Saturday, September 6, 2008

School Days: Remembering 3 Grandparents

: Where did the kittens go on their class trip?

Growing up in New England, Labor Day always meant the end of summer vacation for me, Grampy and daughters L and R. School always started the Wednesday following this holiday.

September brings back fond memories of my dear grandmother Emily "Millie" (Hall) Trout. In her youth, she and her twin sister Bessie Hall (my Great-Aunt Bee) taught in one-room schoolhouses in adjoining towns in Hunterdon County, New Jersey. Her lifelong motto was "Every moment is a teaching moment." She was my first and best teacher throughout my childhood. She taught me to love learning, and made it such a part of me that I've never stopped wanting to learn every day. She taught me this song when I was a very little girl:

Photo: 1938

School Days
School days, school days, dear old golden rule days.
'Readin' and 'ritin' and 'rithmetic, taught to the tune of a hick'ry stick.
You were my queen in calico, I was your bashful barefoot beau, You wrote on my slate, 'I love you, Joe,' when we were a couple of kids.

My grandmother Florence "Flossie" (McDougal) Nickerson also taught in a one-room school in the northern Aroostook County town of Mapleton, Maine, on the Canadian border, for several years until she married in 1906.
Photo: 1961

Grampy's grandfather Irving Frost was a folk poet. His pieces have a lovely rolling cadence rather than always rhyming.

He moved to Bar Harbor, Maine, from Mariaville, the tiny town in the woods where he grew up, so his 4 sons could have better schools. He lost his sight in middle age, and lived more years blind than sighted. He composed his poems in his mind, and his wife or other relatives wrote them down.

When Grampy and his Dad visited, they would take Grandpa Frost for a car ride. Grampy always asked him to recite his poems for Grampy to write down. Some were printed in a local newspaper. We collected all we could find, about 30. Some were written as birthday greetings, some for holidays, and some were memories of his youth, as was this one:

The following was written by Irving Frost of Bar Harbor for his cousin Henry Frost of Mariaville. The schoolhouse referred to burned many years ago:
Photo with wife Inez: 1961

The Old Schoolhouse
I have been thinking today of the old schoolhouse, Henry,
That stood there by the roadside so long ago,
How we used to meet there early in the morning
Before it was time to go to school.

We used to play the games "Chase the Squirrel"
And "Hailly Over"; the bell, over it we would throw.
The good times we all had there together,
Around that old schoolhouse seventy years ago.

The rail fence that was built around the schoolyard,
And that big rock where the children used to play,
And the spring down in the pasture
Where we got water every day.

How we tried to walk that rail fence, Henry,
Someone would give it a shake and off we would go.
The tricks we used to play on each other,
Around that old schoolhouse seventy years ago.

There was a woodlot in back of the schoolhouse,
Where at noontime we would go to have our fun,
Play cowboys and Indians,
And shoot each other with our wooden guns.

How we hated to hear that school bell ringing,
As back into the schoolhouse we had to go
And study the lessons the teacher would give us,
In that old schoolhouse seventy years ago.

How we used to climb the trees across the highway,
Like monkeys from one tree to another we would go,
It's a wonder we didn't fall and break our necks, Henry,
The things we did there long ago.

How we used to go to those school entertainments,
And the spelling bees there they used to hold,
The girls could always beat us at spelling,
In that old schoolhouse seventy years ago.

They used to hold meetings there on Sunday mornings,
Sunday school, where the children used to go
To study the Bible and Sunday lessons
In the old schoolhouse seventy years ago.

Now the old schoolhouse, it has gone forever,
And many of our schoolmates have passed away,
I hope we will all meet up there together, Henry,
When Gabriel blows his horn on Judgment Day.

At this time of new school year beginnings for our 6 grandchildren, we know that our grandparents Millie Trout (1889-1959), Flossie Nickerson (1886-1965), and Irving G. Frost (1875-1968) would be as proud of these 5th generation descendants as we are.

Riddle answer: To a mewseum

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Schools have advanced so much in teaching methods since the days of our great-grands, and yet the learning environment is a bigger challenge.
Grandson S attends a school of technology, with a laptop for each student, wireless connectivity, & smart boards.
However, in addition to academics, the students learn to deal with peer pressure to engage in self-destructive behaviors. This impacts their ability to maximize their full potential.
The latest trend at granddaughter R's school is to be "emo" or emotional in a depressed manner, always viewing the glass as not only half-full, but too small, wrong, and just sad.
School nurses who used to take care of scrapes and bruises are dealing with drug & alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, major depression, and violence.
The old schoolhouse is gone forever, and yet students can rise above their challenges to become strong citizens, prepared to face the future successfully.
This was the hope of our ancestors for their children, and is still the hope for our children today.