dryer said, “We crossed the crick and walked through the timber. That was the short way. The long way was on the road.”

Mildred Wood recalled, “I rode a pony. My pony’s name was Diamond. He was stubborn and didn’t want to go up the hill. I’d have to pull him up.”

If you rode “Shank’s mare” or “Shank’s pony” to school, would your ride look like this? Nope. Riding Shank’s pony is an expression. It means using your own two feet. (Photo by Marion Post Wolcott, Library of Congress: LC-USF34-055803-D. August 1940, rural Kentucky.)
For young Eddy Sage things were a little easier: “My dad took pity on me and took me on his back.”

Some one-room schools had wagons or hacks, not too different from modern school buses, but powered by horses, not fuel. The one used in Pittsboro, IN, had a stove in the back for heating—and for popping corn on the trip home.

This school wagon would have been a pretty fancy ride back in 1900. 
(Library of Congress, Bain Collection: LC-DIG-ggbain-10237.)

Whether you travel on foot or on horseback or by blogpost, One-Room Nation is your guide to country schoolhouses. 

Why should you care about old-time schools?

So many Americans studied at one-room schools that the schools—and the many, many students who passed through them—have been vital in shaping our nation. Think about how a strong, solid building rises up. Before you can build a roof or walls or floor, you’ve got to have a foundation.

Over the years, as Americans learned their ABCs and math in one-room schools, they helped to create the foundation of our nation. When we remember, celebrate, and preserve these schools, we’re remembering, celebrating, and preserving something that makes America special.

NOTES: Quotations are from a panel of former teachers and students of one-room schools at “Your Unique Schoolhouse,” Country School Association of America Conference, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, which the Story-Slinger attended on July 17-19, 2004.

Could you survive in a one-room schoolhouse eighty or one hundred years ago? One-RoomNation, an on-going segment of the Story-Slinger blog, will try to answer that question in a few dozen posts. Unless otherwise noted, the photos in One-Room Nation are the property of the blogger, so please contact the Story-Slinger if you wish to use them.

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