II. Rural School Memories

When I was six years of age I entered Rock School (Ellington Township), a one room rural school building.  It was located approximately one and a half miles across fields from home.  I wore a new pink gingham dress.  So that I would arrive fresh and clean that first day, my father carried me across a freshly planted wheat field.

My cousin, Cecil Wood, was a first grade student, too.  As we were writing on the front blackboard he started talking to me out loud!  How embarrassed I was!

My first teacher was Miss Emma Kuhn.  The pupils ranged in all ages through the eight grades.

Instead of using a book at first we read from a large chart.  At home I had learned the letters of the alphabet and how to count to a hundred.

The pupils were seated-two in each double desk.  By classes we were called up front to sit on the recitation bench for short recitation periods.  We all profited from this custom, as we listened to a review of the past lessons, or heard a preview of what might be forthcoming.

School hours were from 9 am to 4 pm.  The term was for eight months.

We each had our own lunch box.  There were no hot lunches, indoor toilets, or drinking water fountains.  The room was heated with a large woodburning stove, around which we sat on the coldest mornings.  How cold my feet were some days!

During the fifteen minute recess and noon hour periods we had a lot of fun.  All participated in games such as: tag, statue, blackman, dare base, baseball, red liner, fox and geese, and andy-over.

Our school had a large bell hanging in the belfry and was rung warning of the time of day.  Hearing it at 8:30 am we knew we should be on our way, for we didn't want to be tardy. "

In winter we were permitted to go to nearby hills to coast, or to a creek to skate and in the spring to nearby woods to look for spring flowers.  Then the bell was rung at 12:45 pm.

Once a couple of the boys tripped me causing me to fall and break a collar bone.  It was my right one but I learned to write with my left hand.  My arm was taped to my body for six weeks.  The doctor bill was ten dollars.

Another injury I received was when coasting, lying on my sled on my stomach, and I ran into a barbed wire fence.  I received a cut on my left eye brow which required several stitches to close.  I never learned to ice skate very well.  My ankles would turn and the skates which were clamped on your shoes tore the soles from the shoes.

Mother attended all school activities if possible.  One afternoon when I was in the first grade, she was there.  I proudly recited this little rhyme:  Once I saw a little bird go, hop, hop, hop, and I cried "Little bird, won't you stop, stop, stop?"  As I went to the window to say, "How do you do?" he shook his little tail and away he flew.

At times some of the older boys were hard to control.  They were especially difficult for Miss Ruth Bywater, a beginning teacher.  A couple of the boys were expelled.

When I was in the fourth grade the Cornwell twins, Wilmer and Elmer, from Melrose Township entered Rock School.  This is where and how I met my future husband, Wilmer Cornwell.

            To reduce the number of classes for the teacher a system called alternation-of- subjects was used in the upper grades.  This caused me some difficulty when I entered the seventh grade studying eighth grade grammar.  We were being asked to identify the different parts of sentences, and to diagram sentences when I barely knew the parts of speech.  Mother was able to help me get started, for she had been a teacher for eight years and knew her subjects well.  In fact she had taught the Rock School in 1900, and was married to my father the next year.

            When Miss Nina Farrell was our teacher the Rock School was replaced with a new wooden structure which was given the name of Standard School.  We were proud of the new building with its built-in cloakrooms and a small library room. I read all the books it contained.

            When I entered the seventh grade Miss Huldah Mayer was the teacher.  She was a dedicated teacher and encouraged me to study hard, which enabled me to write and pass both the seventh and eighth grade final examinations that year.  In the eighth grade competition I won fifth place county hours, and a Lindley Scholarship which paid tuition to attend the Western Academy in Macomb, Illinois.  I am indebted to Miss Mayer for making the arrangements that enabled me to see my first movie, "The Birth of a Nation", and the opera, "Carmen".  My parents didn't want me to leave home to go on to school.  Instead we moved to Augusta, Illinois (March 1917) where I could walk a mile up the railroad track or go by means of a horse and buggy to school.

            During my rural school days while living in Ellington, my three sisters and two brothers were born, born in the home. It was only before Byron's birth, when I was 13 that I was told of the approaching event.  How different today!  Dr. Malinda German and son, Aldo, were the attending physicians.

            According to the 1872 Atlas of Adams County the first schoolhouse erected in Ellington Township was Rock School. This was in 1830 and on the farm of John W. Sterne in Section 5. My grandfather, Charles H. Wood, eight years of age, was one of the pupils.

            My father, S. E. Wood, attended Rock School receiving an excellent education, which included such subjects as algebra and bookkeeping.

            You can readily see that Rock School played an important part in the education of many members of the Wood family.