Reinhardt Family History
Memories of Eggs and Chickens
Stories from Neil Reinhardt
THE ONE ROOM SCHOOL
I remember the first day I went to school, back in 1916. We did not have a kindergarten in the country schools. I started in the spring, about in April. I think it was so I'd get used to rules and regulations and discipline. I had 7 sisters, 3 elder than I. I went to District No. 2 which is on Old Pioneer Road. It was on a curve in the road about a block west of South Park Ave. Pier Cemetery was just a few feet from the school yard. We had to walk 1-1/2 miles from our farm on the Martin Road just south of the railroad tracks.
My first teacher was Miss McGowan. I remember her well because when I turned around to talk to the kid behind me, she came down the aisle, took me by the ear and turned me to face the front. In the fall when school started again we had a new teacher, Miss Richter. About a month later we were transferred to District No. 1, which was on what is now County Trunk V. The school was later called John Marshall. The school was a small brick building with an entry way. A wood-box that was filled from the entry, and wood could be gotten from the main school room near the stove. On each side of the entry were the cloak rooms, one for the boys and one for the girls. The stove was in the corner of the school room. In the room there were three rows of single desks and one row of double desks. The tops of the double desks were carved up by boys playing Jack-knives over the years. One time when Chet Costello was poking at something with his knife and there was a loud bang. He'd been poking at a 22 cal. Rifle cartridge and it exploded!
For drinking water in the school, the big boys went next door to Sheridans. They carried back a pail of water and there was a dipper in the pail. Later there was a stone crock with a faucet on it. Then we had to have our own cup, and I remember having a folding cup. The teacher had to also be janitor, so she had to get there early to start the fire in cold weather. The boys filled the woodbox. There was no electricity, I don't think even a lamp. When there was anything doing at night, someone would bring lanterns. We had to keep our dinner in a bucket, or mice would get at it.
The teacher had to teach all eight grades. The grades were all taught as one, and 2-3 and 4-5 and 6-7 and 8. The outhouses were in the back of the school, one for boys and one for girls. On a cold day if the teacher hadn't gotten there early, she would have us march up and down the aisles to keep warm.
Every year there was a meeting of the district when school board members were elected. There was a county Superintendent and 2 supervising teachers, who visited several times a year. My sister Frances taught John Marshall school in 1935. She received $60. per month.
I remember the school library. You would raise your hand and ask if you could go to the library, which was a bookcase in the back of the room.
When we went to John Marshall school we had to walk about a mile and a half. Reinhardt Road at that time was just a track from County V to Martin Road. The railroad ran at an angle from Martin Road to V. It crossed close to the school but we were not allowed on the tracks. Most of the time we walked through the field parallel to the tracks, or we walked south on Martin 3/4 of a mile to a lane that went through the field to V close to the school. Sometimes this lane was very muddy. The farmers on our road drove this lane with their milk cans to the cheese factory on V. If Bill Goebel happened to be going he would tell us to get on his wagon and we would ride. The only thing was that he had used his wagon to haul manure to the field. Needless to say, we would be dirtier by riding then if we had walked through the mud.
Leon Behnke was in the same grade as I was. He would like to show what he could do. One of his big things was to climb the flagpole. He would climb nearly to the top, then slide down. One day he must have forgotten about the hook where the rope was tied and when he slid down quite fast, it caught in the crotch of his pants and ripped them. He just held his overalls together and ran home.
One of the first teachers we had at John Marshall was Rose Cody. Another was Miss Boyle. She cried a lot all one day. When I got home and told my folks about it, they told me it was because her brother had been killed in the war. Another teacher, Miss Keenan, drove a big car. She would park it in one side of the school yard. One day at recess we jacked up one back wheel and put a block of wood under the axle. When she went to go home she couldn't move the car until she jacked it up and took the block out. Miss Williams was only there one year. She would come and join in the games we played. If a farmer was going to town with a bobsled we would jump on the runner and ride. She would join right in with us. When a bobsled came going back towards school, we would ride back. Sometimes we would be back after one o'clock, late to start classes.
When I was small I was named John but always called Sonny. When I started school I went by the name of John. About the time for my first communion someone looked up my baptismal records and found I wasn't named John, but had been named Cornelius, after my uncle and my grandpa, both Con Mahoneys. I didn't want to be called Cornelius because it was too hard to spell, so I was called Neil. I wanted to have it changed right away, but some of the teachers hesitated. They thought that they would have to go back in the school register book kept from year to year and change all the old records. Finally Miss Williams just took the book and went back to when I started school that year. She simply crossed out John and put in Neil.
My last teacher in the country school was Miss Kieran. She later married Wilson Shea and became our neighbor on the Martin Road. She worried a lot about me graduating from the eighth grade. This was her first year of teaching. We had to go to the Courthouse to write an exam. All the eighth-graders from the county were there. Needless to say, I passed.
The next day I started school at the Junior High in Fond du Lac. I had to walk much farther. I walked from our home on the Martin Road to the school on Merrill Ave. It was quite a change from a little school with 10 to 15 kids to one with several hundred. I went there for the ninth grade, and for tenth grade I went to Senior High. In my junior year my dad became sick, and I had to leave school to do farm work and drive the milk truck. The next year I started back, but all my classmates had moved on, and I was kind of lost. It seems I lost interest in school for a while, so I stayed home and worked for dad and drove truck.
It has been a long way from the one-room school without electricity or water, outside toilets, no cars, only walking or horses for transportation. It wasn't so bad without cars, TV's, electricity and radios. Everybody was in the same boat. We never went hungry or went to bed cold, and we made our own entertainment.
As I think back 76 years ago, I wonder if the kids today appreciate all the things they have. Bus rides to school, calculators to do their arithmetic problems. If they have trouble reading there's an extra teacher to help. Add hot lunch at noon, and Phy. Ed. because they do not get the exercise by walking one and one-half miles morning and night.
Even in grade school they have extra teachers for certain subjects. Music teachers for singing and band instruments. In the one-room schools most teachers had one year of training after High School to be able to teach. The one-room school has served me well. In today's world one must get all the knowledge one can. In my lifetime I have seen many many changes: cars, aeroplanes, TV's radio, a home heated by just pushing a button, or cooled in summer. Life is easier and I appreciate it all, but I would not have missed my time in the one-room country schoolhouse.