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Seniors share memories with students going back to school Print
Letters to the editor
Thursday, Aug. 20, 2009 -- 12:00 AM

To the editor:

I am the activities director at St. Elizabeth Manor in Footville. For one of our activities, residents told me about their memories and experiences of school. I wrote it down in the form of a letter to the students going back to school this fall.

Keri Mertens, Activities Department
St. Elizabeth Manor, Footville

Dear students:

As you head back to school this fall, we thought we’d share with you some memories from our school days.

• We traveled up to four miles to get to school. Most of the time, we walked, although some of us got to ride a horse. When the weather was really bad, we got rides on a sled or stayed home. In the winter the snow was so high it was over the fence tops. The path we took to school wasn’t plowed, so we had to wade through the snow. Just when we got a nice path cleared it would inevitably snow again.

• We carried our lunch to school in a syrup pail or a paper bag. Lunch usually consisted of canned beef or a sandwich of egg, peanut butter and jelly, or meat, apples, cookies, and sometimes a piece of pie. Some schools had small kerosene stoves to warm up our lunch.

• The school itself was one room with one teacher for all grades. The desks had a hole for an ink bottle and a groove along the top for pencils and pens. There was a water jar in the back of the room in case we got thirsty. One of the boys in the class would arrive early to start the fire in the wood stove which provided heat for the school.

• In school we learned about farming, spelling, reading, arithmetic, history, and geography. Some of us got to learn other languages like Latin or Spanish. Others who spoke Norwegian or Irish at home were scolded for speaking anything but English in school.

• School started in September and ended in May. Some kids stayed home at harvest or planting time to help around the farm. There was no kindergarten; we started school at age six. A certain average grade was required to move up to the next grade. If you didn’t get it, you were in the same grade level again next year. Once kids got to age 16, they either went on to high school or dropped out. We went to school through eighth grade, though some kids stopped attending before that. Some went on to high school and even college but not everyone could afford it. Many of us were needed to help out at home and on the farm.

We know that there are many differences between our school experience and yours. We hope you have a good and productive school year.

Sincerely,

Residents at St. Elizabeth Manor in Footville

 
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