My Mom edited the start of her father’s autobiographical notes. I’ve shared this part about his early schooling in 19th Century East Texas in a prior post, and now wanted to include it in sequence.
About this time, the first school in out neighborhood was begun and I was very glad to get the opportunity to go to school. This school for beginners was in an old renter house that a man gave the rent to the school board to get the school. It was a one room residence with a lean-to for a kitchen that was used to store our coats, our shoes, and our lunches.
My first teacher was a widow woman named Amanda Fitzgerald. She had a boy that was by her first husband, and his name was Claude Hampton. Mrs. Fitzgerald was one of the most lovable women of my recollection. I loved her very much and I learner pretty fast, too.
I remember how it was that she found out about someone robbing our lunch baskets, and what she did to alleviate the matter. There were two of us boys watching the lunches at the recess period and the teacher missed us on the playground. She came to see about us and found us watching for the guilty ones. She sent us back to the playground and she watched. She caught the thieves and was about to punish them, when the children explained the cause of it all. The children that had been getting the food were very poor people and had insufficient food. They had nothing to bring for their lunches and therefore were just eating off the rest of us. She arranged with the more fortunate ones of the children to bring something to help out in the furnishing of the lunches for the underfed and we noticed that we didn’t have that trouble any further. It was sometime later that my mother told me why the lunches had stopped being taken.
The beginning of school life was the beginning of an adventurous age. We began to learn something of living and playing with other children and how we had to give and take to get along with people. First of all, we had to learn that somebody else other than our parents had a control over us. Also, we had to learn how to take care of ourselves on the playground with other children – older, bigger, and sometimes very unruly themselves. In those days, the teachers had a code of written rules and they read them every Monday morning. It was refreshed upon our minds what we were not to do.
I was not expected to read till I had learned everything that was in the old blue speller. When I had learned my alphabet forwards and backwards and could read all the stories in the bluebacked speller, then I was allowed to have a first reader. You see, there were no primers at that time (1886). But soon thereafter, the primer came into use and every teacher that came along had his own way of starting the children off, and each teacher had his favorite text books.
One day, I got peeved about something and played sick. I knew my mother was at my aunt’s spending the day so that is where I went. Of course, mother knew me so well, she told me that when I was out of school that way, that that mean boy over there was getting my scholastic money and of course, I couldn’t stand that so I picked up my book and went back. I slipped in without any ado about it and from that time on through the rest of my school days, I never ratted on the job. I never missed a lesson in school when I was able to go.
Mrs. Fitzgerald did not teach us the second year. I loathed a change when I found out that she was not going to get our next school. But that year, we still had the loan of the old house with the lean-to with a front porch for the children to eat dinner on and we had an old man that was very grouchy, and sick, too, for a teacher. He was so very much different from the teacher the year before that there was no one that cared for him. Grouchiness will never win anywhere, and especially with children.
My third year in school, we had a new school house built as the men came together and all donated their time and built it. (In after years, I taught that same school in that same house and the children that came to school to me there were the children of the boys and girls that I went to school with.) We were able to get a real good teacher and one that was able to teach the young men of the country that wanted to go on to school and were not able to go out of the community to go to school. This teacher had the very highest morals, and he stayed there as long as he wanted to stay and could afford to stay on the account of the salary that we could pay when it was compared to what he could get elsewhere.
To be continued…