A Personal Historical Perspective: The One Room School
The year was 1951 and I was going to school for the first time—Grade 1 because there was no Kindergarten in those days. My mother did not take me to the bus stop which was a quarter mile from our house however, a neighbor Sammy came and offered to walk with me to the bus stop with my lunch box and thermos filled with skimmed milked fresh from the cow (I didn’t know about pasteurization).
I have always referred to Rose Point School as a one room school but that is incorrect. It was really a two room school with grades 1-4 on the first floor and grades 5-8 on the second floor. In my classroom all of the first grade students (7 to be exact) sat in a row on the right side of the classroom with grades 2-4 in rows to the left of first grade. The room had a chalkboard in the front with pictures of Presidents Washington and Lincoln, a teacher’s desk, piano and the board of education hanging from the top of the chalkboard and a stool with a Dunce Cap. Near the back of the classroom was a “pot belly stove” sitting on top of a metal sheet that was for protection against fire because the floor was wooden. Come to think of it, the second floor was also a wooden floor—I don’t think the fire marshal today would approve because of safety concerns.
The day started with a reading from the Bible (Protestant version of course) the Lord’s Prayer (again Protestant version) Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag and a patriotic song.
One of the first lessons that I remember was learning to print my name. Reading class was the all-time favorite Basal Reader “Dick and Jane” –Run Dick Run, See Dick Run, See Jane Run, See Spot Run. Learning to read was all about sight words, even to this day reading phonetically is a challenge for me.
What about personal hygiene needs? There was a well in front of the school with a hand pump? One thing my mother always told me was to rinse the tin cup thoroughly before drinking. Yes, everyone shared the same cup. An important job, assigned by the teacher, was a student selected to pump the handle while others filled the cup. Restroom time meant a walk down the hill to the Outhouses—one for the girls and one for the boys. As spring arrived with the accompanying warm weather there was no question where the facilities were located. At Halloween a yearly ritual was celebrated by some of the local boys from Rose Pont. It was a tradition that the Outhouses were over turned on this important holiday, not a pretty sight nor smell.
There were three breaks from academics during the school day: morning recess, lunch time and afternoon recess. This was a time when all of students were allowed to go outside unsupervised. I didn’t realize it at the time but this must have been the teacher’s preparation period. The activities we engaged in varied with the seasons. In the fall the primary activity was softball. We organized our own teams and who was going to pitch, play first base, catcher, etc. Larry (name has been changed to protect the innocent) was always the pitcher simply because he was bigger and stronger than anyone else and if anyone challenged his authority they were persuaded not to do it again. Today we would probably call this bullying.
In the winter season snow forts were constructed and snow ball battles raged. I do remember the teacher explaining and demonstrating that no ice balls were to be made. If this rule was violated we were reminded about the board of education that was hanging in the classroom. In the winter we were permitted to bring our sleds to school on the school bus. There was a steep hill behind the school where I wore out my sled on the trail and on the ramps that were constructed.
After spending time making snow forts and sled riding the teacher would step outside and ring a hand bell that signaled we were to return to the classroom. Removing all the layers of clothing with help from the teacher was a major accomplishment, especially when the clothes were snow covered and wet. You have never experienced anything until you smell wet gloves drying as they hang from a pot belly stove.
In Rose Point there was McClymond’s store. If your parent sent a note then you would be permitted to walk to the store with your classmates at lunch time. In the spring time one of the popular items to purchase was a kite. Kites were flown during recess and when recess ended we would open the school windows tie the string to our desk and fly the kite as we worked on our assignments. Spring was also a big time for playing marbles.
Compared to today’s schools it is amazing that my classmates and I were successful given the lack of support that my teacher had. There was no Principal, Nurse, Guidance Counselor, Speech Therapist, Teacher Aide, Special Education Teacher, School Psychologist, Music Teacher, Physical Education Teacher, Art Teacher, Librarian, Lunch room monitor, Playground supervisor, Secretary or school phone.
As I reflect on my four years of attending Rose Point School I believe it was the most memorable and rewarding experience of my educational experience. Being in the same room with four grade levels gave everyone the opportunity to hear what was being taught at the different levels. The teacher also had third and fourth graders help first and second graders learn to read. The older students looked out for the younger students. We had to solve our social problems which taught us problem solving skills that later in life helped in decision making skills. We grew up with the help of our friends and developed close relationships and became a community of learners.
Dr. Herbert W. Hunt. Former Teacher, Elementary Principal, College Professor, Executive Secretary: Tri-County Athletic League and MAC Conference, Assistant Dean and 2016 Distinguished Alumni Slippery Rock University