On the Farm: First Grade in A One-Room Schoolhouse

My school looked almost identical to this one, except there was only one door.

Life on the farm was far different than life in the city. I don’t remember too much about my life in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The main thing I remember is that I went to kindergarten there, and there were paved streets and sidewalks. I don’t recall moving to the farm near Montevideo, but I remember first grade. The little schoolhouse was white and there were two outhouses in the back on each side, one for the girls and one for the boys.

The inside of the schoolhouse was all open—one big room. And it had a large wood burning stove or furnace near the front. That’s funny, I don’t remember ever having to get wood for the furnace. I guess the teacher did that before all the kids arrived in the morning, and maybe she added wood during recess and lunch breaks. Who knows? But I know she never called on me to help. Maybe because I was only a kid—in the first grade.

I vividly remember what the inside of the school looked like. There were about four or five rows of student desks. I’m not sure how many grades of kids there were, just that there were three in my grade: Rollie, Cheryl, and me. Cheryl sat in the middle of our row and Rollie and me were in the front and back. I know that because I remember how me and Rollie would always be poking Cheryl and pulling her hair. I would pull her hair from the back, and then when she turned around to hit me, Rollie would get her from the front. But it was all in fun!

You know, I don’t remember ever getting in trouble, at least not in the first grade. I really liked the teacher. I think everyone did. I wish I cold remember her name. I do have a very old picture of her. She looks to be about 25.

I learned a lot in the first grade: how to read, write and do arithmetic. And then after the first grade I have no memories of school until 7th or 8th grade. It’s all a blank. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was because as a family we moved a lot. From age 6 to age 13, I would say we moved about six times to different houses and schools. So, I had so many different teachers and class mates. I really can’t tell you what happened to me, but my guess is that all the mental confusion of moving, along with family troubles, caused me to just shut down.

I do have one school memory—a very unpleasant one. I can’t tell you what school or grade it was, but I was sitting, looking out the window, and the teacher came over and grabbed me by my ear and almost pulled it off.  She didn’t like that I was day dreaming instead of paying attention to her teaching. So, I have a feeling that that was what my school life was like all the time: sitting in class, but wishing I was somewhere else, anywhere but school.

Oh, one more thing I remember about first grade. Walking there. I don’t remember ever getting a ride to school. The three of us kids always had to walk. My sister Diane was two years older than me, and my brother Mark was one year younger. Anyway, it was a long way to walk for us kids, more than a mile I’m sure. It was a gravel road all the way, and rarely would we see cars on the road. So we usually just walked down the middle of the road. I don’t know why I did it, but I can remember picking up rocks from the road and throwing them toward, and even at, my sister. I guess at that age I didn’t have much of a sense that little rocks could actually hurt someone. I know I wasn’t especially close to my sister, but still, throwing rocks at her was a terrible thing to do, and I regret it.