The Day The Stove Pipe Fell Down

| November/December 1969

1102 West River Road, Battle Creek, Michigan

Our old country school was a one room affair and in it's center sat a mammoth Round Oak stove which in mild weather was fired with wood, and in severe weather with coal. We didn't have any well nor inside plumbing so water had to be carried by older boys taking turns from day to day, from the nearest neighbor's pump more than a quarter of a mile away. We carried it in an open pail and were lucky if we got back with half a pail full. It was carried during recess. The school house did not have any insulation and had a very high ceiling. It was about as easy to heat as a corn crib. The teacher not only had to do all janitor work, and arrive there at least half an hour before the rest in severe weather in the morning to have the place thawed out, all for $35 a month.

One particularly cold day, though it was mostly red hot, the stove t wasn't keeping the place warm enough. The teacher inserted the poker in the grate to shake down the ashes and shook it quite violently. Now the old stove was a rather shaky affair. The legs were loose, and all of a sudden the wire holding up the pipe broke and the entire eight sections crashed to the floor, followed by three vertical sections, filling the place with soot and sparks. The teacher cried. She put a board over the the top of it but that soon caught fire. She had to open some of the windows as the place was getting full of smoke. Most of us did not share her feeling. We danced around shouting 'Goody-goody. The school-house is going to burn up!' She sent us all home and the nearest neighbor immediately came and put out the fire in the stove with snow. School was not resumed for nearly a week. Our parents held a bee, and a lot of water had to be hauled, a lot of scrubbing and window washing done and curtains laundered first. Much to our chagrin, we had to make up that lost time at the end of the school year.

I think I must have been in about the third or fourth grade at the time.

I well recall the first motorcycle I ever saw. I was in about the second grade at country school and about 9:30 in the morning we heard a popping and sputtering noise and stretched our necks to look out the windows. The teacher told us to sit down and behave ourselves. In a moment someone knocked on the door. It was the county school inspector, who had ridden over dirt roads from the county seat some 15 miles away. He stayed for about an hour and at recess time left, so we had a chance to see it when he took off. It was a Pope, and resembled a cross between a bicycle and a motorcycle. It had pedals and regular chain drive like a regular bicycle, also a stand like they used to make for bicycles. The engine was a two cycle affair with belt drive to the rear wheel. He climbed on it and started pedalling real fast. He then tightened the belt and the motor started, making lots of racket and smoke. He then loosened the belt and raised the stand, and ran along beside it and jumped on and was gone in a cloud of dust. Of course right then and there every boy in school decided that he was going to have a motorcycle.

When my oldest son David came home from his first day at school I asked him what he learned in school today. He said 'I learned that my teacher is mean and she means it.' (Apparently he had violated some rule or other and found that they were to be rigidly enforced)


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