Archived Story

School days long ago

Published 2:36pm Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A walk through the old Hartselle High School last week brought me face-to-face with the flurry of activity that’s going on to get the building ready for seventh and eighth graders when the new school term begins August 19. Likewise, an earlier sit-in at a Priceville High technology bake off (high tech road show) gave me an inferiority complex when I realized how little kids had to work with while studying reading, writing and arithmetic a couple of generations ago.

How about the teacher now is able to ask questions on a wireless handheld pad without writing or speaking a single word, and receiving responses from the students using I-pads I-tablets and cell phones?

If that doesn’t take the cake, how about the teacher having the ability to store each student’s response on her pad and tabulating his or her grade at any time with a simple touch of the fingertip.

My, my what changes technology has brought to the classroom.

Back in the 1940s technology in rural Alabama schools consisted primarily of overhead electric lights and an electric buzzer that signaled the beginning and end of the school day. Television sets, computers and automated copying machines had not yet been invented.

The combined elementary and junior high school I attended had no running water and no indoor restrooms. We drank water from a dipper at the school well and purged ourselves of body waste at a toilet behind the school. A slab pile next to the toilet provided a convenient place for the underclassmen to lie in wait while upperclassmen took command of the toilet for smoking and chewing tobacco. A couple of minutes of safe time in the toilet before classes resumed was a luxury.

Back-to-school supplies consisted of a lead pencil, eraser and a lined Blue Horse tablet. Crayons were also required in the lower elementary grades. Everyone looked forward to receiving a gift package from the Coca Cola Company. It contained a red pencil, ruler and eraser.

Boys wore denim overalls or blue jeans and a T-shirt; girls were dressed mostly in homemade skirts and blouses. Boys remained shoeless until the first frost, with brogans following during winter months.

In the absence of a lunchroom, students brought their lunch from home. Sandwiches were rare since farm families baked their own bread. A sack lunch usually consisted of a couple of biscuits—one filled with a piece of pork sausage, ham on fatback and the othercentered with melted butter and jam—a teacake or piece of cake and a baked sweet potato.

Clif Knight is a staff writer for the Hartselle Enquirer.

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