The most response I’ve ever gotten from my Empty Nest column was when I wrote about putting Holly Dog to sleep. The second most response was when I wrote about one-room schools. Heavens to Betsy! — the stories poured forth like water from a school-yard well — clear and fresh. Larry Jones from Putnam County, Mo., wrote of his one-room school experience, “Not all grades were taught each year.” He was in grades in the following sequence: 1,2,3,4,6,5,8, and 7. The experience didn’t hurt Larry any. He wound up getting a college degree and teaching high school at Moulton. From there, he got a doctorate and was a college professor for 30 years. Larry points out that country school kids typically out performed consolidated school kids. “Hearing everything eight times” evidently had good results!
I received an invitation to attend the reunion of the Liberty School, a one-room school previously south of Floris in Davis County. I jumped at the chance. Not only was the reunion a potluck (great eating), but Floris is one of my favorite towns. It reminds me of a pristine mountain village.
Stories abound while eating (the ham balls, fruit pie and orange cake were to die for). Richard Carlson: He was the only one in his class from the first through the eighth grade. He started school when he was four years old. The only reason he started at such a young age was to keep the school open. Later, when he was a senior at the consolidated school, he wasn’t even old enough to drive!
Hot lunch program: On Friday, everyone brought a peeled potato. Frances Blew, the teacher, boiled the potatoes on the school’s coal stove, and then hand mashed them. That was their hot lunch and what a treat it was. Mrs. Blew’s mashed potatoes were like eating ice cream!
Danny Orona: Danny’s old white dog, Mike, followed Danny to school and got in the outhouse — down in the hole, and couldn’t get out! The kids were beside themselves. The teacher found a crowbar in the trunk of her car, and pried the seat off. What a mess! Mike had a grand time chasing the kids as they screeched and ran for dear life.
One of the kids rode an old ugly horse to school. Danny painted “Pineapple Princess” on the horses’ hindquarters. “Pineapple Princess” was the name of a popular song back then by Annette Funicello. The rider of the horse didn’t appreciate Danny’s humor.
Frances Blew, now 83, was present for the reunion. She taught for seven terms at the Liberty School, from 1954-1961. Frances believed that the “seat of education was just below the hip bone.” In actuality, she only raised her hand to one child. And he had it coming!
One of the biggest treats for the school was the arrival of chocolate milk in cartons. It was like “seventh heaven!” Some ornery boys broke into the school in the dead of night to do nothing but drink chocolate milk.
Another great treat for the students was when it became “their turn” to go home with the teacher. The teacher lived in Belknap, which had a skating rink. Nothing quite compared to spending the night at the teacher’s house and roller skating.
Ron Mace: His father contributed an acre of his 80 acres for the Liberty School building.
Many of the one-room schools, as with the Liberty School, have been torn down. (Davis County had 100 one-room schools.) Sometimes referred to as “free-range kids,” the students of these one-room pillars of education, have a wealth of memories. Frances Blew perhaps stated it best, “Schools can be torn down, memories live forever.”
Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at (319) 217-0526 or email him at email@example.com.