The Story of a One-Room Schoolhouse

A One-Room Schoolhouse

Red One-Room Schoolhouse in Iowa. Photo by Gerald Rowles, http://www.royaltyfreephoto.org/
Red One-Room Schoolhouse in Iowa. Photo by Gerald Rowles, http://www.royaltyfreephoto.org/
Inside the Gritter Schoolhouse in Iowa. Photo by Gerald Rowles, http://www.royaltyfreephoto.org/
Inside the Gritter Schoolhouse in Iowa. Photo by Gerald Rowles, http://www.royaltyfreephoto.org/

Attending a One-Room Schoolhouse in the 1930s

If you have read my other articles (hubs), you know that my Dad grew up on a farm during the Great Depression. In these bygone days, he and his older brother, Don, attended school in a one-room schoolhouse that was perhaps a mile down the dirt road from the farmhouse Dad was born in.

In the schoolhouse, the teacher taught grades one through eight. (I have been a teacher and can hardly imagine trying to teach eight grade levels at the same time! This was all about “multi-tasking”!)

Dad told me he never felt deprived in his education at all in this now-rare type of schoolhouse. The kids were extremely well behaved, which is in stark contrast to today’s typical classroom behavior problems!

Ordinary one-room schoolhouse teachers spent substantial organizational energy on the job. For instance, they might put one set of kids to work on a writing project, then get a second set busy working their arithmetic, then have a third set of kids doing lessons on the blackboard. The activity level was high. I can tell you from a teacher’s point of view that this would have required a lot of juggling!

Dad said this was actually a pretty nice environment because if he finished early on some assignment, he could “listen in” to what kids in a higher level were doing rather than be bored. Also, kids tutored each other in lower grades because there were no teacher’s aides in those days. Certainly, one way to ensure that you have learned any academic material is to teach it!

The building itself was rather Spartan and would have been constructed by those in the community. There was a cloakroom off the entryway with hooks the children hung their bulky coats on during snowy winter days. Underneath these were built-in benches that opened up for storage of overshoes. The desks were of the type that opened under the writing surface to provide storage for books.

The older kids might periodically be assigned the task of feeding wood into the pot-bellied stove that provided heat for the little schoolhouse. Parents provided the cut firewood.

A local pharmacy received lists of required books which they purchased to have on hand for parents as needed for their children. The curriculum and books were regulated by some state entity. A generally good elementary education was had at schools such as these in rural areas.

During the Great Depression, in particular, once children had mastered the material and no longer needed their books, they could be passed along to a family in need. Remember, farms were being foreclosed regularly and some families were barely hanging on! Neighbors helped in any way they could.

Interestingly, my Dad's father, my Grandpa had but an eighth grade education. He was still successfully able to run a farm with only that plus a large measure of "good old common sense".

After Eighth Grade

After eighth grade, the children went into the small local town to attend high school. The distance was not too much of a hardship for farming families who had several vehicles, as my family did. Let me clarify here that some small farms only had farm trucks or vehicles that were in use every day all day and many kids had to walk long distances to the school. Thus, my family was fortunate that one of the vehicles could be parked at the high school all day long.

Dad remembers an old Model-T Ford, but there were also several Plymouths and one called a Whippet. Usually, children were driving by about age 16, so kids in the upper grades often did the driving.

Children of less fortunate families without extra vehicles often rode in with them. But, also, there was carpooling and back-up arrangements because vehicles in that day were much less reliable.

People knew that times were hard and it was always possible to find another less fortunate person to help out. Some local children had terribly worn-out and ratty clothes befitting the times. When my Dad, being the youngest, outgrew his clothes, Grandma passed these on to such kids in the farming neighborhood. She also mended and re-mended clothes regularly until they were practically threads!

Readers, do continue reading to find out what happened to Dad after his years in country and small town schools!

Twenty Years Later

About twenty years after my Dad completed his studies at the little one-room schoolhouse, he had left farming for a more modern profession. He was married to my Mom and our family went about every other summer to the farm to see Grandma and Uncle Don.

Going to the farm during the summer was a treat! As a young child, say six, I knew that Dad had gone to such a schoolhouse and asked where it was. I wanted to go see it.

Dad responded that it was just down the dirt road leading from the house. It had been unused for many years and the roof had caved in. He said my sister and I could walk down and look at it. He advised us to be very careful though and not go in past the cloakroom because the structure was unsound.

My older sister and I did walk on down to the now ramshackle and broken little one-room schoolhouse Dad had attended. As Dad had said, the roof had caved in. Also, the floor past the cloakroom had caved in and there was at least one groundhog living there. (We were always warned to stay well away from rodents, so we didn't go near it.) The cloakroom itself was still largely intact at that time and I saw the built-in benches where Dad had once stored his overshoes. Some of the hinges were pulled off.

I liked everything about visiting the farm in summers. After returning to the farmhouse on this day after visiting the ramshackle schoolhouse, I wondered aloud if I’d like growing up on a farm. “Naw,” said my Uncle Don, “you are a city slicker.” Oh, well!

Keep reading to find out how I finally got to see a restored one-room schoolhouse!

Sixty-five Years Later

About sixty-five years after my Dad completed studies at the little one-room schoolhouse and had left farming for a more modern profession, my Uncle Don passed away. Dad and I were at the farmhouse to put it in order for sale. It was sad to have it pass from the family, but the fields were sold to a local farmer and the farmhouse to local schoolteachers to live in, which was good.

I asked again about the little schoolhouse and Dad said it had been pulled down because it was a “hazard”. The wood had thoroughly rotted out by that time. The community was worried someone might get injured inside so they razed it.

He said he did know of a one-room schoolhouse of a similar vintage that had been saved and restored in the next county over. I was excited! I would actually be able to see a one-room schoolhouse that was not dilapidated!

So Dad and I drove over to see it. Inside was a large pot-bellied stove as in Dad's school. The desks were all in rows and a flag was at the front of the classroom. This flag had fewer stars than the ones now, but I don’t remember how many. 48? It's been several years, but I believe there was a framed picture of the presidents lined around in an oval pattern with their names and dates of their administrations as of about the 1940s.

On the blackboard were various examples of lessons. But what particularly caught my eye was a very interesting poem that went as so:

                      Never trouble trouble
                      Until trouble troubles you.
                      You’ll only double trouble
                      And trouble others, too. 


This was so exciting to me readers, that I can’t really put it into words! So much rural history was inside. So much learning went on over many years in a very small place.

I dedicate this article to my Dad and all the people who have worked hard to save for posterity a wonderful moment of time in that time-preserved little one-room schoolhouse.

Read on if you would like to find out why this is a part of a series of articles (hubs) about early farm life!

One Room School, Wiltondale Newfoundland

About My Farm Nostalgia Hubs

This is the third in a series on farm life and growing up on a farm as recalled by my Dad.

The first hub I wrote about involved the loss of a limb by one of the family dogs, A Pet Rescue Story: Brownie, the Three Legged Dog.

The second hub was about a near-accident my Uncle Don had, Life and Limb: A True Story From an American Farm.

My third was the Hubnugget winning The Story of a One-Room Schoolhouse.

A forth on is Farm Life During the Prohibition.

The response of readers to these stories touched me personally and readers have continued to ask for more stories! So now I regularly call Dad so he can continue relating these stories and I will continue to publish them as he does. Thanks for reading! -- Laura in Denver

More by this Author


Comments 42 comments

John  Lakewood profile image

John Lakewood 6 years ago from Lakewood, CO

Great story! My family has roots in the courtry, too.


daytripeer 6 years ago

I am enjoying these stories very much Laura.


jochanaan profile image

jochanaan 6 years ago

Nostalgia trip for sure! I grew up on a ranch in Nebraska, and my schoolhouse had four rooms. I remember the hooks and the desks whose tops opened up on a storage space; by the time I hit eighth grade those desks were too small for my long legs! And yes, my family had many vehicles and we were all driving by age 16, many by 14 on school permits. In many ways my childhood was not very different from "Little House on the Prairie."


Johanna Smith profile image

Johanna Smith 6 years ago from Fort Collins, CO

As a business student, I am impressed that Grandpa ran a farm with an 8th grade education. But I guess that would not include International Business, so my schooling will be relevant.

Thanks for interetng story.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

Hi, that saying about 'trouble' I am sure I have heard from my mother! I actually believe that in those days people learned better than at school these days. In England on the Tv a while ago, they sent children 'back to the 1950's' to school, and taught them the old lessons. Half of the class could'nt even understand it, let alone learn it! it was a lot more strict and intelligent then. I think we should bring it back!! cheers Nell


Laura in Denver profile image

Laura in Denver 6 years ago from Aurora Author

There sure seem to be a lot more behaviour problems than there was. ADD. ADHD. Autism. I wonder why. Some say environmental pollutants.

I had what they termed "non-traditional" students. Much harder to teach!

Quality of schools varies a lot by location, though. Some of the one-rooms in the South US were fairly poor. Dad was midwestern. Plus, I think Grandma was a schoolmarm herself and didn't let my Dad and Uncle get away with anything! I need to ask him more about this...maybe another hub!


Bella DonnaDonna profile image

Bella DonnaDonna 6 years ago from New Orleans, LA

It's cool hearing about the Depression since times are hard now too. thank you.


Leenie Pooh profile image

Leenie Pooh 6 years ago

I attended a workshop on home schooling where one thing they mentioned has stuck with me all these years. The instructor said that juvenile delinquency rose in direct relationship to the decline of the one room schoolhouse and the movement to segregate children into age groups.

In the one room schoolhouse the older kids would help the younger kids with their lessons. So while the younger kids looked up to the older kids, the older kids were lifted up by the adoration and sense of purpose.

In a classroom where kids are grouped into the same age groups they have no models other than the teacher who is an adult and so they aspire to the common denominator which is often below the capabilities of many of the students and so juvenile delinquency begins to rise.

I haven't said this as well as the instructor did, but you get the point. Amazing, no?


Laura in Denver profile image

Laura in Denver 6 years ago from Aurora Author

Yes, amazing. I do think it helps both children in a tutor relationship. Plus caring happens, not just learning.

Good point!


Christene profile image

Christene 6 years ago from Massachusetts

I really like your hub :)

My daughter went to a Montessori school for 3 years and they have mixed age classrooms. I love the idea and saw the advantages first hand.


Laura in Denver profile image

Laura in Denver 6 years ago from Aurora Author

Montessori is a *wonderful* option for young children! I had my youngest daughter in such a program. For those who can still afford *proven programs* like this, I hightly recommend!

Thanks for the insight!


Money Glitch profile image

Money Glitch 6 years ago from Texas

Congratulations on being selected for a Hubnugget Wannabe. This is a great story that bought back childhood memories of me growing up on a farm. I attended a one room school house the first 3 years of school. And that was not that long ago!:)


HubCrafter profile image

HubCrafter 6 years ago from Arizona

What a wonderful story! Thanks for sharing it.

HubCrafter


robie2 profile image

robie2 6 years ago from Central New Jersey

A great personal look back at a time now gone-- really wonderful and I loved the video too:-)


Laura in Denver profile image

Laura in Denver 6 years ago from Aurora Author

I was happy to find a video that truly *exemplified* the personal efforts of those seeking to preserve our very special heritage in these schools.

Mr. DeCarlo truly ended up being the "class historian" there!


ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 6 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

Congratulations Laura in Denver! This hub has been nominated and you are invited to cast your vote and promote this hub to all your family and friends. Yes, even non hubbers can vote. Why this would catapult your story to a lot of readers right? And it is a beautiful thing to be reading about this..and it truly warmed my heart.

To visit the Hubnuggets this week, please click this link: http://hubpages.com/hubnuggets10/hub/HubNuggets-Th...


Laura in Denver profile image

Laura in Denver 6 years ago from Aurora Author

Thanks! Dad and I are both thrilled! :-))


Benson Yeung profile image

Benson Yeung 6 years ago from Hong Kong

great story and great job.


Lita C. Malicdem profile image

Lita C. Malicdem 6 years ago from Philippines

Congratulations Laura for your nomination through this hub. It has a personal touch that warms my heart. I was once a school teacher. Great hub!


Cosmocat profile image

Cosmocat 6 years ago from Santa Cruz, CA

My mom taught in a one room school house in Kansas during WWII. All the male teachers had been drafted and, at the age of 18, she was given a temporary teaching license for a school near her town. She's written stories about her adventures from that time, and it was good to be reminded of those. Congratulations on your Hubnuggett!


Laura in Denver profile image

Laura in Denver 6 years ago from Aurora Author

I am so happy about this Hubnugget award, thanks to everybody!

Doing this "farm series" has really been neat because I talk to Dad on the phone. We both kinda forget the details, ya know? This family has a lot of stories, though, so definitely tune in again!

Cheers!


SaMcNutt profile image

SaMcNutt 6 years ago from Englewood, CO

I wonder if he one-room school house could be effective today? It has a home school feel that encourages independent study that could make students good at learning. I wonder...

Thanks for sharing!


Laura in Denver profile image

Laura in Denver 6 years ago from Aurora Author

There may be a few isolated one-room places still. In addition to the more individualized home school, one-room schools also woul teach community social skills.

Thanks for your comment!


gr82bme profile image

gr82bme 6 years ago from USA

Great story. I am going now to read more. Oh, I live across the road from a one room school house


Laura in Denver profile image

Laura in Denver 6 years ago from Aurora Author

Thank you kindly! I have many fans of the farm stories and will try to add more soon. ;-)


Ben Zoltak profile image

Ben Zoltak 6 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

I can't wait to finish this, what a great rendering so far! I still see one room schoolhouses here in Wisconsin often! I like your warm descriptions.

Ben


Laura in Denver profile image

Laura in Denver 6 years ago from Aurora Author

Thanks so kindly. It is fun imagining how things might have been carried on in the olden times.

Keep tuning in!


Ben Zoltak profile image

Ben Zoltak 6 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

Really amazing, you are very lucky that your Dad shared these wonderful memories with you. As someone who has had the very challenging experience of teaching combined 6th 7th and 8th grades combined in the same public school class, I can speak from experience that it was really difficult. I never had the grace or balance that you described your father achieving, leaning in on more advanced/older students, but maybe I could have.

Again, a wonderful rendering of a gentler time.

Ben


Laura in Denver profile image

Laura in Denver 6 years ago from Aurora Author

Thanks!

I taught college for "non-traditional students" and found the variety of skill levels within a class to be quite a challenge.

I did rely on those with industry or military experience to help out quite a bit and urged them to push through to more difficult material even when it was not assigned.

Some of the set me straight a few times!


SchoolHouseDweller 6 years ago

I came upon your story while trying to find information on an old choolhouse that my family and I now call home...what was once the oneroom school house in Orchard Colorado is on our property and was being used as a garage...we are currently trying to restore it to it's original glory and have found out that some of the rooms that make up our house are actually part of the school as well...I have always felt a passion toward "one-roomers" and would love to find resources to research the history of ours and/or share our experiences restoring it...I thouroughly enjoyed your writings and would love make available our piece of a beautiful history to you if you should ever need


Laura in Denver profile image

Laura in Denver 6 years ago from Aurora Author

Thank you very much! I would love to write a feature on your property or share what I know with you. Please email me on the mail link.


J Burgraff profile image

J Burgraff 5 years ago

I loved your hub. My dad grew up during the depression too. He never talked too much about school. I think things were just pretty tough. His dad died of TB when he was nine and he lived for a while in a tent with his brothers and sister. It wasn't until he died that I found out that my dad was a high school football star and lettered in other sports. You brought up good memories.


Laura in Denver profile image

Laura in Denver 5 years ago from Aurora Author

Thank you! My Dad also played football--and got a nose deformity from it. Tough sport!


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 5 years ago from TEXAS

A subject close to my heart. My Dad taught in a rural one-room schoolhouse in Illinois. He was a 10th grader and my mother was one of his 8th grade students. This was in the early 1900s. Good students were allowed to go out into rural areas to teach, so that's how that happened. He taught 2 years, she caught up with him and went on to a private school from which he'd come.

Then I started 1st grade in a little one-room school with 8 grades in it in Del Rio, Texas in the early 1930s. I was too young to start to regular 1st grade and there weren't kindergarden levels at the public school then. I was 4-1/2 and the requirement for public school was 6. But they let me go into 2nd grade in public school. haha.

Being the only 1st grader and so young was very challenging with 7 older grades in the same room, I can assure you! Recess was challenging, too! :-) But Miss Willy Long was pretty good at keeping discipline, both in the building and on the playground!

You've shared such a precious memory and piece of Americana, Laura.


Laura in Denver profile image

Laura in Denver 5 years ago from Aurora Author

Thank you,

I try to remember as much as possible of the wonderful farm.


Treasuresofheaven profile image

Treasuresofheaven 4 years ago from Michigan

Nice hub. It is fascinating to learn about the One-Room School. Enjoyed the video too. Vote UP!


Laura in Denver profile image

Laura in Denver 4 years ago from Aurora Author

Thanks! I was thrilled to get HubNugget on this. Really made my day.


John  Lakewood profile image

John Lakewood 4 years ago from Lakewood, CO

Dave-It-was good to read your article,of simpler times,but during the depression area people were more willing to help each other in times of need.The article almost made you feel as if you were their. I enjoyed it and hope you write another.Thank You.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 4 years ago from South Carolina

I love this hub and the fact that you gave us "first hand" information about what learning at a one room school houses was actually like by including your Dad's story.

The thing that struck me most throughout this hub was how "helpful" and co-operative the members of the community and students in the school were to each other. Those with more looked out for those with less and everyone learned from each other.

Simply beautiful and we have much we can learn from that concept today.

Voted up across the board except for funny, and shared.


Fiddleman profile image

Fiddleman 4 years ago from Zirconia, North Carolina

I loved your story and thanks for sharing. My dad also went to a one room school house and ultimately had only a 4th grade education. He would sometimes show us the site of the old school and tell us stories of his school days which were few. He was born in 1920 on a farm and like many rural children, work on the farm, lack of shoes and clothing deprived him of the education available.


moonlake profile image

moonlake 4 years ago from America

I went to school in a one room schoolhouse in Sandy Valley, Nevada. It was different. It was strange for it to be one room schoolhouse, One day the teacher couldn't keep us in our seats the reason, a jet had crashed and they were landing choppers in our school yard. Everytime one landed or went up we all jumped out of our seats to look.


Nancy Schroeder 11 months ago

In 2013 I published a book titled Tug Hollow: A Wisconsin Community and Its One-Room School. My goal was to preserve the history, both the typical and the special, of this rural community during the era of the one-room school. Now I am trying to let folks like you know about the book.

Tug Hollow School educated the community’s children, including myself, for 95 years (1867-1962). My family was intimately involved with the school for almost the entire period.

The book is 316 pages long and includes more than 100 photos and other illustrations, as well as many anecdotes that I think your Dad would enjoy.

Sample pages can be seen at www.tughollow.com. Copies may be obtained for $19.95 each, including shipping, by using the website or by sending a check to me at the address below.

Nancy R. Schroeder

1580 Stagecoach Circle

Show Low, AZ 85901

928-537-5541

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