Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Aug. 30, 1999

Reading and 'sums' to start soon


School days are here again. Seeing the children getting ready for school makes me think of my own school days, 78 years ago.

I loved going to school when I was a child, and I will tell you why.

Your school, today, is like a king's palace, with good teachers for every class. You have running water, electric lights, and TV.

Why, when I went to school, television hadn't even been invented yet. My school had running water, but only when the roof leaked and the rain ran in.

When there was a snowstorm, snow would blow inside around the window sills, and we would make snowballs when the teacher wasn't looking.

The bathrooms were outside of the school and both boys and girls used the same bathroom, one at a time.

There were 34 children in my school and one teacher taught all eight grades. When we did arithmetic, we called it "sums."

For heat, we had a big pot-bellied stove, in which we burned wood. The students placed their lunchboxes around the stove in the winter when it was real cold outside, so the lunches didn't freeze.

It was the boys' job to bring in the wood for the stove. They would bring the wood in and stack it so it was ready for the next day. If there was any snow on the wood pile, the snow came in, too, and after it melted, we had wet floors.

The farmer who lived next to the school would come and start the fire in the big stove. If it was very cold outside, we would leave our coats and mittens on inside the school until it warmed up in the morning. It never got really warm, though, so the teacher would have us jump up and down and clap our hands to warm up. It was fun.

Our drinking water came from a milk can that a farmer brought to the school every day. There were two tin cups to drink from and everyone used these same two cups. Sometimes, the water was frozen and we had to wait until we could break the ice to get a drink. The water was real good.

The same farmer cleared the snow away from the school door, but the boys had to shovel a path to the door. The girls' job was to sweep the floor and clean the blackboards. There were no janitors.

There also were no school buses. Everybody walked to school. My brother and I walked four miles to school every day.

In the spring, many of the children rode a horse to school. I was one of those children. My horse's name was Dan. My brother sat behind me on the horse and held on to me.

Sometimes, we would race the other children on horseback. When my parents found out, they took the horse away and then, we had to walk again.

The teacher also walked to school. She lived with a farm family near the school.

Our biggest school sport was a snowball fight.

So, you see, my school days were very different from how it is for you today. I enjoy remembering when I was a child ­ I like to think of it as the "good old days."

Some day, when you look back on your time in school, I bet you will also remember it as the "good old days." I hope you enjoy going to school as much as I did.

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