Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
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Source: October 1938 Volume 1 Number 5, Page 28

School forty years ago

Phoebe C. Phillips

Page 28

School, forty years ago, was very different from what it is nowadays. The particular school I am going to describe was for little children, and though good sized for its day, would be considered very small now. There were about twenty-five scholars, and one teacher for all of them. The school was taught in one medium sized room, at one side of which was a stove. Around this sat the smallest tots on little chairs, for they were not considered old enough to have desks. Then, there were two rows of desks for the other scholars. These desks were secondhand, evidently bought from some boys' school, for they wore many a battle scar. They had stationary tops that did not raise, and desk, seat and all were in one piece. Besides these there were three desks of honor which had hinged lids. At these, on a sofa, sat the three best girls in school.

But if the school was unique, I am sure the teacher was still more so. She was short and stout and had been pretty in her youth. She always wore cap and apron. She possessed a sot of false teeth which she often removed. She would put them in a tumbler of water and send the two best boys in school, one to see what time it was, and the other to buy her some horehound candy which she would suck with great complacency while the teeth were soaking in the tumbler.

I have mentioned the good boys of the school, but there were also bad ones there, boys full of mischief and fun. They were especially fond of playing with marbles. Whenever any of these were found by the teacher, she would put them in her desk for safe keeping from the boys. Now her desk, a secondhand one also, was a high one with long spindley legs, one of which was weak and wobbled alarmingly. Alas, one unfortunate day, the boys made a grand scheme. When the teacher went out of the room at recess, they played, "Open the gates as high as the sky", and knocked over the desk, ink, marbles and all. In this way the lost treasures were recovered. The very naughtiest boys, who could not be trusted for a moment out of her sight, were pinned fast to her apron strings, so that she could keep an eye on them, and when she went to the parlor to see visitors, the boys, of course went along also, like little boats being towed by a big one. On another day at recess, when the teacher went out of the room, for a minute, the boys bolted the shutters in tight, and then all the little rogues hid in the dark. When the teacher came back, I think she must have been a little startled.

Yes, that was what school forty years ago was like. It makes one laugh to think of it now and look around and see how things have changed.

Written by Phoebe C. Phillips in 1900.
(Now Mrs. Alfred Coxe Prime)


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