School Children Played Hard

Physical education came in the form of a walk to school and gymnastics in the barn.

Content Tools

Living one and a half miles from our one-room school, I was usually driven there by a family member, except in the spring when the weather was more pleasant. Then, after school several of us would walk back home together, as far as our mutual paths went. Because of the dangers of a highway that I had to follow for half the route, I was only occasionally allowed to ride my bike.

The children I really envied were those who had horses to ride to school. A barn was in the corner of the school grounds. At noon we'd all go and help the owner feed and water the animal, and of course add a bit of petting and patting to reassure our visitor.

The barn, when unoccupied, was also a source of daring fun almost as breathless as the challenge of clambering up the door and jumping off the smaller coal shed roof (into a sand pile, left from the more conventional jumping events of the annual county track meet). The wooden fencing dividing the barn's interior into two stalls served as a test of "how big are you?"

One by one we'd climb to the top post, stand erect for a moment, precariously in balance like a circus performer, and then leap off while reaching for the overhead rafters. If we could grab them and pull ourselves up onto the rafter floor of the hayloft, we had a high haven secure from the pesky little kids who couldn't possibly imitate our feat.

In those simpler days before liability insurance and organized school sports, we didn't miss expensive gymnastic equipment or karate lessons to build sturdy limbs and confident physical prowess. We just did physical exercise the natural way.

Carol Darnell
Columbia, Missouri


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.