School Days

  At age seven my idle days were about over. The one room school at Smith Corner was just over a small hill, but it seemed to me to be quite a journey to get there. My grandfather went with me the first day and it was a terrible experience for me. In fact I missed so many days that my mother took me out of school for the first year and I never did get to first grade until I was eight. At that time, you did not need to start until you were eight. The next year I started to school in first grade and did not miss a day from then on until I got the measles in my senior year in high school.

  Days in school went swiftly because of the things we needed to do. In the winter there was the coal bucket to fill several times a day to heat the stove in the center of the room. Then there were erasers to clean and water to be brought from the spring down at Harry Mills. Then there were the recesses and the lunch hour when we could play ball, or hide and seek. Having eight grades in one room was mass confusion at times, but we all seemed to learn. To make sure that I did not fall behind, my mother taught me a lot at home.

  The teachers were a guide to our future lives because most children looked up to them. One of the exercises that I remember occurred in eighth grade. Mr. Collary was introducing something never tried before. He fastened two aluminum pans together, and then fastened them to a pole and called it a microphone. We had then was a radio broadcasting station. A program was developed for our "station". Some kids had recitations and poems to present. Space was also made on the program so that if someone wanted to sing, they could. I was picked to be the announcer. Another of Mr. Collary's teaching innovations was having the eighth graders grade papers.

  Copying other peoples work was prevalent in those days. We had three boys in grade three who did just that. The papers turned in were exactly the same including the name on the top of the paper. Jess Smith learned to spell his name, but he spelled it JESF so Chalmer Stiffler and Kenneth Weyandt spelled theirs JESF also.

  After the school day was over, the children would dothings together before going home. We sometimes went down to the church. There, Miss Braun had special things for the younger children, like memorizing verses in the Bible. She would give little card pictures to the ones who did. After Miss Braun dismissed us, we usually went over to the Emanuel Smith property, which was the old Jacob Schmitt homestead. Emanuel, everyone called him Man Smith, lived there with his sister Minnie and brother Calvin. They had a small store in a section of the house where they sold things. Our interest was the cookie shelf where you could buy five for a penny. The fact that the cookies were stale did not matter to eight and nine year old children.

  My days in grade school were rewarding. I had mastered the art of reading at home, and also my multification tables. My mother taught me some history and geography in the long winter evenings. I suppose that I wanted to show off, or for some other reason, when one of the second or third grade students could not read a passage or answer a question, I would just naturally raise my hand and answer the question or read the passage. I was promoted several times, so that I completed the eight grades in four years. This would not be allowed now. But it had an effect, when I started ninth grade in Hollidaysburg High I found it very hard, and had to do a lot of studying in order to get passing grades. My mother could not help me at this point.

  At the Smith Corner school there was a lot of fun at recess. Playing baseball against a hill was particularly hard, but fun. The outfielders really had an easy time. One thing about playing ball when you attended a one-room school, was the fact that most of the children, no matter what their ages, participated in the game. When one of us larger kids hit the ball over the road into the brushy woods, we spent the rest of the morning or afternoon looking for it. We did not have an abundance of balls, so we searched until we found the one that was lost. In doing that we got out of some class time. The balls we used were made of rubber and they could tear up after some use.

  As I said before, I had a direct path over the hill to the schoolhouse, but sometimes I would walk with the Nofsker children and some others the long way around. One day Sam Nofsker and I got to fighting over one of the girls (we were in first and second grade), Sam was going to go home and get his gun and shoot me, and then he said he would run around the corner. But I one upped him, I told him I had a gun that would shoot around corners. That provided a good laugh to the older kids, and the word got around. I was told often about my gun that would shoot around corners in later years.

  The schoolhouse that I attended during those early years is no longer standing. There was a large oak tree standing by the corner of the school. The stories that the large oak tree could tell would be varied, and sometimes would bring tears, but it too is gone, due to the ravages of time.

  The school years and the summer vacations passed quickly because doing things such as lying out under a tree or playing with my wagon was pure joy. Those are some things I would like to experience for a day or two now. Daydreaming of foreign lands and conquests sometimes as a knight and sometimes as a cowboy was the stuff that in my early years that made life interesting. My unseen friend, whose name slips my mind, enjoyed my experiences.