True Tales of Life In the Old Days - Part 5, Recollections of Gladys True, A Vintage Vignette

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True Tales of Life In the Old Days - Part 5
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” related her experiences in school at Trenton, Alabama, in the early 1900s. Of course, there are many more school experiences that she recorded, but this series repeats the highlights in tribute to Gladys and her fascinating book for providing glimpses into the past.

“When we got to school, the first three grades were on the left. The water coolers were in the entrance hall on both sides. I do not know where that water came from because there was no water on the property, so I guess somebody brought it each day. Facing the hall as we came in was a row of windows. Those windows were in what was called a cloak room. It was for the middle three grades, fourth, fifth, and sixth, and it was where we put our coats. In the other two classrooms, there was a cloak room that did not have windows in it, but there were windows on two sides of the room.”

“Now these windows were up high for two reasons. We had no electric lights, and we had no lamps in that school. We had natural light. The windows were up high so the light would come down over our shoulders, and there would not be a shadow on our hands. Students could not look out the window and daydream. We had to stand up to look out the window. During the first three grades, we were not even tall enough to see out.”

“We did not have the fine playground equipment like today. We did play, and we had fun. We had lots of jump ropes. Those jump ropes were plow lines that our daddies had most likely plowed with the year before. We brought our jump ropes at the beginning of the school year, and kept them in a certain place. Most of the ropes were already half-worn out, but I always had a new one because my daddy had a store. He rolled off the line by the yard to sell to people. The lines were longer than you might think because they had to go all the way to the mule, and were hooked on around their face and around the mule and back to the fellow who was sitting up in the wagon or the plow to guide the horses or mules.”

“We also had seesaws. Our daddies would bring piles of planks and make those seesaws on a sawhorse. They would fix a place for us to hold on, like the ones today. My granddaddy bent the piece of metal that was put across that plank. It was screwed on so that it could be taken off when the plank got old, and put on a newer piece of lumber. We played ‘Drop the Handkerchief’ and ‘London Bridge.’”

“As we got older, we played different games. We had two trees at the back of the school yard that had nuts on them. I called them “spigot nuts.” We could not eat them because they were very bitter, but we all tried anyway. We would pick them up, count them, put them in our cupped hands, and shake our hands together. We would say “hull-gull,” shake our hands, and say, “How many?” If the other person guessed right, we gave them all the nuts. If the bell rang, we would throw the nuts down, and go back in. We would play with them over again when we came out because they were all over the yard. We also sang songs. On rainy days we played games inside. For the life of me, I cannot remember what they were. But we were not bored when it rained.”

After considering the conditions when Gladys attended school, it is difficult to fault modern educational systems. Students of today have infinitely more opportunity for a quality education, extra-curricular activities, use of comfortable facilities, and access to state-of-art equipment. Times have indeed changed for the better in most dimensions with respect to childhood education.

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