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Sunday, September 20, 2009

ONE TEACHER -- ONE ROOM SCHOOL HOUSE

IRENE TAYLOR (LEFT) AND BESSIE BALLINGER POSE TOGETHER AS FORMER TEACHER AND FORMER STUDENT, RESPECTIVELY, OF TODD SCHOOL

Sometimes things just happen. I discovered the Todd schoolhouse by noticing the construction form and decided that originally it was probably a one room schoolhouse. I stopped to get a closer look and a neighbor wandered over to see what I was up to. She was extremely helpful and took me for a tour through the schoolhouse. She mentioned she knew a woman who was a student at the school at one time, so she put me in touch with her. And that is how things happen when you are out scouting the territory -- one thing leads to another and before you know it you have a post to share.

The person she put me in touch with was Bessie Ballinger who attended Todd school in about 1944. She only attended one year at Todd -- the first grade when she was seven. After talking with Bessie, Bessie began searching for former teachers that taught at the school. And before you could snap your fingers Bessie and I were on our way to visit Miss Irene, former Todd teacher, at her country home outside of Paint Lick, Kentucky. Miss Irene is now 83, sharp as a tack and looks much younger than her years.

We sat down to hear her story about when she taught at the Todd one room schoolhouse. She was 19 years old when she started to teach in 1945. She taught for two years until 1947, then left to marry Frank Taylor, moved to her husband's hometown and taught 1st grade there for three years until she became pregnant with her first child. She then ended her teaching career to raise a family.

THE TODD ONE ROOM SCHOOLHOUSE AS IT APPEARS TODAY.

The Todd one room schoolhouse has been spared decline as it has survived through reuse. At one time it was a garden shop. Today it is being used as a church. Newer changes to the schoolhouse are the bumped out front porch vinyl siding, and the front windows have been apparently reduced in size. It still has the original tin ceilings inside and a lingering feeling of originality.

CLASS PHOTO AT TODD SCHOOL
BESSIE BALLINGER'S UNCLE TOM McCOMB-- BACK ROW, FAR RIGHT, WHITE SHIRT
TODD TEACHER UNKNOWN
Photo Courtesy Bessie Ballinger

The above photo is a class picture taken in front of Todd school. It shows the original columned porch and door type. From the style of clothing it was probably taken in the 30s or 40s.

TODD SCHOOL 1922
Courtesy Jesse Ward
One room and two room school houses were the building blocks of present day school systems. Previous to school systems were informal gatherings of children in a designated place where they could learn, almost always located near several family homes.

To learn about old school houses, I was able to talk with a valuable resource, Jesse Ward, a consultant and historian with the Madison County School District in Kentucky. He provided the above early photo of the class of 1922 taken at the Todd school house.

The above photo appears to be a smaller school building than the existing Todd school in the 30s/40s photo. It was likely that some reconstruction to the school house was undertaken between the 1922 photo and the 30s/40s photo.

IRENE TAYLOR WITH THE ORIGINAL SCHOOL BELL IN HER HANDS THAT SHE USED TO RING TO BRING THE CHILDREN IN FROM THEIR LUNCH TIME BREAK.

Moving back to Miss Irene's story of the Todd school house. We were to learn that there was only one school room and a cloak room in the rather large schoolhouse and only one teacher for all the grades -- first through the fourth.

The school system provided the text books while the children brought a little notebook and pencils. She stated they had a regular curriculum of math, science, and English. I asked her how she would compare her school environment to the schools of today. She responded, " . . . there is too much material competition among the children as well as the teachers which takes away from their education."

She went on to tell us that she was a single teacher at the time, living with her parents, so she could afford to buy extras for the children to supplement their education. She even made warm soup and corn bread for their lunches in the winter. She said, "I would make the corn bread and soup at home and bring it to school. I would set the soup kettle on top of the pot belly stove in the class room to warm it for the student's lunch."

Todd school did not have a large school bell usually found on the top of most school houses. So in lieu of this she brought in a large cow bell to ring them in at the end of their lunch hour. Still in her possession, she sits with it on her lap in the above photo.

Recess was organized games that she would schedule for the students. Softball was their favorite and she played right along with them. She said they would have fun trying to strike her out. Recess was not timed -- it was when Miss Irene had a notion -- then it was time to go in.

Christmas was celebrated at the school with Miss Irene's home baked Christmas cookies and a curtained stage for the Christmas play. Many parents attended to join in the holiday fun.

MISS IRENE WITH HER TEN YEAR OLD BOXER DOG THAT IS HER CONSTANT AND LOVING COMPANION.

Miss Irene graciously provided a glimpse into the daily schedule of her Todd experience. What I took away were her words describing her class, "we were like a family." Perhaps these small school houses have something to tell us about the value of small community schools.

2 comments:

  1. I was a student in a 1 room school just outside Berea, Kentucky in 1951. The school was referred to as "Scaffold Cane School". There were 52 students in 8 grades. The older students aided the younger children in subjects they were having trouble with. This technique seemed to aid both students. The younger student was better able to understand the lesson coming from a peer person. The teaching seem to reinforce the knowledge the older student already had. Our 1 teacher taught all 8 grades and helped with the lunch. We had an extended study period at about 11AM, once the colored cook arrived. She would leave us students to teach each other and went to help the cook finish our lunch. They (the cook and teacher) served our meal and we had a recess period once everyone was seat. This was for 30 minutes. It gave the teacher and cook time to wash the dishes for the next day. I believe I learned as much in that school house as I did anywhere I attended.

    I left that school to attend Paint Lick School the following year. Paint Lick was a regular school with the elementary and high school being together in one building with many teachers and a seperate lunch room.

    Two schools from my early childhood days have left me wanting to fine out more about them. Scaffold Cane is one and the other was the black orphange school next to my home when we lived on KY21 just west of Berea.

    If you can aid me in my search, I would appreciate it. If I can aid you in anyway let me know.

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  2. Anonymous -- I am unaware of the two schools you are talking about. I suggest calling the Madison School district in Richmond Kentucky. I feel they would be able to help you. Interesting information that you left as a comment. I wish you the best in trying to track down the schools that you attended. -- Thanks for stopping by -- barbara

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