Seedy Bunch stopped the big yellow school bus in front of our farm house. I was excited to join five of my older siblings as they boarded. It was my first day of school.
We arrived at East Railroad School first. It was a mile east of town where some of my siblings were going to get off. I had to get off alone and join a bunch of kids I had never seen before. This school thing was not starting out the way I expected. I cried. I cried for a week.
I must have gotten over the trauma with no harm done. As it turned out, I became a school teacher myself. As a teacher, I felt those pangs associated with the start of school each of my 38 years.
East Railroad School looked very much like this fine example. We found this one on a recent hike celebrating our anniversary. It had been moved from its original location to this park site for preservation.
East Railroad was dedicated to first grade only by the time I attended in 1953. The one room schools were originally used for all elementary grade levels. Here is a brief article summarizing some of their history. They were used by the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Spain in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was common to find them a few miles apart in the more populated rural areas of the time. There was one a mile from my home attended by my four oldest siblings. It was within walking distance for nearly every student. The TV show Little House On The Prairie showed good examples.
By the middle of the 20th century, our school district was able to provide bus service to bring children to one location. The many one room buildings were no longer needed. Four of the buildings were brought into the nearby small town near our home. They were lined up on an empty lot. One building was for 2nd grade, one for 3rd and 4th, one for 5th and 6th, and one for 7th and 8th. East Railroad housed 1st grade.
In the original one room schoolhouses, one teacher, usually a woman, was responsible for all the children from grades 1-8. The teacher had many duties other that conducting lessons such as general maintenance, cleaning boards and erasers, sweeping floors, playground duty, being a nurse, and firing up the stove in the winter, to name a few. Here is a list of expectations for teachers in 1872 in Illinois. It covers things from dress, to social behavior, hours to keep, and things that will get you fired.
We found this booklet published in 1916 by the state of Georgia regarding school house design with room and floor plans. This link to the publication by Internet Archive provides an easy way to read the booklet by paging through and zooming in on page details. These images give a taste of some contents. It is an interesting read.
Finally, water was essential. Each school needed a well and pump. Here is a good example from the school site we found on our recent walk. They were not all this fancy. You can still buy new pumps of this type. See link.