Happy Memories Outweigh Bad at Rural Schoolhouse

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By Capper's Staff | Mar 26, 2013

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    I graduated from high school in 1939, at the age of 17, and began teaching a rural school that fall. We started out with a 3rd grade Elementary certificate and had to renew it every 3 years, usually by attending summer school sessions at a nearby college.

    My pupils numbered anywhere from three second graders one year to 16 pupils in kindergarten through eighth grade.

    My most unusual experience was the year two pupils, a 3rd grade girl and an 8th grade boy from Nuremburg, Germany, attended my school along with 14 others from the district. They were among the displaced people arriving from Europe after World War II. Their parents worked for a local farmer to reimburse him for sponsoring their trip to Nebraska. These two pupils couldn’t speak English and I didn’t know a word of German. Fortunately they were very intelligent and soon adapted to our ways. In order to teach them English, I used the Dick and Jane primers, teaching them one word at a time and pointing to objects in the room, giving it the English name. I was very proud that the 8th grade boy was able by the next spring to pass his 8th grade exams, and enroll in the local high school.

    One of my memories during the Nebraska blizzard of 1947, there was so much snow, it was almost an impossibility to get to school I drove an unheated Model A Ford. When I got to school, the snow was banked up so high in front of the door, I couldn’t get in. After several minutes of shoveling, I finally got in the door. Snow banks were as high as the schoolhouse, so the pupils had much fun at recesses, sledding and climbing up and down the hills.

    One of my schools didn’t have a well, so it was up to the teacher to provide the water. I boarded with my grandmother, and carried a 3-gallon aluminum pail of water to school every morning. Instead of going around the road, I took a shortcut by crossing through fields and crawling under several fences with my pail In very frigid weather there were times the water began freezing in the pail At the end of the year I was rewarded for my services with an extra $5 in my paycheck. I also furnished an alarm clock, since the school didn’t have one.

    As I look back over the years, the happy memories outweigh the few bad ones, and many of my pupils still keep in touch.

    Virginia Oates
    Exeter, Nebraska

    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.

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