School Days In 1919

 Painting - "Winter Sanctuary" - Terri Waters 

Recollections of a Mountain Man:

     "I started school in 1919, right after the close of World War I. My brother, Charles, (himself a veteran of World War I) was the teacher. In those days (before the Pi Beta Phi's established the local settlement school) almost every small community had their own school. Roaring Fork had an enrolment of 15 or 20 students. Although we had some students from Baskins and the Indian camp area, most of them were neighbor boys and girls from right there on Roaring Fork."

     "In the old days (1919 or so) we sometimes went to a school because of a specific teacher. Teachers, after all, are only human and some just got their message (the lesson) across better than others. Teachers sometimes stayed 5 or 6 years at the same school. This was the exception, however, rather than the rule. It just seemed that the longer a teacher stayed the more likely they were to get chummy with one family. then, as now, people of this area just didn't take to favoritism, even in school."

     "In my day, school consisted of 8 readers (each grade or year you got a new reading book) and a primer. The primer was basically to teach children how to act in school, and what to expect next year. It (the primer) was very similar to today's kindergarten. School usually started in May or June and went through the early part of December. Kids dropped out for a couple of weeks at a time to help with the crops. This usually happened late in November when it came time to harvest the corn crop."

     "Our school building (the Church House on Sunday) had wooden benches the length of the room. Every Friday the benches were lined up and the whole school joined together for a spelling "bee". Spelling was a much more important subject in my day."

     Herb rose from the straight-back chair he'd propped up against the porch and grinned. "I'll be right back. I've got something in the house you aught to see." The "thing I aught to see" turned out to be a 1918 copy of the old "red-backed" speller. The "speller", Progressive Course In Spelling, by J.N. Hunt, was copyrighted in 1904. This particular copy carried a contract price of 18 cents. Herb assured me that you got your moneys worth since you used the same "speller" until the end of your schooling. 

     Browsing through the first few pages, it was soon apparent that the "red-backed speller" was much more than a book to teach "rote" spelling. In addition to the usual English words, spelling exercises, and rules, the red-backed speller contained various foreign words (French, Latin, Spanish, etc.) and diction exercises. 

     Sections were divided into different headings covering, among other things: prefix, suffix, use of the hyphen, synonyms from different languages, terms related to music, and the aforementioned foreign expressions and words.

     There was, Herb assured me, a bit more than most people think to the old 8 reader 3 R's mountain education.

~ Craig McCarter as told by Herb Clabo