By Nora Skovsende Cole
My parents, Hans and Nina Skovsende, brought me to the United States in 1929. We had a farm in upper Bovina with 250 cows and a good crop of cauliflower. Danish was always spoken in our home. Going to school was something I looked forward to and Dad walked me to Bovina School District #1, a mile from home. I started first grade (no kindergarten in those days) speaking not a word of English. Thanks to the kindness and patience of Mary Boggs, an older classmate, I soon learned the language and was able to make myself understood. My two younger brothers learned English from me, so their first day was not as traumatic. Most of the rural districts had one room, no indoor plumbing (I remember the outhouse was mighty cold in winter!) and were heated by wood stoves. Two students brought drinking water from a spring on the Hobbie farm and an older boy went to school early to light the fire so the school would be warm when the teacher and students arrived.
The attendance at our school was small, never more than twelve; all were friends with no spats or bullying and remained friends through the years. One teacher taught grades 1 through 8 with no aides or outside help. With few resources to work with those teachers gave us an education as good as or better than the elementary students at Delaware Academy. Surely having small classes helped as the lower grades learned a lot while the older grades were reciting their lessons. On entering Delaware Academy I found that I was more advanced in Math, English and Reading than the others.
Our teachers made learning interesting and fun, using whatever was at hand such as nature and everyday living. Arbor Day was celebrated by cleaning the lawn of debris and planting trees and shrubs. We made a scrapbook of local trees and learned to recognize each tree by bark, leaves, and buds. A nearby brook was dammed up for swimming. Helen McDivitt, our teacher at the time, brought her swimsuit and joined us in the pond. One day a frog jumped inside the front of her suit. Of course, the boys thought that was hilarious!!!!! Softball games were played on the Barrelman hayfield after the hay was taken in and until manure was spread. Families whose children attended the school took turns hosting an annual picnic at their homes.
I look back fondly on my days in a rural school and am thankful for the devoted women who taught us, especially Miss Marion McPherson, my first teacher, who was so good for a backward student like me.
Addendum by Mary Tucker. I went to a rural one room school outside of Albany, NY at just about the same time and recall that my school experiences are much like Nora’s. ~