The changes over the last one hundred years amaze me. Then this letter shows up and twists my understanding even further up the amazement scale. A general observation that things change is pretty banal. Once I hear about a specific change in detail, in a way that I can relate to, it gets personal. In this letter Grace tells us about the one room school-house on the prairie. They were all over North Dakota in the nineteen thirties. Did I say one room?
Then there was the school-house Grace went to. Two rooms. Maybe you can detect a little pride in her description of the school building and grounds. That school yard had everything a school girl would want, including the flowers that Grace described in another letter.
She didn’t describe the interior of the classroom. That’s something I’d love to hear more about. Last summer during the local Irish Fest at the History Center Judy and I attended a talk about bodhráns. The talk was in the one room school-house on the center grounds. Wooden desks nailed to the floor. A world/USA map hanging from the wall. A chalk board on the front wall, next to the American flag. A pot-bellied stove and a table in the front for the teacher and you’ve got it covered.
Compare that to school rooms today, with smart boards and iPads everywhere. The kids have a cafeteria, gymnasium, library and much more. And we still think it’s not enough!
Our schoolhouse was probably one of the biggest in N. Dak. The pioneers from two townships had gone together and built one with two rooms instead of the conventional one room you see all over the midwest.
The two rooms were really quite large and well furnished with “modern” teaching supplies. It had a full basement, two outdoor toilets, a barn large enough for about eight horses and a pump house. There was a small house called a teacherage for the teachers to live in. It had two bedrooms, small kitchen + living room combined and a wood shed and entryway.
There was a shelterbelt of small trees + shrubs along the north + west perimeter of the yard which helped keep the snow away from the buildings. The whole area was fenced – probably to keep animals out rather than kids in. I don’t remember the gate ever being shut in the eight years I went there.
There was one playground toy. It was a tall pole, kind of like a maypole. It had a wheel at the top with chains hanging down with handles at the ends so kids could hold on to them and swing around. We would each hold on to a chain and run around the pole til there was enough momentum to swing out. It really was fun and a lot of kids could swing at the same time.