By Ethel Edwards
(as told to Gordon Edwards)
It was an exciting Monday morning, the first day of the new school year, September 1, 1913. Marjorie Holmes, my next door neighbor and best friend, and I were walking across the meadows and down through the woods to start our new school year. All students walked to class, about one mile for us and more than two miles for others, such as the Close children. I would be starting my third grade studies. Marjorie was a year older than I and would be in the fourth grade class.
Our teacher, Mary Hamilton, walked along with us. She boarded at our home, as it was typical of rural teachers to stay in various homes within the district at a reasonable cost for room and board (probably $2-3 per week). My father, Grant Brisbane, Sr., was a trustee of the school district, so he had to keep records of all the school’s expenses. Miss Hamilton was paid $360 for a full year’s service of thirty-eight weeks, Sept. 1, 1913 – June 15, 1914.
District No. 5 schoolhouse was located on the Lower Dingle Hill Road, just above the Muir farm. (The building remains today as a private residence.) Like all schoolchildren, we proudly raised the American flag on the flagpole in front of the school and recited the Pledge of Allegiance each morning. The building design was the typical one-room classroom, with a small entranceway where we hung our coats once the classroom was warm. The classroom was arranged with the teacher’s desk at the center front, a blackboard on the wall behind her, and a recitation bench to seat the class which she was teaching at the time in front of her. There were two rows of five double student desks, separated by a center aisle. Our classroom could seat twenty students, although we had only fourteen attending this year (10 girls, 4 boys). The desks were arranged according to size, with the smaller ones toward the front, and larger ones behind them. Since we might have pupils of all grade levels, one through eight, we had to study at our desks until it was our grade level’s turn to go up to the recitation bench. Miss Hamilton would then go through the material assigned to our grade for the day. This often included each student going up to the chalkboard behind her desk and completing arithmetic, spelling or other assignments.
The classroom was heated with a large wood-burning stove, placed in the middle aisle in the center of the room. Wood was provided by the various parents from their farms and brought to the schoolyard as scheduled. The older schoolboys had the responsibility for starting the fire in the morning and maintaining it throughout the day, under the supervision of the teacher.
Our toilet facilities consisted of two outhouses, one for the girls beyond one end of the schoolhouse, and another for the boys at the opposite end. My father’s ledger posted an expense for toilet paper provided for these facilities. Water was carried up to the schoolhouse from a spring down below the road. A central washbasin and soap was used by everyone.
The school district provided chalk, books and some paper for our studies, but it was our responsibility to provide our own pens with replaceable quill points and ink to fill the inkwell in our desk. We also provided our own rough, brown writing paper for our assignments.
We carried our own lunches, usually sandwiches and cookies or cake, to school each day and drank water from the spring. On special occasions we would use the wood stove for cooking or bring potatoes to be baked.
We went to school nearly every weekday throughout the school year. There were few holidays observed and no vacations during the year. One of the special days of the year was Arbor Day, held on May 1st. This was a day for cleaning up the school yard. The Hamilton family had a sleigh pulled by a cow that they would bring to school to help haul away the old sticks, brush, etc., accumulated during the winter.
Once we had completed our eighth grade studies, we would go on to complete four years of high school either at Margaretville, as I did, or at Andes Hilton Memorial High School, as did my husband, Clide Edwards. We both took our N.Y.S. Regents exams at Hilton Memorial. (Clide had earlier completed grades 1-8 at the Andes School District No. 2 on Davis Hollow, Dingle Hill, where his family’s farm was located. This building also still remains as a private residence.) ~