Well-behaved kids - spitballs on the ceiling?
ASHS Column 09 08 2005
No, Jerry's new job has not dismissed him from writing this column every other week. We just decided that it would be better to continue the ongoing saga of the McDavid School lest you forget what was written last week. Next week though, you may look forward to his account of how our food venture at the Flomaton Antique Auction made out on Saturday. For now, let us continue with Jacqueline Freisinger's memories of those good ole school days at McDavid.
The third and Fourth grades were located on the front of the building with windows on two sides. One could see the cars passing or, on a rare occasion, the falling of snow. This was so rare that we fell into trouble when - without permission - we ran out and scooped it off the cars and began a snowball fight. Mrs. Alma (Harry) Redman taught this class. She also taught piano in her home in Century. She was the school musician, teaching vocal music and directing the Tonette Band. She became frustrated during many sessions and remarked that we sounded like dying calves." She often pleaded, "Put some spizerinkdom in it!"
Mrs. Redman taught us pronunciation of large words such as San Fran-cis-co, spelling, writing, and our multiplication tables. Words were written ten times when misspelled. If you talked out of turn in class you wrote, "I will not talk in class" at least 25 times and if she became really upset it may be 50 or more and sometimes two entire pages! (Please buy that wide-lined paper!) Even though this was for punishment she also taught us by this method of repeat writing.
The Fifth and Sixth Grade room was located behind the Third and Fourth Grade room. It was about the same size, with windows; however, to reach the water pump one went out the back door and around the building, through another room, or took the short cut under the back wing. Miss Lolette Bratcher from Bluff Springs was the teacher. Remedial reading was offered by passing out copies made on a Hexograph machine. The ink was purple and the print was oftentimes unreadable.
The Seventh and Eighth Grades were taught by the principal, Miss Margaret Robertson ("Miss Maggie") from Bratt. Later, Una Brunson Bratcher of Bluff Springs became principal. Miss Maggie yielded a wicked paddle. It had HOLES drilled in the half-inch board. Everyone feared this paddle and the lady who wielded it. Even then there were those on whom it was used - for leaving school without permission, sassing the teacher or other reasons. This room was as large as the other two rooms adjoining it and included a large cloak and storage room. No low windows for this room - only those that looked out onto the playground area. The open stage was erected under these windows. There were no permanent curtains or dressing rooms.
The schoolrooms could become unbearably warm in late spring, even with high ceilings and the windows wide opened, because one wore knit undershirts until sometime in May and one could not go barefoot to school, or at home, before then. You could go swimming after the first day of June. Fall days were also warm.
Few children lived close to the school. Many were bussed to school. The bus went out onto the dirt roads and picked up pupils who lived beyond the two-mile limit. The bus traveled about an hour on the route twice daily. Seats were constructed along the side and length of the bus and the same along the center aisle which made the riders face each other with legs and knees cramped for space. It was difficult to keep a firm grip holding on the back of the seat while on rough roads. The county furnished the chassis for the bus. The driver furnished the cab and bed. When the rains came, the roads were slick, muddy and nearly impossible to travel. During a prolonged Spring rainy season Cotton Creek would overflow causing flooding at the bridge on Highway 29 necessitating the closing of school. During cotton picking time school would be closed so children could help with gathering the crop. For those who walked, winters could be harsh. When arriving at school pupils would be shivering and their feet nearly frostbitten so they were allowed to warm by the heater. The shoes and socks seemed inadequate.
Those riding the bus in the afternoon had an hour's wait for the bus to arrive from Century High School, so we played softball which we called "Scrub". The game was played so that everyone could have a chance at bat. There were many outfielders and each knew his place and moved up one position in the field working up to batter where you had three times out before losing your position.
We played other childhood games such as Tag, Dodge Ball, Guinea All Squat, Drop the Handkerchief, Red Rover, Mumbledy-Peg, marbles (for keeps, too, but that got you in trouble) and Lemonade. One game that was so popular was Hail Over! A group was located on either side of the school building. The group with the ball would yell, "Hail over" and then toss the ball over the building. All would scramble to get around to the other side before the one who carried the ball could tag too many. When one side gained all of the players they were the winners. There WERE ways to out-maneuver the others.
May Day was a fun time with dancing around the Maypole. Long, colorful crepe paper streamers were attached to the pole and, as the music played, children marched or danced, wrapping the streamers around the pole.
The flag-raising every morning was a serious ritual. It required two people to unfold the national flag and engage the halyard into the grommets, all the while keeping it from touching the ground. One stood at attention and saluted as the other hoisted the flag briskly to the top of the staff. In the afternoon the task of folding it correctly was performed just as carefully using the military fold. Flags were flown at half-mast on occasions to indicate mourning the death of some important U. S. person.
During the Christmas season paper bags of toys and clothing were brought to the school for each child of a needy family. It seemed that there was always enough for every child. Quite frequently there was a community or school activity providing entertainment for all. There were the usual school plays, sometimes a talent contest or maybe a man from Borneo who swallowed fire and a sword or made colorful scarves appear from an empty pitcher or pulled a rabbit out of a hat. One even displayed the skin of a boa constrictor or python - quite large, indeed, for what we had seen as snakes.
Valentine's Day was enjoyed by all. The teacher would prepare and provide the fancy, slotted Valentine box in which to place the valentines. Usually there was a card from each person to the others.
There was little partiality shown in those days. The most enjoyable event, though, was the Box Supper. A girl, or lady, would bring her food in a box - some quite fancy but others were brought in a plain box, usually a shoebox. The men bid on the suppers and the highest bidder was allowed to eat with the owner of the box. Some very plain boxes contained fine food. If a father was aware that his daughter had prepared a box hoping her male friend would buy it, he ran the bids up sine he knew that the young man did not want to lose out. This was one great fund-raiser for the school! When these special events took place, the interior walls, made of folding doors, were pushed back to allow ample space for the crowd. The seats were small for adults so some sat on top of the desks. Because of this type of wall, classes had to keep the noise down during school so they would not disturb others. This was no problem as children were well-behaved and well-disciplined.
The school bell was a large brass hand bell rung by the principal for commencing the school day, announcing recess and dismissal. She usually stood on the back porch so all classes would be able to hear it. The janitor had the responsibility of bringing in the wood or coal for the heaters, sweeping the oiled floors, emptying the trash receptacles and burning the paper. The brooms provided the school were large and heavy, especially for the smaller pupils who wielded them.
Sweeping compound would be sprinkled on the floor to control the dust. Blackboards were kept clean and the erasers dusted. It was a special privilege for a pupil to dust the erasers or wash the blackboards. Spitballs propelled by rubber bands were seen on occasion and those with a pin remained stuck to the high ceiling.
Hey, Jackie, spitballs on the ceiling from those well-behaved and well-disciplined children? At any rate, "Thanks for the memories."