Kindred’s Special: Pen Scratches of Old

Nothing new in the world is as memorable as those days passed in the one room schoolhouse.  Because we did not know any different so school was a way to spend the time with classmates our age.

Today, we think in terms of class size, a host of teachers dealing with specialties.  In my day, one teacher–several subjects, a few books of learning the three emphasized R-s, mandatory for eventual promotion to higher learning.  Female teachers, better known as spinsters because they could not be married, were loved or hated in the minds of young children that through the years of instruction somehow enabled children of both adolescents and teens to fit in the stationary rows of desks that were facing the front where sat “the boss”.  Yes, it was a far cry from yesterday to today’s educational experimentations.

A common form of discipline was the 18-inch ruler or the switch cut from a tree branch.  I cannot say anyone deserved either threat because we were all angels. Heh. Heh. That was pretty true. Let father know his son or daughter was naughty and the experience was the real punishment that followed.

That is to say that we did not shine in pranks.  One I remember vividly happening to a girl everyone thought was stuck on herself so-to-speak.  A teacher’s pet?  I can’t say for sure.  All I know is that a teen sitting behind her decided, or maybe just could not resist her long pigtails that drooped down close to his desk and he dipped one into his ink well. Not sure anyone caught it.  She sat erect, unmoving at first, taking the tail that dripped ink onto her front, then picking up her slate, jumped up, spun around and slammed it over his head and ran screaming from the room.  That had to be the most shocking prank ever we experienced.  Anyway, the teacher got the class under control, sent a girl she knew was a friend to bring her back.  Then, she discharged the class early that made us most happy.  The room was left silent.  Peeking  in the window, I then called over a couple of buddies to share the adventure. Yeah, He was gonna get it for sure! Both teens were instructed to take their seats which were at the back of the classroom being they were tallest.  The front seats were for the smaller kids.  Oh, I remember how we watched expectantly to see the switch come out but Miss T… just sat looking for some minutes at her papers she was grading from  a test that day.  Finally finished, she rose and went to sit in the seats next to them, eyeing in the sternest manner imaginable and dreaded by every student when that look appeared.

Miss T…. pointed out that their behavior was not helping her teach what was taught in class on manners. “Remember that class two weeks ago?  You both deserve punishment and neither of you will like it one bit.” We could see both staring at each other and squirming in their seats.  “First, apologize to each other.”  That done, we looked at each other and I thought, God, is that all?  Hardly had that thought crossed my mind and she sternly said, “You will carry her books to school and home again each day for two weeks.”  “No, no–please Miss T…. I got the cows to fetch and feed. Pa will be furious.” Pigtails chimed in with, “That will be humiliating!  I’d rather get whipped.”

“That is my decision and both of you had better live with it because if you don’t there will be no grade advancement for either and that will not sit well with either of your parents.  Take your books and  go home now.”

“Gosh, I never saw her so stern; it bordered on angry,” both shaking their heads.

“Yeah, that was something to think about guys.”

Guess in my old-age and I look back, there was a sort of tranquility even in those rare happenings.  Even though, at the time, the experiences we all shared in one way or another, left a mark of maturity and character growth because folks looked at life in a kinder and more thankful and peaceful time.  Sure, we didn’t have school buses, sport teams, extra curriculum activities of every kind to keep kids happy.  We were  happy because we experienced life as we knew it.  We had chores; we had those things that ingrained into our character a sense of responsibility, family, church, and living it all to the full.  We knew life could be better and that gave us spirit to move forward.  It is that today if we keep an eye on the ball.


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