At Rheems Elementary School in Pennsylvania, classes began right after Labor Day, just like clockwork. My aunt was my teacher in the first four grades, the charms and challenges of which I describe in my memoir.

Aunt Ruthie was a very young teacher. She graduated from college at age 19, having skipped two grades.
Circa 1940, age 22


Miss Longenecker, aka my Aunt Ruthie, taught grades 1-4 simultaneously in a two-room school, where eight grades (each with a teacher) assembled under one roof with a bell. The rooftop bell punctuated high points of the school day: the beginning of classes and the ending of recess. Aunt Ruthie’s diary gives a glimpse into two opening days of school several years before I was old enough to be her student.


September 5, 1944


Surprise! Out to school and opened door and what! Mr. Greiner had Kem-Toned the ceiling and walls with light green & done the woodwork in white. Don’t say that didn’t lighten things up. Carl Floyd, 1st grader, surely is sweet. He’s the only first grader that had to cry a little.

Note: In 1941 the Sherwin-Williams Company introduced Kem-Tone Wall Finish, the first commercially successful, durable, … interior wall paint.



September 4, 1945

Well, today school started. 29 on roll, 2 graciously given from Grandview, the kind anyone is anxious to hand over. But they’re a nice bunch – lights in school, cellar cleared, and new reading books. And as usual tearing my hind leg off trying to get around. Worked at Bldg. tonight.


My thoughts: Miss Longenecker may have been given two extra students from another school for some reason. Nevertheless, apparently she is going to make the best of it. In those days, teachers had duties way beyond teaching, making sure the “physical plant” was up to snuff. The cellar was a site for our Hallowe’en fun house for grades 1-8, a chapter devoted to this event in my memoir.



My sister, Jean Longenecker, first grade, 1950s



What do you remember from first grade?

Do you have photos or other memorabilia from your early school days?




%d bloggers like this: