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Remembering our ‘back-to-school’ days

As students return to the classroom under the most unusual circumstances, we asked our residents to share some of their favorite memories from their youth. It was a great way to look back on our own experiences and consider all the changes we’ve seen in education over the years. And it’s always nice to remember those special memories from our past.

Esther Minter

Esther Minter

I went to a rural, one room school: one teacher, eight grades and eight months. We started the day after Labor Day and got out at the end of April. We had the same number of days as now, but we used grade cards for reporting our progress instead of parent/teacher conferences. We had fewer holidays and no professional days.

In our longer summer, we had plenty of enrichment days. Every task around home or the farm involved measuring, weighing, counting, calculating and/or recording.

We had no kindergarten. To be able to start first grade, we had to know how to tie our shoes, count to 10, and say the ABCs.

Everyone brought their own lunchbox or pail. We ate outside in nice weather. On rainy days, we played games on the blackboard or had contests in spelling, geography, math or made-up games. We had a wind-up record player, so some games involved “music.”

Aileen Moise

We had stick pens and a bottle of ink and several ink blotters. Everyone had a Big Chief tablet. There was no electricity, so we had no lights. The three long windows on both sides of our classroom provided our light. Our heat was a coal-burning parlor furnace. The water we drank came from the cistern. The water source was the runoff after a rain from the schoolhouse roof. The teacher filled the coal bucket and water container before school started.

Each child had his own tin cup that hung on a nail hook. Sometimes my brother and I rode our pony to school, but more often we walked.

Aileen Moise

We read more books. We did not have computers or cell phones to help with homework. We did a lot of research using “National Geographic” magazine and encyclopedias. We used the dictionary to help with spelling, definitions and grammar. We learned to write using cursive.

Mary Lou Niebling

Mary Lou Niebling

We always attended a teacher-led class in grade school, high school and college. Kindergarten through 8th grade – my grade school housed the wonderful St. Louis City Library, an unusual city arrangement! Many educational buildings were very well built, and they still look very well maintained today in 2020.

Kay Ruen

Kay Ruen

When I was in elementary school, no food was ever served. School was dismissed for one hour. We walked home for lunch and came back. Our principal taught all morning. His office was across the hall, and we had no teacher all afternoon. We had so much work to do, and we didn't dare move! I really liked him. Of course, there were no TVs or electronics. Recess was on our own with no supervision, but it worked. Mom gave me a nickel to get a treat at a small grocery store across the street from school. We could get a big candy bar, and it was great. Life was good.

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