Tuesday, September 18, 2007

School Days 1909

Bernice Adams' first school near Mesa, Washington

The new, larger school

I thought I’d share a little bit about my grandmother’s early school days. She left a couple pictures and a brief description in her autobiography. The time she describes is about 1909-1915.

“Mother and I arrived at the ranch in the summertime, and that fall there was no school for me to go to. This was finally solved by sending us to Hanford, a little town across the Columbia River. The river was about ten miles from the ranch. and had to be crossed by row boat. This was risky business as the river was very swift and it took two strong men to make the trip across and back.

Once more I was boarded out, this time to a poor Irish family, who needed the money. There was a girl; my age, and an older boy. I learned many things that year, most of them not taught at school.

By the following year a one room shack had been built a couple of miles from the ranch and a teacher was hired. He was fanatically religious and taught us that the world was coming to an end in a very short time. He wasn’t interested in teaching reading, writing, or arithmetic. After all, we would never live to need it! Much later I had to confess what was going on in the little schoolhouse. The teacher was fired and school came to an abrupt halt.

By the following year another larger school had been built. Still one room, but much more substantial than our former shack. We had a new teacher and we all took turns cleaning the school. Whoever got to school first had to build the fire in the big stove. We had from twelve to fifteen students in eight grades, and most of them didn’t show up on a regular basis. Whenever there was work to do at home that automatically came first. We were allowed to skip grades, and that explains why I entered high school at age twelve. I rode a horse to school and he was tied to a post, with a long rope, during the day. He had to be saddled and unsaddled, and fed and watered. Going to school really involved a lot of work in those days.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That top photo is eerie.

It was probably the first time any of them ever had their pictures taken.

They don't know enough to form a 'group'.

It seems stylized but stylized group portraits are associated with glamor & wealth nowadays & here it clashes with the squalor at a gut level.

Very compelling.

That bit about the fanatic taking over the school with his "righteous" views could be a microcosm for certain regimes we've seen in the world of late.