My first school days were in a small, typical one-room schoolhouse near Readlyn, Iowa. We were taught the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic, and both feared and respected the big boys who could scare the smaller pupils. And I learned to keep my mouth shut while sharing a desk with my sister. Whispering was strictly forbidden.
Miss Jolley continued stories from day to day, reading for fifteen minutes after school recess. How we enjoyed them! But when she read the Grimm's Fairy Tales - the forerunner of science fiction, with all the giant-killer stories, I placed my arms on the desk, holding my ears shut. And through this country school teacher we learned to love songs and enjoy singing. During a fifteen minute morning session we learned folk songs, patriotic songs and beautiful hymns. I could belt out all the verses of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and such oldies as Stephen Foster's "Massas In The Cold Cold Ground."
In our area, two winters were taken out of our rural education for religious confirmation instruction. It was simply done - no questions asked of school boards. During this time I also studied pamphlets given out by the County Superintendent of schools on all study subjects, questions and answers used in previous county tests. We needed to pass these subjects at the close of our eighth grade to enter high school. I made good grades and also know these tidbits of information stayed with me through many years. I even was published in the local paper, The Tripoli Leader.
I believe the country schools were thorough and good in educating in my youth. And I'll always remember a remark made years later at one of my high school class reunions when a schoolmate remembered those county tests. She was a town kid, and didn't have to take, or pass them - only try them. She reminisced, "I'll have to admit, the country kids were smart - when I took those county tests, I didn't know what I was doing!"
Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.