In the fall of 1934, while the nation was yet struggling through the big depression, I began my first teaching job at a one-room schoolhouse, making $35 per month.
Being fresh out of high school, with an extra year of teacher's training (which was then a high school subject), the money was good pay and looked good to me at the time.
I still have in my possession the six-inch brass bell which was used each morning at 9 a.m., for the 30-minute morning and afternoon recesses, and at the noon hour. At the sound of the bell the children would gather at the steps of the building. The flag would be raised on the flag pole and the allegiance repeated. They would line up in an orderly fashion and march into the building.
Upon entering the building the children would hang their coats and caps on hooks or nails on the back wall with a shelf above for their lunch pails.
The opening exercises consisted of a Bible reading, recommended by the State Course of Study, followed most times by the Lord's Prayer. To the delight of the children, I would then read 15 or 20 minutes from a book such as Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, etc.
By then we were ready to work. All eight grades were represented in the group.
One class at a time would come forward to sit on the long wooden bench in front of the room near the much-used blackboard. While these lessons were given the rest of the pupils would study their assignments for when it came their turn.
At noon someone would work the pump while the rest would take turns washing their hands for lunch.
The teacher usually boarded with a family in the district, maybe for four or five dollars a week. And for sure, she was expected to stay at least one night each school year with each family.
In February of 1937, a tornado completely demolished the little schoolhouse and all of its furnishings and the school year was finished in the basement of the country church nearby. The school was never rebuilt and the pupils were transported to town. It wasn't long afterwards that all country schools were consolidated with town school.
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.