Schools Of The Past: Greene: Road One, First School 1925-1932 Part I
Published: May 12th, 2011
By: Patricia F. Scott

The subject of this article was written by Ruth Filer Thompson, the daughter of Ruby Filer, a teacher, and is a documentation of her remembrances of attending school when growing up in the Greene area. It is quoted verbatim in the following paragraphs and when read will give all an inkling of attending school in the time frame above.

“The road leading toward the first school I attended was of unpaved dirt. It was just a narrow ribbon of a former pasture, mostly scraped bare of the grass that still grew on either side, but with a few stubborn clumps surviving in the middle. It was a very old road, made by horses’ hooves and wagon wheels long before the ‘horseless carriages’ altered road design.

The school had a formal label. District #22, but it was a very small, one-room, wooden building of the sort common then in rural areas. It sat on a tiny parcel of land at the corner of two adjoining farms. Two farmer-owners apparently had seen fit to donate a bit of pasture to education, despite having little ‘book learning’ themselves. A woodshed stood beside the school, its supply of chunks replenished each fall. A pot bellied stove inside warmed the school in cold weather, but neither electricity nor running water served the building.

I began going to District 22 with my mother, who was the teacher there. I was only three years old during my first month, September 1925, but my October 3rd birthday made my age four. My mother had intended just to keep me occupied in a corner, but I was eager to do what the other kids were doing. She found it simpler to put me in the first grade. The total pupils attending usually was about twelve or fourteen, spread across six grades. Thus each ‘grade’ had only two or three at a given level.

My mother’s preparation for teaching was only the nine months called “training class” in the early 1900s. It was supposed to follow graduation from high school, but that requirement was not strictly enforced. Rapid growth in the young United States created an urgent need for teachers who were willing to serve the small rural schools. Even in the 1920s, the teacher’s role in our school included carrying a bucket of drinking water from the nearest farmhouse to the school each morning. It also included starting and tending the fire in the wood stove when weather grew cold. Just getting to and from our house to the school was quite a challenge in my mother’s case.

Our home while I was in elementary school was the rooms above the general store that my father owned and operated. It was located in a small hamlet called Brisben, mid-way between the villages of Greene to the south and Oxford to the north, on Route 12 in New York State maps. Getting to little District #22 meant going a couple of miles south on Route 12 to where the dirt road branched off to the right, past the school and on to several farms in a hilly area. The dust of the dirt road could rise in swirling clouds if disturbed while dry, or it could become hub-deep mud when wet. Most of the vehicles traveling the dirt road from the farms it served were still wagons drawn by horses. But our vehicle was powered by gasoline, not hay and oats.

In whatever weather prevailed during the school year – dust, snow, or mud – my mother and I made the trip to District 22 in one of Henry Ford’s smallest and cheapest cars. It was a coupe with one seat barely wide enough for two people. Its skinny ties looked like those on a bicycle, and its fickle engine didn’t have much power. Usually it could chug through the couple miles on Route 12, which had a layer of macadam but was a slightly improved dirt road itself. Then the little Ford faced that strip of dirt road, unpaved, leading to the school up a rising incline.

If the dirt road was clearly impassable, as after a big snow, the Ford had to be left beside the main road, totally unprotected, while we walked the rest of the way. But if it was at all possible to get as far as the house nearest to the school, the car could be sheltered in the barn of the man who lived there. That inducement caused some valiant efforts by my mother. The worst part of the dirt road was about halfway between the main road and the barn. The barn’s owner was retired and kept no horses. My mother’s determination to get the car to the barn sometimes resulted only in burrowing it deeper into the quagmire it was in, whether mud or snow. If all else failed, I was sent to summon the nearest farmer who had a team of horses, to pull my mother’s car out of the predicament it was in.

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