True Tales of Life In the Old Days - Part 4, Recollections of Gladys True, A Vintage Vignette

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True Tales of Life In the Old Days - Part 4
Recollections of Gladys True

A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
October 2, 2009

Gladys McFarlen True in her book “My Life from Wagons to Rockets” described her first few years in school at Trenton, Alabama. The conditions that she called “primitive” would have largely applied in Madison of the time as well.

“I do not remember starting to school. I remember taking Angelese to school the first day. Angelese Vandiver was my best friend then, and she is still a good friend today. Now we are in our eighties. She comes to my house, or I go to her house, and it is just as if we saw each other yesterday. We had another friend, Wyness Freeman, who now lives in Paint Rock, Alabama. They both moved away and later came back. Angelese finished high school in Vernon; Wyness finished in Gurley. At the present time (1997), the three of us get together whenever we can.”

“Going up the valley on the right, was the prettiest building in the little town. It was our school, just a real pretty building. It still would be if it were standing today. I started to school when I was six (1919). It was a three-room school. We had three teachers, and the principal was the one who taught the seventh and eighth grades. It only went through the eighth grade. The other two teachers were ladies, and they taught three grades. We had a school bell that would ring three times each morning of each school day, and each time it rang it had a special meaning. The first bell reminded you that it was time to get ready. The second bell meant to be on the way to school. The third bell meant taking up books because school had started.”

“There were three blackboards at the end of the room, and after we had a little Bible reading and said the Lord’s Prayer, sang “America” and saluted the flag, the teacher put the day’s work on the board. One board was for first grade, one for second grade, one for third grade. Each grade had one book. I have an old primer now. That was the only book we had that year. To this good day, you can look in there and see there was a story, five new words, and some writing that we were supposed to learn to do for one week. At the top of the blackboard, just like blackboards today, were our ABC’s and numbers.”

“We had no janitors so at the beginning of the school week the teachers picked out three students to sweep the room, wipe off the seats because it was so dusty, and bring in the wood for the pot-bellied stove that was in the middle of the room to keep us warm in the winter. The teacher took all of her students out on the playground alone. There was nobody out there except first, second, and third grades. A great big outdoor toilet was off down a little lane from the school. I guess it had room for about twelve students to go in at a time. We waited in line, went in, and then came out. There was no washing your hands or paper towels to dry on. We came out and played.”

“There were no such things as school buses or lunchrooms. School closed at twelve noon, and we went home for lunch if we lived close to the school. If we rode a horse to school, we tied him outside, and he stayed there while we were in school. After school, we got on him and rode home. There were also wagons and buggies. In our school districts, we went to the closest school. We had one family that was very big, and they had two or three spring seats on their wagon. They were always dismissed a little early because those kids had to get home before dark. This is primitive to you children, but we got a good education. Some of the people who went to that school turned out to be doctors and lawyers and other professionals.”

Gladys herself led a good life also, positively affecting many others in her own ways.

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