Memories of the One Room Schoolhouse

An old timer reminisces about lunch time, games, traveling, and student discipline in the days of the one room schoolhouse.

| September 2001

  • one room schoolhouse - class session
    A typical one room schoolhouse session.
    Farm Collector Magazine Staff

  • one room schoolhouse - class session

In the days of the one room schoolhouse, lunch time was visitin' time. Every child carried his or her lunch, usually in a syrup pail, or, in rare cases, a store-bought lunch pail with compartment for pie and even a container built in for drink such as cocoa or lemonade. Kool Aid was still in the future. 'Course at recess most of the pupils had sampled their lunch to 'tide them over' until noon and then the trading started.

Waldo Catterton always had winter radishes that were prized by all who had none and we often traded our apples from the apple hole for some of his radishes and carrots. Then Joe Sumner usually could be counted on for trading his soda biscuits with cold grease gravy spread and marmalade for your home-cured ham on home-made bread. Arthur Vanatta used to bring chocolate pudding and my, how we yearned for some and often Mother would try to make some but rarely did the corn starch set up so we could spoon the pudding, but it was a good drink anyway.

Fried egg with a big slice of onion on home-made bread with thick butter isn't bad, nor is cold 'soup' beans with dill pickle and onion something to sneeze about; they are filling, to say the least. The only time we had oranges was at Christmas, and then only one per child. So we seldom saw one of them in the lunch bucket. The capacity of growing 12-year old boys is unknown. Mother would make enough sandwiches for recess, for lunch, plus maybe one to trade, and then one to eat on the way home. It was a two-mile walk each way, although once in a while, you could hitch a ride on a farm wagon coming from town with maybe a load of lime or coal.

In a rare treat someone would come by in one of those newfangled automobiles. The Lewis family had a Cole that was a huge red car with leather straps from the top of the windshield down to the fenders. It was right hand drive with the brake on the outside of the body and no front doors. Before that they had a Cadillac that was even bigger and noisier — 16 cylinders, I believe. John Van Gilder was the sport of the area with a Stutz Bearcat in which he would only use White Rose Gasoline that he hauled from Evansville in a Reo Speedwagon, a truck with wire sides like a chain link fence.

After lunch we played games at the school, the teacher usually getting them started and controlling them. Baseball games were popular, with some of the girls wielding more power at the bat than the boys. The homemade baseball was string around a center of a walnut to give it some body. This was called 'hard' ball and, if you were ever clobbered with one, you remember. We had few rules in the ballgame. Over the fence 'the bats' were out. Three strikes and you were out. No one had a ball glove as such, although a pretty good catcher's mitt could be made from one of Dad's horse-hide gloves with some sheep wool stuffed into the palm. The owner of the ball usually had the say on any question of rules. If we didn't agree with him, he would take the ball and we couldn't play. Simple.

Marbles was a popular game, especially with the boys, who would play 'keepers.' You made a circle in the dirt about two feet across and put three or more marbles in the center, one for each player, then the players took turns shooting in the attempt of knocking the marbles out of the ring if a player succeeded he got to keep it. Sometimes one boy would win all the marbles and that was the end of the game that day. Dad told me my Uncle Bruce was such a good player that one day he came home crying because he had no one to play with - he had won all the marbles and there were none left.


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