After R comes W: What Came Out of the Woodwork!

Another one-room log schoolhouse, dated 1865, now at Calagobie Pioneer Museum, Ontario. My own school, originally built in 1845, would have looked like this back then, but was destroyed by fire in 1854. Its successor was replaced in 1885 with a yellow-brick building that remained in use until about 1965.

Another one-room log schoolhouse, dated 1865, that we enjoyed “playing school” in with our grandson, at Calabogie Pioneer Museum, Ontario. (My school in Wellington County, originally built in 1845, probably looked like this too, back then, but was destroyed by fire in 1854. Its concrete successor was condemned, and replaced in 1885 with a yellow-brick building in use until 1965).

Country bumpkins? Humph!

In response to my previous post about “R” and my one-room country school, it turns out that friends from my progressive District High School in the big town also had attended these quaint elementary schools, not noteworthy to us teenagers then, except that they had just closed. No sugar-coating my early education here, in the stereotyped manner of “old folks”– You want just the facts? They’re confirmed here by reliable witnesses:

First, our extensive libraries! My dear friend, Audrey (Bender) Henderson, who graciously allowed me to quote some of her memories here, describes her school library as “the large cupboard at the back, where you could always read a book when you had finished your lessons.” Apparently, after her brother had read every single book in that full cupboard, he

“then started on the encyclopedia. When he reached “C”, he became interested in chess, and the whole family learned how to play. What excitement when the bookmobile started to come around!”

Now that’s education! I suspect he must have completed the entire encyclopedia, as he later became a well-respected doctor. Audrey also mentions that in the early grades, it was great to listen in on the lessons of the older ones. Actually, I’m convinced these subliminal reviews over the years underpinned all our academic successes. She continues:

“In the older grades, I remember a few instances when we got to help out with the younger ones, when a new teacher arrived from the city with new ideas (after grade 6). She was wonderful, even though she had a rough start. A mouse ran in, and she jumped onto a chair, much to the great amusement of us country kids. (Actually, it’s not clear who jumped on the chair, the mouse or the teacher. I’ll vouch for the teacher). I had thought people only jumped on chairs in books, so I was astonished, as well as very amused. She won our admiration, though. With her help, we fed the birds, and could watch cardinals as we did our lessons.”

Desks with ink wells at Calabogie Pioneer Museum. The hole in top of the desk would hold an ink bottle which had a wide top.

Desks with ink wells, at Calabogie Pioneer Museum. The hole in top of the desk would hold a wide-topped ink bottle.

You can see we took all aspects of our education seriously! Our good friend, Ardith (Bauman) Frey, reminded us of the “ink wells” at her school. (A hole in the upper right corner of the desk top held a glass ink bottle, used to refill fountain pens):
“There was always the threat of having a braid dipped into the ink from some of the boys in the class. Thankfully I no longer remember which ones!”
(Is that why, in my school, the holes remained empty–only pencils used–before grade 7, when braids were usually pinned up, no longer dangling long? Hmm)

I think we agree with Audrey that “the absolute highlight of the day was recess and lunch”! How could one resist:

“In the winter, we often sneaked bites from our lunches hidden in our desk when the teacher wasn’t looking…Normally, our lunches stayed on the shelves in the basement, but on good skating days, there was no time to lose. As soon as time for lunch came, we put on our outdoor clothes, ran to the back of the school yard and leaped over the fence. There was a pond in the neighbour’s field, and we made good use of it! Anyone who could skate could play hockey and ‘crack-the-whip.’”

As for Audrey having heard “rumours of kisses in the attic,” I can assure you that certainly wouldn’t have happened at our school! (We didn’t have an accessible attic).

Maybe we are starting to sound like our parents did, but wait, soon our children will be reminiscing in just the same way!
Footnote: Not sure what a fountain pen is? How about cartridge pen, speller, scribbler, yard stick, opening exercises? Would a glossary be in order? First, I’ll have to consult with my friends…

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