April 13, 2008
Dear Mr. Jack Hackley,
My mother, Helen Shore, directed my attention to your article in the Focus on Oak Grove you write each week. She said you were requesting memories of schools days in a one room school. She went to a one room school and later taught in Pueblo, Colburn and Sni Mills country schools. She is 95 years old.
I am writing about my attendance at Sni Mills School in grades one through six. They reorganized schools, so I attended seventh and eighth grades as well as four years of high school in Oak Grove, MO.
Judy Romanchuk Noland and I were the only two students in our grade in first grade. We went from first grade through four years of college together. Both of us taught in the Lee's Summit R-7 School District until our retirement. We had neighboring farms, so we literally grew up together. Both of us reside in Lee's Summit, MO at the present time.
Sni Mills School had grades one through eight. There wasn't any kindergarten at that time. We attended school from September through May. We walked to school and carried our lunch in a corn syrup bucket. Later we had paper sacks and eventually some of us had lunch boxes in which to carry our lunches. We pumped water from a well outside the school and each student had their own individual folding cup from which to drink. Many schools used a dipper from which all students drank.
The schools was heated with a woodburning or coal stove. During the warm weather, the windows were raised with no screens to allow a breeze to cool the building. There was oily sawdust on the wooden floor. Our chalkboard was actually a black slate, which became someone's responsibility to clean each day. Our desks were on runners with ink wells. You would lift the desktop to get your supplies. There was a dunce stool that anyone misbehaving might have to sit on for a period of time. Frequently one had to write on the board "I will not....." for whatever offense they may have participated in at the time.
A prank the boys loved to play on the girls was to lock them in the outside toilet and not let them out until they gave the boys a kiss. Judy and I had that to happen, but we refused to kiss the boy. We waited until we were missed in class and someone rescued us. My mother said a similar incident happened to her when she attended the one room country school.
We had older students sometimes listen to us read or recite. We memorized a poem each week. A traveling music teacher came once a month for music classes. We played with rhythm instruments such as sticks, metal triangles, and cymbals.
On Valentine's Day we made our own valentines. I remember Dorothy Marble's valentine she had made. She was very artistic.
At recess we played Annie Over, Pigtails; Red Rover, Red Rover; Crack the Whip; Fox and Goose; Dodge Ball; Hide and Seek; London Bridges; Drop the Hankerchief; Jump Rope and Baseball with a stick and a yarn ball.
Sometimes we would play in the rafters of the coal shed during recess. Since it was a common practice for the boys to tease the girls, we filled a pitcher of water to carry with us to the rafters to dump on the boys that dared to torment us. They received a cool dousing from the pitcher of water. The beginning of school and the end of recess was called by the teacher ringing a hand bell she kept on her desk.
My brother, Richard, reminded me of the clubhouse we had under a tree in the northeast end of the school yard.
We did have playground equipment such as a slide, trapeze bar, rings, swings, etc. Steve Romanchuk liked to torment his sister and some of the other girls. He was four years older than us. A girl, Itis McKinney, who was a member of the Kickapoo Indian tribe was our friend. She had warned Steve to quit putting his arm across the slide restricting us from sliding down to the bottom. He ignored her warning, so she chased him down. He was looking over his shoulder to see if she was gaining on him, thus he failed to see a hole in the school yard which caused him to fall backwards when he stepped in it and Itis jumped on his chest and began attempting to scratch his eyes. After that we didn't worry about him bothering us... we just walked over to Itis and she protected us.
There was a gate in the front school yard that was near the road. It was a turnstile gate that we loved to get on and have someone spin us around. Needless to say, we broke the gate on several occasions and the adults had to repair it. We were warned to stay off and use it properly, but we seemed to ignore that warning.
We had pie and box suppers to raise money for the school. The girls would decorate a box with crepe paper and ribbons to fill with a lunch to have someone bid on for the privilege of eating the meal wth the girl. You always hoped that the right boy would purchase your box, but that didn't always happen.
We also loved to pick wild violets and have funerals for snakes and mice that were buried in a matchbox behind the school.
In the winter we would get on a board and slide down the hill behind the school. Behind the school was also the place where anyone misbehaving had to get their own switch for the teacher to punish them for their misdeeds.
At Christmas time someone would dress up as Santa to deliver presents to the students. One year my father did it, but Steve Romanchuk played Santa on this occasion according to my mother. She happened to be sitting next to the window where Steve, as Santa, entered. As he climbed through the window, he happened to catch his bag of presents on her brand new hosiery ripping them to shreds.
During those days, there frequently were hobos traveling the countryside . They would get in the school for a warm place to sleep at night. One hobo did stay in the school. It wasn't uncommon for them to come by farms and ask to sharpen scissors or knives for a free meal.
The teachers I remember were Miss Barbara Starr, Mrs. Millie McCannon and Mrs.Roberta Webb.
Some of the students that attended Sni Mills were Steve, Judy and Johnny Romanchuk; Richard and Patti Pine; Dean, Jean and Jesse Green; Darren, Doyle, Deva and Dennis Davis; Jeanette, Donald and Itis McKinney; Tommy and Patty Cook; Braddy and Dorothy Marble; Bonnie Majors; Charlie Murchie; Anita Smith; Pat and Mike Braden; Danny Clark; Ruth Ann, Judith and Jimmy Soukup; Dixie and Mary Ann Cline; Mary Frances Adams; Madonna and Laronna Beard; Clara and Karen Scott; Norma Jean Grayum; Lois and Nancy Hackley; John Cline; Carol Ann Van Landingham; Richard and Louise Shore; and Jimmy Crawford.
Since this year is the 50th anniversary of our graduation from high school, I have been writing to fellow classmates in preparation for the big event. Vaun Reader said he attended Hillside School, Bobby Barber and Tom James attended Wide Awake School. I don't know how many of my classmates attended country schools, but I know all the town kids arrived the first day of school when we entered the seventh grade. I know my mother had purchased two new dresses for me to wear. We paid $1.98 per dress. That was a special purchase because some of my dresses were made from feed sacks. I still have the first dress I made from feed sacks.