All of them have a loneliness about them, a desolation, and a feeling for the people that once passed through their sturdy walls. Whether they’re in decay, or in some form of preservation, or still being used, the one-room schools that once dotted the landscape are a symbol of an age gone by, of education taught the “good old fashioned way,” of a time when life was less complicated, more innocent.
When I heard that Tammy and Kelly Rundle had produced an award-winning documentary, “Country School: One Room — One Nation,” I jumped at the opportunity for a viewing. As with most of the 50+ people in attendance, memories of my own country-school experience came flooding back.
My one-room school experience was atypical. I didn’t walk three miles, barefoot, up hill both ways, nor was I beaten with a hickory stick, or did I eat lard sandwiches. Us “town kids” were bused from Prairie City out to a country school for a year while a new school was being constructed. This was the mid fifties and I was in the first or second grade. Being a “town kid” at the time, I thought riding the school bus was pretty neat. I soon learned different.
I took the accommodations at the one-room school in stride. There were outdoor toilets — one for the girls and one for the boys at opposite corners at the rear of the lot, no running water, and two grades in the single room. A large crock served as our water cooler. I believe it was hand filled from an outdoor well.
Mrs. Legrand was our teacher, and this might have been her first year of teaching. She was young, pretty, and a great teacher. Lord All Mighty, this could never happen nowadays, but Mrs. Legrand took another little boy and me home with her for an over-night stay under the auspices of working on some art project. Truth be known, I think she was wanting to have children of her own, and what better way to convince her husband, than to bring two cute little tykes home?