My first year of training was as a teacher shortly after
the Spanish War when the Phillipines, Seattle and Oregon
were sending east for teachers. Those far away places
appealed to me, especially Oregon as my great, great
grandfather was a supercargo on the Columbia and was with
Capt. Gray at the discovery of the river. A few years ago
I donated his log book to their historical society and it
is now one of their most treasured posessions. I knew my
parents would always oppose my going such a distance.
In March of 1902, during my senior year, a Superintendent
wrote he would like to interview a teacher for a central
Massachusetts town for the coming year, and I was chosen.
At that time a Superintendent would go to Hammet's Store
in Boston, purchase his supplies and gain a teacher at
the same time.
Later I received word that there were two boarding places
available, one with a newly married couple who already
had a young teacher boarder or with an elderly lady who
wanted a companion. Needless to say I chose the former.
I was to have the first three primary grades in the new
Center School, my salary to be $11.00 per week, board
$2.50 which included laundry. I read later in an ancient
committee book of teachers paid $2.50 per week and board
The Saturday before Labor Day I made my departure
carrying my suitcase with the proverbial umbrella
attached. I was to have the company of a friend who was
to teach farther on. I started in gay spirits but they
vanished when I neared my destination. As we came to the
city from which I was to take the electric to my town,
she said, "cheer up! See the welcome you are
receiving". Flags were flying and a streamer at the
depot "Welcome to our City" for President
Theodore Roosevelt was to visit there on Labor Day.
At the end of the car line I continued on the route
directed me and only a few cows ambled to a stone wall
and gave me a moo-ing welcome.
At my boarding place I was shown to my room and I knew
them to be kindly people for the room had been newly
chinzed and flowers on my bureau.
At that supper table of strangers a terrible homesickness
came over me and the tears plopped down on my plate which
I excused as a bad cold.
That night I sat at the window and if I had known the
road leading home I would have started walking.
As the sun rose that beautiful Sunday morning, I tried to
compose myself. I thought of my grandmother, who with her
baby sailed on a clipper ship for California to join her
husband in the gold rush days and of her having two more
babies in a mountain cabin with only an old Indian woman
who sat and said, "Ugh! Ugh!".
I was only a hundred miles from home and my mileage book
could take me there any weekend.
I went to breakfast making myself most agreeable to atone
for the previous night. I was asked to help pick flowers
for the funeral of a young girl. Later her brother would
become my husband.
It was a dairy farming town of less than a thousand
population. The center had the country store which also
held the post office, the white spired church and the
Town Hall, where the Grange held weekly meetings. Also,
some beautiful homes with white pillared fronts whose
owners bore the names of old Boston merchants whose ships
had sailed the seven seas.
The Center school was a new modern building, the grammar
room next to mine, and the High School on the second
floor. There were toilets in the basement and a pump in
the yard. Also janitor service which I didn't appreciate
until I heard from the teachers in the district schools
of coming to a cold room, either the boy who tended the
stove was late, or failed to appear.
On opening day the children came with shining, smiling
faces, swinging their tin lunch pails and walking so
proudly in their new school clothes.
I wanted my school to be a pleasant place where they
would enjoy learning and I could give them love and
understanding. In primary grades are taught the basic
elements for future studies and the essentials used all
I was obliged to work hard to keep them up to grades for
school closed the month of March when the roads were
heavily mired and closed after the first week in June
that the boys could help on the farms.
Although they would work hard too, they had relaxation
between classes when they went around the room to a Sousa
March played on a little organ, or sing or recite a poem
which I would often ask a child to repeat for I might
receive a surprise line such as "The blacksmith's
brow was wet with all his sweat". I also made a faux
pas when returning from school I saw a large bird on the
table and exclaimed, "I see you have shot a
I had no trouble with discipline, except with beginners.
I told them to attend to their needs in the basement at
recess. Later when the Superintendent visited us I had
printed the word play on the blackboard and a little boy
hesitated, I said "What do you do at recess?"
He told me in no uncertain terms and the superintendent
only added to my embarrassment by saying,"that boy
has a good head".
Another day I saw a first grader back of the school and I
rushed out just in time. He said "Don't spank! I am
drowning a worm". One little girl clung to her old
New England accent and for weeks cow was caow.
I was determined to have good writers. People who never
see us at least see our signatures. I gave them fine
lined paper resembling a music staff and each letter was
to come to the proper line. I was at my desk only to take
the roll which was always forty or more, but would walk
in the aisles, prodding some and helping others.
One beautiful fall day we went for a nature walk. I had
studied the wild flowers but the children were proud to
teach me that day. They even showed me where a horse had
a Christian burial for turning the press that printed
bibles which were carted to Boston and sold.
When we returned I asked them to write what they had
found on their walk and a boy wrote, "I like my
teacher but I found she did not know much, not even a
silo". I had the horse story verified while at
supper at a pupil's home and Grandpa piped up "I
also heard there was rum under them Bibles." I had
many such suppers, those mothers were wonderful cooks and
I marvel at all they accomplished without conveniences.
I knew of a mother who when the men were extra busy would
take a young child and deliver milk in the city.
I was always asked to bring my music and at one house
there were rows of chairs, for the nearest neighbors had
been invited. I must have given my first and only musical
that night. In later years I realized how music soothes
after a hard days work.
The parsonage had a visitor, Miss Fannie Crosby, who had
written many noted hymns. She was old and blind and asked
me to bring the children over the lawn that she might
talk to them. I knew they had never seen a blind person
before by their serious faces and that they were testing
it when I herded them back for a child fell and received
a cut. I had a desk drawer with bandages and aids for
minor bruises, also sewing kit to tend tears and replace
buttons. No wonder they sometimes unconsciously called me
mother. I never received a better compliment. Country
teachers taught singing, drawing and were nurses and all
for the price of one.
On rainy days I was driven to school in an open wagon
which resulted in a case of rheumatism and I was obliged
to return home. I never had another attack until I became
old and it was called arthritis.
I knew when I returned I must live near the school so I
boarded with the elderly lady who was a former New York
City teacher. She had a beautiful home with furnace heat
and the only bathroom in town. She coddled me with a hot
water bag at night, a warm soapstone at my feet at
breakfast and often a flower at my plate from her little
conservatory. We used the library, but a New York parlor
in all its splendor was opened for callers.
I always visited my children when ill and she would make
some little delicacy for them. She often asked me to
invite a friend for the weekend, and my cousin came from
In going to church I carried a lantern and she said,
"How do you stand it here without electric
She did not prolong her visit to enjoy church suppers,
the Grange plays, the corn roasts and sleigh ride parties
to a neighboring town where hot oyster stew would await
us at the Inn.
Dancing and cards were frowned upon, but when a school
committee member invited me for whist, I saw no reason to
refuse. When he not only lowered the shades, but added
newspapers over them, I had the feeling I was committing
The oldsters were against new inventions. I was waiting
for a car when an old gentleman noticing my Chatelaine
watch said, " I wouldn't wear that on the cars for
the electricity will stop it". Soon the first
automobile went through town which caused a panic
especially with the horses.
The winters were cold, sometimes thirty degrees below
zero, and as there was no siren there was always school
and children came with frozen ears. Two High School boys
were sent to take me to school after a bad snow storm.
The drifts were so high the sleigh tipped over, but we
I had a boy who had outgrown his grandmother's ablutions
so I bought the necessary articles and gave his face a
good scrubbing and under those layers of dirt was the
most beautiful skin. When clay packs were the vogue, I
thoroughly believed in them.
We had our first robbery, two cents from a girl's purse.
I kept the class after school until it was found. Soon
some of the girls were crying which melted little Rosie's
heart and she said, "I think I can find it." On
returning, said "I just dug a hole and there it
was." I dismissed the class and Rosie and I had a
Although black was the morbid color at that time, I
always wore colored waists in the schoolroom and the
girls would often ask me to wear the yellow one that at
recess they could tell their fortunes by "Rich
man-Poor man" with the many little buttons down the
We celebrated the holidays with a tree and carols at
Christmas, made valentines and May baskets and rain and
shine teachers and pupils rode decorated carts in the
Memorial Day parade.
I always remained after school to correct papers, write
work on the black board and make plans for the following
day. A teacher's social life was a whirl of activities
for she was asked to help in many ways. I remember I was
to give an article on Abraham Lincoln at a Grange
Meeting, the Civil War became involved and two G.A.R. men
fought Gettysburg all over again.
The church gave a play in the hall that was an
extravaganza for that small town. I had the part of Queen
Elizabeth in a gorgeous gown, ruff and crown. When I saw
my children in the front rows I knew I had to be good.
The Grange gave the children a May party and a May pole
had been erected with colored streamers which took some
practice before they could skip around it without a
mistake. Ice cream was served and a promenade started and
no debutante had more strings to her bow than I had with
my little boys that night.
After three years of teaching I was married and lived in
a historic Boston suburb but not before I had given the
children a party in the schoolroom. A boy brought his
magic lantern that made quite a hit and the children gave
me sterling spoons, the schools initials on back.
We returned one old home day when the boys were welcomed
from the First World War. There was dancing that night
and one of my boys in Navy uniform asked me to dance and
my young son couldn't understand how I could refuse to
dance with a sailor but my dancing days were over.
About two years ago we decided it would be easier for us
to rent a small apartment. We were fortunate to find one
back in that town with a former pupil. She and her sister
gave us love and kindness and no daughters could have
been more solicitous for our comfort.
Some of my pupils came to see me, some from other towns.
When I saw them last they were tow headed youngsters and
now some were gray haired grandparents and brought their
grandchildren. It was heartwarming and rewarding to learn
my love had been returned and the good start had helped
them in later years. It pleased me most that they
remembered the little things I had done for them and I
had forgotten. Our pastor in 1902 had returned and
although ninety four years old, walked a mile each way to
"A year runs full swiftly and the beginning rarely
matches the end." Two days before the year closed my
husband had a stroke and is now in a nursing home near
Boston and I am living with a daughter that I may visit
him often. "Still sits the schoolhouse by the
road" and the town can't decide its future. It has
given me many happy memories that I relive now I am old.