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Attending a small country school in the '20s and '30s was diffe

I'd like to mention a few things today in Bob'n'Along about people who attended school in a much earlier time. A few weeks ago, Robert Anderson, Ph.D., of Maple Lake lent me a small booklet titled "God's Light Shines on me!" and subtitled "A Continuing History of this Four-room Country School."

He was referring to the small wooden schoolhouse in the Quiet Dell area of Harrison County, which he attended. I don't recall exactly which year students at Quiet Dell were moved to Nutter Fort Elementary School, but I know that my oldest son Rob attended kindergarten and first grade there, and my second son Bryan attended kindergarten -- both in the mid- to late-'70s.

While the words of virtually all titles of books begin with capital letters, except for minor words like "in" or "the," Dr. Anderson emphasized to me that he purposely did not capitalize the word "me" in the title of his book, indicating that he did not want to give his reference the same reverent treatment as "God."

He informed me that in his book, he wanted to drive home the need for country schools' spirit to be applied to today's life. Allow me to quote Dr. Anderson from his foreword:

"If you went to a country school, remember those end-of-the-school-year celebrations! Life was simple! How simple when you earned a promotion to a next-higher grade! Just eye a desk next to you, hopefully one next to a favorite classmate, and move across the aisle!

"Earlier school days in rural, as well as city, schools were indeed fulfilling times. Students had special chores at school. Do you remember the eraser cleaning, chalk board duties and others? For me, these chores provided a stakeholder interest in the school. ... Schools are special, and God's light shines on all of them."

It is not possible for me to capture every thought that Dr. Anderson conveyed in his booklet in the space of just one Bob'n'Along column. So I'll cite a few excerpts from the third chapter of his booklet, which he named "Lessons in Conservation: The Turbulent Times."

He wrote: "The Great Depression of the 1930s was nationwide and felt among school families in Quiet Dell. People were suddenly out of work; the widespread drought brought farming to a standstill. One's school and church in Quiet Dell were community centers of sharing among teachers, preachers, pupils and their parents.

"The country at the rural grassroots level returned to the barter system. At the stores, many families were 'on the books.' Credit was extended everywhere. Charlie Longstreth was also a miller. When he ground grain for a customer, he took a portion, mutually agreed upon, as pay. It was called the miller's toll.

"All over, goods and services were exchanged for other goods and services. If the teachers in the '30s at Quiet Dell School were typical, instead of dollars for pay, they received food staples and shelter ... at least part of the time. Parents and grandparents tried to maintain positive outlooks, at least in front of their children.

"Children went to school in Quiet Dell wearing clean clothes, and like in other schools, many sleeves were rolled up as hand-me-downs were grown into. But learning did not diminish at this school. Lessons in life were supported by good family values and an unselfish pull-together attitude between parents and children and their teachers.

"It was a time when less was more ... Every little favor or gift that much more appreciated ... at any of the school functions; at Halloween parties, at Christmas programs and other school events."

He continued, "The country went to war against economic constipation and natural disasters. Many agencies were born to combat the crisis; to put people back to work in public works programs. One of those, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), was formed.

"Over 500,000 men were mobilized nationally by President (Franklin) Roosevelt in 1933 and '34. Included among them was a company formed at Quiet Dell. Some 200 young men were billeted in tents on the school grounds behind the Quiet Dell School. ...

"No doubt, the children at the school looked up to the hard-working civilian troops, who were well-behaved role models around the youngsters. Both sides benefited by the interactions of the encamped CCC at school."

I hope to capture more history of Quiet Dell and the little wooden schoolhouse that served the community for years. But hopefully, I was able to convey at least a glimpse at life for school children of nearly three quarters of a century ago.

Enjoy your Easter holiday weekend!

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