Country Schools


Many hours were spent with janitor work, sweeping, dusting, using it seems “tons” of sweeping compound on the old wooden floors.           

Carrying in fuel from the cob house and drinking water from a neighboring farm, with the help of willing students.

Entering the building on a cold winter morning to find a “tramp” had spent the night there and burned the fuel you had carried in the night before.

Hours spent practicing for programs with recitations and dialogues, which the community seemed to enjoy so much.

Picnics on the last day of school for the whole neighborhood to attend with “mountains of food and freezers of homemade ice cream.”



Townships were divided into nine school districts and Valley Township was so divided.  The districts consisted of four sections of land.  A director was elected by the people of each school district, to serve for one year, subject to reelection.  Some of his duties were: hire the teacher, make minor repairs, clean the school building and grounds and anything else that needed to be done in preparation for the fall term, including plenty of fuel in the fuel house at all times.  Some of the school houses had a coal bin as part of the building, but some teachers had to go outside to a small fuel house for the fuel. 

Some of the duties of the teacher were to be her own janitor, take care of the furnace, bank the fire at night hoping that the building wouldn’t get too cool during the night.  Very few schools had a well, the teacher had to either bring water from home each morning, or have the children take turns going to the neighbors for a bucket of water.  There were two outdoor toilets at the back of the school ground, one for girls, and one for boys.  Brrrr!  It was cold.  There was no electricity.  A small kerosene lamp with a reflector was hung on each wall of the building, for use when night activities were held.

A typical school day started at 9 o’clock.  The teacher would go to the door with a small hand bell to ring for the pupils.  On good days they would line up outside of the building to give the pledge of allegiance to the flag that had been raised.  They then marched into the building to their desks.  Usually there was an opening exercise of some singing, or listening to the teacher read, for about fifteen minutes from a book that the pupils would enjoy.

All eight grades were in the one room.  There would be one, two or three students in a grade.  At class time, the pupils would come forward to sit on a recitation seat for reciting.  The other grades would be working at their desks.  At noon the pupils would go to the cloak room for their lunch buckets stored on the shelf, and usually return to their desks to eat their cold lunch.  Then they went outside for games for their noon hour, or in bad weather they stayed inside to play such games as clap in/clap out.  The school day would be over at four o’clock when they would head down the road to their homes.  Some students lived about two miles away.

A big event was the school program.  Curtains were hung across the front of the room for a stage, and dressing rooms on each side of the stage.  The pupils would have dialogues, songs, and recitations.  Sometimes a money making event of box socials would follow the program.  Girls would decorate a box with lunch for two in it.  The boxes were then auctioned to the highest bidder.  Buyers would find the owner of the box and she would be his lunch partner. 

The last day of school was a district picnic for the whole family.  [Taken from The Hancock Community Chronicle, The First Hundred Years,   1881-1981, Botna Valley Publishing, Oakland, Iowa, page 129]

We would like to sincerely thank the family of Donna L. and Oliver C. Felker for the donation of this book in their memory.   KH