08 February 2020

One-room schoolhouse, 1921



Another amazing photo from Shorpy.  Click the image to enlarge it and explore the details (or read about them at the link). The children's eyes look unusual because the long exposure plus the bright flash resulted in superimposed eyeballs and eyelids.

My mother, aunts, and uncles attended a one-room schoolhouse which was located on the corner of their farm property.  In the winter one of my uncles (as a child) had the responsibility of going down to the school about 0600 before it opened to start a fire and warm it up before the students and teacher arrived. The teacher lived in a spare room upstairs at our family farm during the school season.

Reposted from 2008 (!) because while scanning my memorabilia into digital form I found a photo of the schoolhouse:


The building was considered modern for its time when it was built in the 1920s because the heating system was a coal stove rather than a fireplace; my aunt remembered that there were even separate outhouses for boys and girls - quite a luxury. 

My mother and her older sister attended this school through the end of 8th grade (in the 1930s).  After that, for their last three years they went into town to "finish" at the public school in order to qualify for admission to college (at St. Olaf).  It is apparent that by that time this photo was taken in 1941, the schoolhouse had fallen into disrepair, with local children attending school in Kenyon.  

I've been back to visit in recent years:


The farm, now modernized and belonging to a new family, is in the background.  The schoolhouse location (indicated by the arrow) is now covered by field corn, which spans to the horizon, in a vast sea of monoculture covering an area that would have been inconceivable to my mother when as a child in the 1920s she cross-cultivated the family's probably 20-acre cornfield with a team of horses.

And so it goes.

9 comments:

  1. that was torture >:(

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  2. My mother tells about attending a two-room schoolhouse, although it didn't really work that way. There was a room for grades 1-4, and another for grades 4-8. However, the older kids spent half their time teaching or supervising the younger kids, and then found themselves at a disadvantage compared to the "townies" once they got to high school.

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  3. Fascinating! Thank you for sharing this personal connection to the past.

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  4. where did the teacher live in the 'off season'?

    I-)

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  5. monoculture farming - what did your family grow back then, pre-monoculture? how varied was it?

    I-)

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    Replies
    1. They grew all their own food - cows for milk, cattle for beef, hogs, goats, chickens and turkeys, all the veggies, grapes for wine ("for church"), a fallow pasture for grazing. Maybe soybeans - I don't know. They took the milk cans to the creamery in town to have the cream separated for butter to get cash for clothes etc. The diversity allowed them to survive the 30s without any hunger, and they were able to offer food to tramps in exchange for labor.

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    2. Cows for milk? Cattle for beef? Academy Award winner Joaquin Phoenix would not approve...

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    3. My mother's family didn't fare so well in the 30's. My mother has never been willing to talk about it. Snippets I received from other family members suggest they were starving and my mom was sold as a child bride (somewhere between 6th-8th grade, I've never gotten an exact time) to a much older man to feed the family. Not great times.

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