Before I started school, I was quite worried about getting lost in that big building, so Pa took me up there one day to look around. Old Man Randall was there getting the building ready for school, so I found out where the toilets were, and which was my room, etc. Then Pa said there was an electric spanking machine upstairs, where they took you if you didn't behave. We didn't go upstairs that day, but it was a long time before I quit looking at those stairs with a special respect. [7.49-2]
A Clark family lived down on the corner across the street from us for a few years and the youngest son, Thomas, was in 8th grade when they came. (I was 5 then.) I walked to school my first days of school with Thomas because I already knew where the 1st grade and toilet rooms were.
Thomas was quite a hero to me, and he used to come up to get Ma to help him with his 8th grade math. He got a lot of E's on his report card. He told his mother that "E" meant excellent, and she believed him. He had a riding horse and Marj used to make a big noise when she swallowed a drink of milk, so Pa used to say, "Listen: Thomas Clark is watering his horse," and everybody would laugh. She would do it to show off at every meal. I suppose she was 3 to 4 years old then. [7.59-2]
One day a lady got off the train with several big trunks and suitcases full of costumes to put on a Tom Thumb wedding in the Woodmen Hall. (It stood where the road branches off to Dalton across from the new Firehall.) I guess these Tom Thumb weddings were something that was done in those days, and I think one had been put on in Ashby once before.
She recruited her talent from preschoolers and from the first and second grade in school. (I was in first or second grade then. Both were in one room, and Eva Bemis was our teacher.) I was picked to be the "preacher."
We had rehearsals in the hall every afternoon for some time, and the afternoon of the big night we had to take naps so we would be wide awake for the performance, when I would tie the knot for Tom Thumb and his bride.
The details are sort of hazy, but I remember Buddy Koefod sang at the top of his voice, "I'll Tell the World I Love You, Margie," and he could really sing. [7.33-5]
Then I got up, holding a Bible, and "read" from memory, not from the book. I got off the track once and said "no" and started in the right place again. The audience thought it was supposed to be that way. I got compliments from several people when we came offstage about how good I was. I think that was mostly because I talked loud enough to be heard. [7.34-2]
We had Miss Bemis for a teacher in the first and second grades and she taught us to talk "up and down" (we called it), where you raised your voice at the end of every sentence. She was a good teacher, though; she taught us phonics and we learned to spell and read well. she tried to teach us the Palmer method of penmanship, which wasn't any good, but it was much better than the "printers" they turned out in later years, who could hardly write at all. We thought Miss Bemis was awfully strict. [7.89-3]
In first grade we had to count little, wooden pegs (shoe pegs) in learning to count and they were tiresome and boring. One day I pretended I was sick and couldn't go to school, so of course Ma made me lie in bed most of the day. The next morning when I walked into our elementary room before school, the principal (Amanda Erickson) stood there visiting with the teacher.
Miss Bemis smiled prettily and said, "Do you feel better today?" [7.34-3]
And I said, "I wasn't sick; I just wanted to get out of counting pegs." [7.34-4]
Miss Erickson just stood 'way up on her toes (she was over six feet tall) and made a "face." Miss Bemis, who seemed only half as tall as Miss Erickson, really looked taken aback, but no more was said about it. [7.34-5]
When we went to class in that room, we sat in a half-circle on little, red chairs. You could get a good look and smell of everyone there. Some had egg on their faces, some smelled strongly of home-cured bacon, some needed a bath, and others smelled like dirty diapers, especially if they had just had croup or something. [7.34-6]
Of course, there were always some that smelled of "barn" and the boys with older brothers smelled of skunk in the fall. The Moseng kids caught a skunk a day out of a culvert for 12 or 14 days in a row one fall, and that strung the smell out for quite a while. [7.34-7]
In those war years (World War I), men couldn't be wasted for jobs like school superintendents, so they hired Miss Erickson to run the school (all 12 grades) and those were the only years Ashby has really had discipline. [7.35-1]
Miss Bemis got everyone dressed and booted at the end of the day, and then everyone had to stand in two straight lines the length of the cloak hall before she opened the door for the "orderly march" to the outside door.
She would say (almost singing), "Good night, children," and the "nice kids" (mostly girls) would say, "Good night, Miss Bemis," and the others (mostly boys and a few girls, especially Helen Peterson), would say in unison with the others, "Good night" (real loud) and then they would drop their voices and finish by saying "Mrs. Bean" or about a dozen other things (not all nice) that sort of sounded like "Miss Bemis." [7.35-2]
One day when I was in first or second grade I stood at the foot of the steps outside of the schoolhouse like a "smart alec" and as the girls came down the steps, I pointed to them as they passed by and said, "You're homely, you're cute," etc. and when Norma Skaar (no relation to the Ashby Skaars) came down, I said, "Norma's homely but I like her anyway." I should have been smarter; I never heard the end of that. [7.35-3]
Pa used to get shaved at the Barbershop every Friday (15 cents). Norma's dad was one of the two barbers and did he ever tease me about coming to see his daughter when I tagged Pa in when he went to get shaved. (There were a whole bunch of men that got shaved every Friday morning then, and there was always a whole benchful waiting. I think they came as much for the visiting session as the shaves. [7.35-4]
In the third and fourth grades we had Miss Teisberg (Olga). She was so stiff we didn't know her any better after two years than we did the day we started in there. The smart kids made it okay, and the dumb ones just spent two years in each of her grades and then passed on to the next one. They usually quit school for good when they got to the magic age of 16. [7.89-4]
The last day of school of my fourth year we just had to come to school at 10 o'clock and get our report cards. My folks were going to Elbow Lake (a rare occurrence) that morning. We were going through town about 9:30 or 9:45 and I ran into the schoolhouse and asked Miss Teisberg if I could get my report card then, instead of at 10 o'clock.
She said, "No."
"Well, my folks are going to Elbow Lake," I said.
She just looked poker-faced and said, "No."
I ran back out and we went to Elbow Lake, so I never really did know if I had passed that year. I went to the 5th grade room in the fall and nobody ever mentioned the report card. I've often wondered what Miss Teisberg did with it. I don't know why she couldn't give it to me half an hour early. Maybe she thought we were all going to kiss her goodbye. [7.102-3]
When we were in the lower grades at school, there was only one baseball bat for the whole school, and it was kind of a juvenile size. There was always an argument over who was to use it -- the little kids, grades 1 to 4, or the big kids, grades 5 to 8. The little kids got out a little earlier for recess than the big kids, so they would grab the bat. But then the big kids would come out and take it away from them (us). We would go and try to get the janitor (Carter Randall's grandfather) to take it away from them. (He never would.) Then one morning he was out splitting kindling for the big coal boiler and he solved the bat problem -- by making an ax handle out of the bat. [7.47-1]
Some of the smaller kids in the neighborhood caught on to the fact that I wasn't allowed to hit or fight, and when I was in the first or second grade, a couple of 4- or 5-year-olds started to "lay" for me on the way home from school and then chase me all the way home. [7.50-2]
Pa noticed this from the back door of the livery barn. So one day he said, "What do you run from those kids for? Just give them a poke and keep on going!" [7.50-3]
The next day he was watching and he said the two kids were lying in the ditch waiting for me and he could see me walking real straight and taking long steps. When they jumped out of the ditch, I gave one a good poke in the ribs and sent him sailing back into the ditch. Then the other one the same way and then I just kept on marching home. He told this story many times in later years. I guess he was real proud to know I wasn't being raised a complete sissy. [7.50-4]
When they tore down the old schoolhouse in 1916 or 1917, Pa bought one of the big, old blackboards and brought it home and set it against the garage wall temporarily. A day or two later, Milton Balgaard (three years older than I was) came up to the house for milk or eggs or something. When Pa came home for dinner, Milton and I were busily throwing rocks at the big blackboard and smashing it up. [7.50-5]
He could still salvage a fairly good piece, which he took down to Old Man Germanson, a good cabinet maker, to have a frame put around it like a painter's easel.
When Germanson had it finished, he set it outside against his shop wall for the glue to dry. His little rat terrier ran behind it and knocked it down and broke the slate into three pieces. He glued it, but the cracks were so jagged the chalk wouldn't write across them. We almost had the best blackboard in town. [7.50-6]
One fall a young schoolteacher (Miss McDonald) rented one of our upstairs rooms. She said she didn't know any of the young men in town and didn't run around, but the very first night, she didn't come in until after 11 o'clock. I don't remember her being there very long and I don't know how we got rid of her, but anybody wild enough to stay out until after 11 o'clock sure couldn't stay under our roof! [7.32-2]
Miss Hubbard, an older, red-headed teacher came to town to teach school while we still lived in town. Ma happened to get acquainted with her and took a real liking to her because she was so "sensible." It was at the same that Miss McDonald, the wild one who stayed out until 11 o'clock, was rooming at our place, and the only thing Ma and Mrs. Marden could find to criticize Miss Hubbard for was that she wore "low shoes." Black-laced Oxfords were almost considered immoral yet then; you had to wear high-laced or button shoes to be properly dressed. [7.94-2]
Miss Hubbard taught botany, among other things, and my folks took her along out to the farm on Sunday. (They tried to overlook her worldly shoes.) She would walk along in the woods and eat different kinds of berries from plants and brush that other people thought were either poisonous or inedible, and she knew what they were. I've always doubted that I would have cared for the taste of most of them, and didn't taste any. I remember she ate a whole handful of what we call "nightshade," among other things. She was the only one that I know of who ever taught botany at Ashby High School. [7.94-3]
Going to high school was quite an undertaking for country kids who lived too far from town to walk in, and not many did go to high school.
One year Mabel and Ethel Nelson (Glen's older sisters) and Alice and Myrtle Tollefson (Clarence's sisters) rented Mrs. Marden's upstairs rooms to live in for the school year. They were a happy-go-lucky bunch. Marj and I were just little kids and we went over to visit and listen to them every chance we got. They were noisy and did many things to make Mrs. Marden's hair stand on end, but we thought they were great. [7.59-5]
I'm sure their folks brought them the only food they had from the farms. I imagine the only cooking utensils they needed were a frying pan and a kettle. I'm sure it only cost a few dollars for rent then to keep them in school for the whole year. [7.59-6]
They had a wood stove up there to heat and cook with, and their folks brought them wood. One day one of them was carrying a big armful of wood up that steep, narrow stairs and tripped and dropped all the wood right near the top. It all went back down the stairs. That was just another hilarious thing to them, when it all clattered back to the bottom, but Mrs. Marden didn't think it was that funny. [7.60-1]
They had all gone to country school and had lots of backwoodsy words and phrases that were new to us town kids. Instead of saying, "the girls did something," one of them always said, "the girlses," etc. [7.60-2]
The flapper age came in a couple of years later and those girls soon learned to really dress the part. Everyone had long hair then, and they would have a big, round biscuit of hair on each ear and another round biscuit behind, and lots of rouge and lipstick -- enough so the older women really wagged their heads and tongues over them. [7.60-3]