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1880 - 1951
Mother and Uncle Speedie thought it would be interesting to write about Big Mama's first day of teaching school. Uncle Speedie provided the information and Mom did the writing.
I was born October 3, 1880 in Texas. After my marriage in 1901, we moved to Royal, Oklahoma. We lived in a log cabin where my two boys and my daughter were born. While they were babies, I studied at home, after having finished only the 4th grade, in order to pass Co. Exam, before I was able to teach.
In 1908, we moved from Royal to a place owned by an Indian named Henry Hayes, in the mountains. There at a school called Crawford on top of the Tabletop Mountains, I taught my first school which was 2 1/2 miles from where I lived.
The winters were cold. The only roads were dirt roads and they were seldom if ever graded. This was in the days of wagons and buggies and horses. I road a horse with a side saddle. It was very improper for a lady to ride astride a horse or to wear pants. There was no such thing as pants for a lady..
My school house was built with windows on each side, a large wood stove in the middle, blackboards everywhere there wasn't a window. This building was also used for church services on Sunday. There was a huge stack of wood stacked outside the building. This school house was built on five acres of land. There was a boys toilet outside on one side of the building and a girls toilet on the other side. The Sears Roebuck catalog was used a toilet paper. We never bought toilet paper. We didn't even know what bought toilet paper was.
Up close to the building was a dug well. The water was drawn up in a bucket on a rope. Pupils had tin cups and didn't hesitate to borrow each others cups. I used a dipper to pour water in the students cups. We didn't know or worry about germs.
At 8:00 o'clock I arrived at school on my horse with my side saddle. I was janitor also. In the winter I had to build a fire. The long floor had to be swept every day. Wood had to be carried in for the fire. At 8:30 I rang a huge bell that was in the tower, so everyone in the district could hear it. At 9:00 a.m. school began.
I taught grades 1 through 8 and usually had from 45 to 55 pupils of all sizes and ages, ranging from 1 to 16 years old. The was normal in those days.
When crops were to be gathered the large boys generally had to help so they were absent from school.
The pay was $1.00 per child and parents had to pay it in advance. If this child was absent those days were deducted from the next months payment. $1.00 was hard to get in those days and it went a long way. A teacher then, if they had 40 pupils, received $40.00 per month, if all students were present.
12:00 to 1:00 was lunch time. The lunch buckets were opened and big biscuits with home grown pork was in most of the pails. Sometimes they brought fried pies or cookies, baked sweet potatoes, but mostly bread and meat.
During recess and at lunch a baseball game went on on one side of the schoolhouse while on the other side a game of Blackman or Red Rover was going on for the smaller pupils to play.
The blackboard was a very useful tool. Paper and pencils were very rare so arithmetic lessons and sentence diagramming were taught using the boards.
School was over at 4:00 and everyone went home.
The school district was on a 3 mile square. Pupils walked to school, whether it was cold or hot. In the winters they ran to the outhouses and back.
The pupils were very loving and knew to mind their teacher. The teacher was allowed to paddle and the parents would also paddle when the child got home. There was seldom a problem with discipline.
Teaching was hard. So many lessons each day since classes were combined. The pupils were nice and willing to help all they could.
In later years I went back to school and finished high school and 3 years of college, before retiring. In those days all one had to do was to pass the Co. Exam to be allowed to teach.
In the 40's the W.P.A. built a rock school house, but today pupils, the few that are left, are bused to larger towns. There are only two rural schools left in Garvin County.
The first day of school, names and ages were the first thing we did. We started with Primer, then on to 8th grade subjects. One thing I will never forget, a large girl of about 14 was sitting in the 2nd grade group. I asked her what her name was and she answered, "Perry Lee Witchers, by God!" You can imagine my feeling. Perry Lee did not come to school very often and was really a case!
Submitted by Betty Barnett
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