Father Taught In One-Room Schoolhouses

Remembers stories of her father’s school bell.

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My father was a schoolteacher during the first quarter of this century. He taught in one-room rural schoolhouses.

Papa had an old bell, an ordinary one of medium size. It was made of good metal and had a sturdy clapper. Papa rang his bell each day of the school term during the twelve years he taught.

In the morning when it was "book time," Papa gave the bell a few quick shakes. Its ting-a-ling officially began the school day. The children already at school put away marbles, homemade bats and string balls, and then ran to the well for a drink. Children not yet at school, but who might be coming down the road, ran hurriedly to the schoolhouse when they heard the familiar ring. No one wanted to be late.

For two hours the children worked busily at their reading and spelling lessons. Then the bell ting-a-linged again. It was time for morning recess.

Recess seemed so short to the children. Just when the score of the town-ball game was getting close, the bell rang. Reluctantly the girls left their playhouses under the trees, their games of "Needle's Eye" and "Sugar Loaf Town." The schoolbell had rung. It was time for arithmetic classes to begin.

Though they really didn't mean it, some of the children said they wished Papa would lose his bell. Playfully, they said it loud enough for him to hear. He turned away and smiled.

Occasionally, some big boy would get bold enough to hide the bell, but there was always some little girl who knew the hiding place. She ran and got the bell and it rang again.

Strange, isn't it, how a simple object like a schoolbell seems, at times, to be a living thing. Papa's bell was this way.

During the twelve years that Papa taught, his bell called to many a child. It welcomed the timid beginner on the first day of school and said good-bye to those who finished grade eight at the end of the school year.

Papa's bell hasn't rung for a long time. It sits on a shelf, but it is not forgotten. I'm sure some of the children who were in my father's care can still hear the bell's merry ting-a-ling whenever they recall their happy school days.

O.J. Robertson
Russell Springs, Kentucky

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.