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
When the school year ended
the whole class celebrated
with homemade ice cream
from a wooden churn
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.
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?