Once upon a time

a five-year-old girl

went to Cherryl Hill, a one-room school

 with a big bell on the rooftop . . .

Early in the morning 

she rode over hill and dale

In the back seat of the brown Terraplane Hudson

with her teacher-aunt at the wheel . . .

She wasn’t old enough for first grade

but she learned her phonics lessons

sitting in a little wooden chair

alongside pupils at desks in the class . . .

Bl-, Br-, they pronounced. Then Ch-, Cl, they chanted

from flash cards with broomsticks and chickens.

They sang “The Farmer in the Dell” on Monday

and “Merrily We Roll Along” on Friday. 

* * *

Cherry Hill School, near Milton Grove, PA

Cherry Hill School, Milton Grove, Pennsylvania
Ruth M. Longenecker, teacher 1940s


The Hudson

On her way to school, the little girl stared out of the oval windows in the back seat of a slightly newer version of this brown Hudson Terraplane.


The Teacher

Aunt Ruthie was a very young teacher. She graduated from college at age 19, having skipped two grades. Photo, circa age 22



When the school year ended

the whole class celebrated

with homemade ice cream

from a wooden churn

Vintage ice cream churn, Pinterest image


I was the little girl taken to school, the only version of kindergarten available to a 5-year-old girl in rural Pennsylvania during that era. My mother must have been happy to send me off: she had her hands full with me and my sisters, one an infant and the other, a toddler.


Excerpts from Miss Ruth Longenecker’s diary in 1940, several years before I accompanied my aunt to Cherry Hill School


May 15  Last day of lessons. Brought home most of the flowers, etc. I’m really ready for the end.

May 16  Tests all day, and am I nearly funny [“nuts”]! But I was determined so I lay me down in peace for everything is done, excepting parts of my total report.

May 17  Today was vacation after a fashion. No school, only took boys in for H. S. exam. Clayton & Kenneth – they passed. We had to help correct the tests after dinner.

Up & finished total reports this A. M. so every detail is done.




May 18  Praise the fishes! No. 180 done. And no strings. Had Marian along. We sang, reviewed & put books away. Then ate Joe G’s graciously contributed 8 gal of Ice Cream and our 4 gave plenty. We also had chips, pretzel sticks cookies & drinks. Mummas [neighbors] have the measles.


Ideals 1946: Ruth Longenecker archives



Did you begin with kindergarten or enter school in first grade?

In the May 18 entry, Aunt Ruthie writers, “Praise the fishes!” What do you think she means by that?

Do you have school-day memories?  Or an excerpt from a diary to share?