“Old school” education

It’s amazing what you can find when you clean out a desk.

A big recycling bin’s worth of school board agendas that you should have gotten rid of years ago. A neglected stick of gum that melted several times over in its wrapper, leaving some weird, icky film in the desk drawer. A thick binder detailing the inner workings of the 2002 Adams County budget (oh, that’s where I put it).

But sometimes, you actually run into a cool find.

In our old FlipSide desk, there was a copy of a 74-page book by F. Donald Miller called “One-Room Schools and Post Offices of Codorus and Manheim Townships, York County, Pennsylvania.” It was apparently given to one of our former FlipSide editors in early 2011 and it’s signed by the author.

And flipping through it, I came across all these black and white pictures of schoolhouses, class pictures, teacher portraits and items that could be found in schools back in the early to mid 1900s.

As an education reporter, I find it interesting to see the pictures and read about what school was like back then, what the classroom contained, and what students looked like.

There were boys in overalls and others wearing loosened neck ties and laced up boots, and girls in pinafores with bows in their hair.

And there were tiny schoolhouses, just brick structures with porches, a few windows and sometimes a bell. But as Miller says, “The one-room school was the front line of education in this area from the early 1850s to the middle 1950s.”

It occurred to him before writing the book that something should be recorded about the schoolhouses¬† in his area. A few were no longer standing, and the rest had been added on to or remodeled to the point where they were hardly recognizable for what they once were, Miller said in the book’s preface.

As I paged through the book, it hit me that I might know one of those girls in the class pictures. My boyfriend’s grandmother grew up in Manheim Township, and I remembered my boyfriend telling me that she went to a one-room school.

Sure enough, we flipped through the book to find a 1941 class picture taken at Hoke’s School in Glenville and there was his grandma, sitting pretty in a plaid dress with that same familiar smile on her face. He’s going to bring the book to her, so that she can see the picture again and hopefully share some more memories of her old school.

I got a kick out of a lot of the contents in the book, particularly seeing some of the issues I would have been writing about, had I been a reporter for the Hanover Evening Herald back in 1901. This was the education story back then:

In Reading, County Superintendent Rapp, addressing public school teachers, took occasion to except to some of the wall decorations in a few of the schools. He said he saw some of the walls decorated with beer signs, cigarette advertisements and pictures of some actresses. He advised the teachers to put up adornments that would have a wholesome influence.” – Miller, pg. 32, taken from the Hanover Evening Herald, 9/10/1901

And here we have just a few of the “1915 Rules for Female Teachers,” found on page 17 of Miller’s book:

1. You will not marry during the term of your contract
2. You are not to keep company with men
3. You must be home between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless attending a school function.
(My personal favorite) 4. You may not loiter downtown in ice cream stores (…. but what if they have Rocky Road??)
5. You may not travel beyond the city limits unless you have the permission of the chairman of the board.
6. You may not ride in a carriage or automobile with any man unless he is your father or brother.
7. You may not smoke cigarettes.
8. You may not dress in bright colors.
9. You may under no circumstances dye your hair (It would draw too much attention at the ice cream store).
10. You must wear at least two petticoats.
11. Your dresses must not be any shorter than two inches above the ankle.
12. To keep the school room neat and clean you must: sweep the floor at least once daily; scrub the floor at least once a week with hot, soapy water; clean the blackboards at least once a day; and start the fire at 7 a.m. so the room will be warm by 8 a.m.

Talk about your strict policies. If anything, the list shows how far we’ve come as a society. But it’s still interesting and important to look back, to see the history of public education in our area, even as schools constantly look ahead to their next set of challenges.

Below are some photos featured in Miller’s book. The first, courtesy of Joyce Messerly Newcomer, shows a teacher who worked at Bortner’s School along Rockville Road. The next are pictures of some of the schoolhouses and students. The second picture is Nace’s School, in the former hamlet of Marburg, and a class picture from 1915, both courtesy of Edward Nace. If you look closely, you might be able to see that all the girls have large bows in their hair. The caption notes that all of the students’ shoes have mud or dirt on them. The next picture shows Hoke’s School and the picture that features my boyfriend’s grandma, in the first row, fourth from the right. That picture is courtesy of Lovie Shue Rohrbaugh.

This first picture, courtesy of Joyce Messerly Newcomer, shows a teacher who worked at Bortner’s School along Rockville Road.





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One Response to “Old school” education

  1. Lamar Bortner says:

    My Grandparents owned the Store in Marburg. I actually was in the Nace School at about 5 years old (1947) for a visit. I can still picture the old men coming to the store on a saturday night and smoking pipes by the wood burning stove in the middle of the floor. Speaking Pennsylvania Dutch, of course. Always enjoyed taking the phone off hook (it was a wind up phone) and listening on the party line.

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