Sunday, April 21, 2013

"About Country School" © by Abraham Lincoln

Miss Beatrice Brown, our old maid schoolteacher, also had rules for playing ball. We were never permitted to use a "hard" ball. It was a big "soft" ball or nothing. And she refused to buy more than one bat and then only after the other one had been broken. By the way, the taxpayers did not have to pay any property taxes for this equipment. The children collected things like scrap metal and old newspapers and milkweed seedpods to sell to scrap dealers—the collected materials were used for the “War Effort.” It was all stored in the other classroom. The school had two rooms but the smaller of the two was our school room and the big room was for storage.

The proceeds from those sales were more than enough to buy the things we played with. I might mention that nobody rode a school bus to or from school—we all walked the 1/2 mile to school and the one-half mile back to town. I always thought it was a mile each way but then I also thought the Little Room at school was larger than the big gymnasium at Arcanum High School. And then one day I stopped and looked in the old school house and that Little Room was not much larger than my office is today—though it did have high ceilings. I wonder why I thought it was so big?

Miss Brown taught, reading, writing and arithmetic. With reading went spelling. Arithmetic was a social disease we all caught and hated. Bill Bechtol (who would become a superintendent of schools in Troy, Ohio and Waco, Texas) was our only source for solutions to problems in arithmetic. He loved arithmetic. I loved writing and spelling and it was reflected in my grades—all A's.

I still like writing and spelling and my wife of 57 years; Pat, thinks I am a living dictionary. Miss Brown also taught some history but you had to be in the 5th grade to get it and there were some geography lessons for those higher grades. But we all sat there at our wooden desks with the hole for the bottle of ink and listened to her teach the kid or kids in the first grade, the second grade and the other grades until she got through with the big kids in the 8th grade. So we heard all the lessons for all the kids in all the grades, not once but all year long. And the little kids in the first few grades got a recess to go outside and play between their classes.

By the time we had "graduated" from our country school and were given the choice to go on to work or to go on to high school so we could go to college, we knew everything already and Miss Brown had taught us. Miss Brown also had the parental right to spank, or whip, kids who did bad things and got caught. For minor things she had a paddle something like a ping pong paddle with a longer handle and with a couple of round holes drilled in it.

She spanked boys and girls alike through their clothes. If you did something really nasty you had to pull your drawers down and suffer the pains of wood on flesh. There were times when she used the leather strop that was once used to sharpen razors on but you had to do something really bad to get whipped with that. It happened once when I was in school there and the boy who got whipped with it also had to pull his pants down. His fault has been looking at girls in their privy. He had also paid one girl a nickel for her to pull her pants down and show her butt so just looking in the girl’s toilet didn't seem as bad to me but then I wasn't Miss Brown and I didn't know much.

Those were the days when the Japanese were killing people all over the world and had just bombed Pearl Harbor. And the Germans were marching into Poland. The world was at war and we had just got involved. Our little schoolhouse would never be the same.

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