Interview with Ruth Anderson
Teacher at Sholes School
September 17, 1980
Members of the Pioneer Sholes School Restoration Society were indeed privileged to meet and listed to Ruth Anderson, the last teacher to teach in the Sholes School from 1940 to 1947. Flowing are some notes of the interesting stories she told about her years as a teacher in rural one-room schoolhouses.
Before teaching at the Sholes School, Ms. Anderson taught three years at the Brush School, which she had attended herself, and three years at North Plato School. Although she received her formal training at DeKalb Teachers College, her best experience was having attended a one-room school herself. She has all eight grades, of course, with an average of twelve to fifteen students. If she had twenty students, that was too many, she told us.
Burlington people refer to this school as the Schairer School as that family had been there a long time. The Schairer [family] had purchased the land from the Sholes [family]. Mrs. Schairer, a long time friend of Ruth Anderson, and her son, Louis, a former pupil, were also with us at the meeting. They added greatly to the descriptive accounts of life in the school. Ruth told us that her sister, Gladys Russell, had also taught in the school about 1919.
Her enthusiasm for the one-room school was evident as she told of the closeness the teacher and children felt for each other--"more like a family," she said. [When] she was prevailed upon to allow the children to wrestle, the older children stood on their knees so that the smaller ones could have an advantage. It was always a friendly game with no harm coming to anyone.
The teacher was always with the kids. Ruth played first base in all the baseball games. Her position was just outside one of the windows and the ball was often thrown high over her head. Many broken windows resulted, causing the board of directors to put chicken wire over the window. One soft ball went down the chimney. The big boys had to put the seams back in the much-used balls. Elaborate statistics were kept on all the games and were used for mathematics problems. A favorite story time book was Rules on Ball Playing. Basketball was played in the winter, a wastebasket for the basket. All these games developed good discipline.
Ruth Anderson told another story about Lou Schairer and teaching him long division. Math problems were worked on the board "for the best part of an hour." It seems that there [was] some objection from Lou but he concedes that both he and a fellow student who is now a banker really learned their long division.
Parents came in when there was trouble. The Superintendent showed up two times a year. Although the teacher assumed a great deal of responsibility, there was [also] a visiting nurse, Mrs. Rose Armstrong. Extra activities included going to the Sycamore Theater to see Gone with the Wind. Eleven children were somehow crowded into the teacher's car in order to make the trip.
Achievement tests coming from the County Office were necessary formalities. Ruth was giving the tests one year and knew that one girl had remained home that day to help her mother. So she just went to get the child and brought her back to school to take the test--it was that important. Then the child went home again.
A Community Club helped the school. Folding chairs would be brought into the school. Eighteen desks, small tables, and chairs were there. There was never a Johnny Who Couldn't Read [sic] as an older child would always be available to help the younger ones. The schedule could be very difficult if the teacher couldn't rely on this help.
There were always opening exercises when a few songs would be sung. The teacher would read from Kipling, Tom Sawyer, or Rules of Baseball. Games such as "Teakettle" and other spelling games were popular. The so-called approved instruments were tonettes, the piano, and the radio. The forty-minute math period included competition in knowing the necessary basics. There was a course in Hygiene and then lunch. There was a good school time program on the radio.
History followed in the afternoon. The younger ones would be excused about 2:30. The older children continued with Geography, Science, and Penmanship. There was an afternoon recess. They had The Weekly Reader.
The one social event of the year (and sometimes two) included dialogues, lunch, and a $0.25 admission.
One time the furnace produced a gas that turned the red suits on the Santa Clauses purple. School continued even when the furnace went out. They went over to the Schairers' and had school around the dining room table. There was a picnic at the end of school--usually went to some park. The teacher bought every child in the district a small gift at Christmas. This was not easy with her salary of less than $2,000.
Ruth told of some wartime experiences with surplus food for hot lunches consisting mostly of pork and beans. She recalls gathering milkweed pods for the war effort. She closed by saying that these seven years at Sholes School were the happiest years of her life.
We do appreciate having Ruth Anderson and the Schairers share these memories and experiences with us.
Hazel Clauter, Recorder