By Doris Schroeder
Once again the dusty path now named Sunrise Road takes me along the misty, shrouded trail that once led to Sunrise School, District 160, seventy years ago.
What a thrill it was to don my yearly new school shoes, my new feed sack print dress and hair ribbon purchased from Kress’s best, and skip happily the mile and a half to the one room school of learning on the hill.
If we arrived early, we could either sit on one of the two swings in our little school yard on the hill or teeter-totter or ride on the merry-go-round. The freshly-cut weeds in the yard smelled like freshly- mowed hay and the weather was usually clear and sunny with just a hint of a breeze to stir up our imaginations as we visited with our friends.
At the appropriate time the teacher of the one room school would pull the rope to the bell in the steeple and we would all run gaily to the front door and walk in through the outside hall. On the side was located the one sink and pump that we used for our drinking water or to wash our hands at times.
We each marched to our desk that was assigned to us. The older ones got the ones by the open windows which were bigger. We first graders had smaller desks located close to the door.
What a sight we must have been! Little first graders, as shy as little kittens, followed by all sizes of children. The upper-grade girls would try to help the bashful first graders find their little desks and get settled in. The older boys, of course, would swagger in, their hands in their overall pockets, trying to appear completely fearless to the world. Occasionally, however, a red blush would appear, starting at their ears, belying the fact that even though they were strong, they could be embarrassed.
Soon we all stood straight and tall at our desks. Solemnly, we’d put our right hands on our heart and proudly do the flag salute “We pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all!”
We then sang a familiar hymn, the teacher led in opening prayer and we sat down, ready to begin the day. Through the open windows, we could hear the lovely song of meadow larks as they joyously began their day. The teacher would call the first grade class to the front row for their reading class, and the day would begin. Each class would take their turn in the front by the teacher’s desk. How vividly I remember how he taught the older kids about habits like tying their shoe. He would put his foot on the desk and tie his shoe strings to show them how its done. Consequently even we younger ones learned to tie our shoes at an early age.
At lunch time we ran to the boys or girls hall and retrieved our dinner pails for our noon repast of homemade bread, fried ham, cookies and an apple (or something similar). Some of us had thermos bottles. Usually on Monday, our mothers may have packed a piece of chocolate cake, left over from Sunday faspa.
The solemn faces of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington watched the whole proceedings with not even a hint of a grin. The military generals of today would have loved their military countenance!
We’d take our lunch outside and sit down in a shady place in the grass and dream about our future life as we girls exchanged stories.
Later we’d all play a game like Last Couple Out, or Twenty-three Esgadu. When it was time to come in, we’ll sit at our desks and try to cool down. Since we were tired at that time, the teacher would read a continued story to us like Heide and we would imagine her life on the mountain top. It is then the afternoon classes would begin.
If we needed to visit the rest room, we’d raise our hand. One finger meant we wanted to sharpen our pencil at the sharpener by the window. Two fingers meant we needed to go outside to the outhouse but we had to wait for permission.
We knew it must be 4 o’clock when we could hear some of the parents arrive in their old cars from the 30s to pick up their kids. I knew I had to walk home but it was fun to walk down the hill to Snow Creek and stop with some of my class mates.
We’d tell stories about the days that would come as we ate the leftovers from our dinner bucket.
Attending a country school in the thirties and forties was to me, the epitome of living!
Doris welcomes your comments and can be reached at dorisschroeder @att.net