Ring the bell; Salute the Flag!

Graduation 20030036Oh such memories will arise when former students of the Locke Mills school get together this summer. The picture is an updated one; there was no ramp to the left, no fancy entrance but it was our school.

Some things just stick in your mind and will never leave. After vacations and the beginning of the new school year, I looked forward to my first step inside the building. I loved the smell of the freshly oiled floors. At least I think they were freshly oiled. The smell was unique and I clung to it all day long.

The whirr of the pencil sharpener and the very delicate removal of the filled belly of said instrument was always a sight to behold. Some teachers could empty without one bit of wood shaving hitting the floor while others produced a rain storm. It didn’t take much to swing our heads from serious studying to the mundane emptying of the pencil sharpener.

Teeter boards and swings were the source of entertainment and if I remember, we all took turns without any blood being shed. Today, the topic of bullying is prevalent in most schools. I try and I try to remember if there were any bullying in our little school. It was a different generation and I believe because the majority of students had one thing in common, it united us in a way. Most parents worked in the mill and so it can be said that most were dressed the same way, no family stood out as being “better off” than another. In my class there was a boy we always called “Rim Head”. I don’t know why and I don’t know if he had been called that since birth, but few knew his real name and when we were at recess, the name Rim Head could be heard echoing up over the hill. No one  considered that bullying as he did not care what he was called, obviously. We had our “Baldie” and again, the boy had a full head of hair so I have no clue why he was called that name. I cannot recall anyone calling another fat or stinky or any degrading name, though. I hope my memory is accurate.

Most families had another thing in common. We bought groceries “on the cuff” at Arthur Vallee or Cass Howe’s( later to be Hank Leach’s) stores. Everyone stopped by on pay day and gave what they could toward their bill and checked to make sure it wasn’t  too high. If it was getting out of hand, some how Mr. Vallee would drop a subtle hint and the customer would fork over a bit more on the tab.

I rode to school in a van with two wooden boards on each side in back to make two benches for the students. Cass Howe positioned himself behind the wheel, cigar in hand and we were off! There was an occasional “stuck in the mud”incident and that would be reported with “mud vacation” following closely behind the announcement.

Bus kids brought their lunches in anything that would hold together. We had brown bags and sometimes Ma found lard buckets and later on, buckets in which peanut butter was sold. Oh, that peanut butter was awful, with oil swimming on top…but the pail made it all worth while. It was something like Ma buying laundry detergent which would barely made suds, because she needed the towel inside. Another shining example was the cereal that none of us liked because there was a glass tumbler or dish inside. It was the two for one days back in the Forties and Fifties and little was thrown away.

On the subject of throwing away, very little crumbs of our lunches were ever wasted. As soon as we settled ourselves on the ground, the town-owned mutt ( named Sandy) came and made the rounds to see what smelled the best and who was going to be the generous one of the day. Sandy grew fat and sassy and never failed to show up at the noon feeding. I have no idea where he went in the winter when we were inside the prison against the cold. Probably he had a perfectly good , warm home with plenty of good feed but just liked to socialize in the summer.

What joy in simple tasks–being asked to ring the bell to bring the students. Being asked to assist someone in the raising of the flag outside each morning. Every morning began with the Pledge of Allegiance and our voices became a sea of monotone as the week went on and almost took on a sing-song effect, hand over heart, gazing at the little flag in the corner of the room.

Three rooms; three teachers. So much education came out of that little school. A picture still in my mind of a teacher making peanut butter and crackers when the school boys couldn’t catch up with the speed away sled carrying the kettle of soup one winter day.  The teacher who quietly gave a pair of mittens to a little girl because her hands were cold and almost deep red in color. 

It was a different time; somehow difficult to explain in today’s world. Suffice it to say, we who were fortunate enough to go to the three room school house had something very special…and some very special memories for a lifetime.

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