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Disclaimer - It is important to remember that memories are just that. It is not uncommon that some facts may be incorrect and should not be considered to be historically factual. They are a good indicator of their time period, but should be taken as memories.

Elementary Education in Littlestown
1933 to 1941
A Personal Recollection

Richard R. Renner

Can you imagine? I went to school for eight years in what is now the Littlestown Community Center and never even knew that there had once been a high school there too! When you’re that ignorant, life can be pretty boring. And did you know that the elementary school served only children who lived in the borough? All others had to go to eight-grade one teacher rural schools, sometimes only two miles out of town. Some even went to St. Aloysius Catholic elementary school on South Queen Street opposite what then was Renner Brothers Hardware, my uncle Billy’s restaurant and Crouse’s Garage.

The School System

The Supervising Principal of the town public schools was Mr. Paul E. King. His office was in the newly constructed high school on Maple Avenue. In fact, Paul, my dad, and several others were good buddies as kids. This is not to suggest that they were the kind of pals that would upset your outdoor toilet on Halloween. By 1933 septic tanks were increasingly common in town and Halloween was beginning to turn to corn scattering on front porches, lawn furniture hoisting to your trees or roof, and the usual costumed tricks or treat for candy.

The point is that my dad and many of his friends did not attend school in Littlestown, but a one-teacher eight-grade elementary taught by Clate Palmer. That building is located on the right side of the Taneytown road about a mile out of the borough and is now a private home. Despite his humble beginning, I presume that Superintendent-to-be Paul King managed to pass his county high school admission test, and later, went on to get a college bachelor’s degree in biology. My dad, although a pretty good student, failed to demonstrate enough knowledge of algebra in that test and once graduated, was deemed fully educated and not qualified for high school. His was the situation of perhaps 90 percent of Pennsylvania boys and girls of his age.

These one-teacher schools were under the supervision of county superintendent of schools, Ira Baker. He lived in Gettysburg and his daughter’s name is Lucille; I remembered her just now, after a lapse of seventy years, because we played together at her house. Nice girl. In retrospect, my mother must have been attending a strategy meeting to determine which of Mr. Baker’s schools she would serve at as teacher.

One of the many rural schools my mother taught at, endearingly, and appropriately, was called Mud College. I think it still stands as a monument to the respect its pupils and later, parents had for the education they obtained there. It’s located about a mile or so north of town on the Gettysburg Pike. Somewhere I heard that these rural schools in Pennsylvania were situated so that no child had to walk more than two miles to school. There were no school buses for elementary children, not even in the borough, where, of course, the longest walk was less than a mile. And since there was no bus they had to catch, kids were occasionally kept after school, usually for misbehavior.

My own very first experience of schooling was in a two-room wooden structure on the playground behind the Hanover Street school. It must have been a two-week summer vacation Bible school that utilized the surplus classrooms no longer needed now that the new high school was completed. My teachers were probably volunteers recruited from local protestant churches. What do I remember about those classes—that we had a pleasant time coloring with crayons.

Teachers at Work

My first grade class was taught by Miss Kathryn Conover. According to my report card I missed nine weeks that year; all I can remember is that I spent a couple of days in West Side Hospital in York having my tonsils removed. Even so, I did pretty well in reading and arithmetic. At home I used my Dad’s chair as a desk for doing homework. You might imagine that since mother was a teacher, she would have spent a lot of time helping me with my lessons. To the best of my recollection she never did; of course, experienced teachers are usually pretty clever about such matters. And I learned some years later, that Miss Conover was secretly married all along. That was really clever!

Only unmarried females were employable in town schools. Few other professional jobs were open to talented women. Littlestown’s teachers, especially those at the elementary level, tended to be the cream of the crop, both for their intellect and overall human competence. Not only were all of my female elementary teachers very good, but, since jobs of any kind were so scarce due to the massive unemployment nationally, there was pressure on them to be extra diligent and dedicated—and they were! They were at the very top of the elementary teacher barrel. Even a young kid could notice that! And, if you were a young unmarried chick teacher, as most of mine were, having high husband hopes must have helped keep your morale asparkle.

Common thinking then held that a married woman’s place was in the home and Borough School Board policy sought to enforce it. Because of this, my mother, a Shippensburg Teachers College graduate with several years experience in suburban Philadelphia schools, was forced to teach for a couple of decades in one-room rural schools like Mr. Palmer’s. She later taught in Carroll County, Maryland, where salaries were better. Many years later, when special programs for the handicapped were mandated by the Pennsylvania legislature, she finally taught in her specialty at Rolling Acres in Littlestown. I’ve heard it said that she was the first person licensed in this field in Pennsylvania. Prior to this, if handicapped children attended school at all, they were included in regular classes that were not designed to provide any special attention to their handicap. Ralph was one of my elementary classmates for several years. He was able and healthy, but very slow. We kids were never unkind to him, but it was also difficult to relate to him as a personality. After fifth grade, when he turned 16, he disappeared from our school.

My second grade teacher was Janet Mehring. I believe we were learning to do handwriting at this time; printing each letter was considered kid stuff and would have slowed us down. Good penmanship was serious business. The Palmer penmanship method was promoted by the school but within a year or so we were switched to the Peterson system. A skilled penman would come around once or twice a year and give our class demonstrations that emphasized a clear, effortless and correct style. In fact, good handwriting in those days, when few owned typewriters, had practical vocational significance. All report cards carried a space that evaluated the pupil’s (hand) “writing.”

I think that this also was the year that classmate Leroy Moose was into trapping. He lived on South Queen and ran a line of traps in the Piney Creek area. Many people kept chickens in those days and these attracted skunks. Leroy could get a dollar each for a pelt. But some mornings his skunks were still alive when he checked his traps and they greeted him in an unfriendly manner. Since compulsory attendance laws were seriously enforced, our classroom shared vicariously in Leroy’s trapping accidents.

Miss Vivian Brumgard was a lady teacher of rather serious mein. Probably this was because she was older than other female teachers. We boys understood that she lived with her sister near the lower end of the railroad bridge (now gone) just below the cemetery. A visit to her house at Halloween was for thrills, not candy. As a teacher she was always strict, firm and fair.

One more thing about third grade - I played the triangle in the rhythm band. Lots of fun. Ding! Ding!

Miss Esther Basehoar. I got pretty good grades in her class, so logically, she must have been a good teacher. Right? If you believe that, you’ll believe almost anything school administrators tell you.
But she really was a solid teacher and a nice person.

It must have been during noon break, while in fourth grade, that four of us decided to go see the dead body. Littles’ Funeral Parlor was directly across the street from the school and we climbed the steps, went through the big door, and there it was, and there we were. So, that’s what being dead was all about. Mr. Little was very nice and didn’t throw us out. We left politely and went off to Miss Basehoar’s afternoon classes.

My first four or five grades stressed lots of drill. We memorized addition and subtraction combinations adhering strictly to the rules we were given. Arithmetic could be fun but that wasn’t why we studied it. I think that most of us got pretty proficient at multiplying and dividing. For example, we got to recall automatically that 6x9=54. We could have mastered all this more accurately and easily with an abacus of some sort but no one seems to have heard of them. No keeping up with the Chinese then. Nonetheless, firm arithmetic proficiency kept us from being ripped off in the market place—those who lacked it were at the mercy of opportunists. There were no little hand held electronic calculators in those days. Ideally, we were supposed to understand arithmetic, not just do it.

Harvey Schwartz taught fifth grade. Spelling appeared as a subject on Littlestown report cards as early as second grade. Unlike a lot of other languages, English spelling just sort of happened. It’s a mess. The educational problem is that if you can’t spell well, people who can, will question your judgment about other matters. For example, I am troubled by a two word instruction I found at a local web location, that says “summit an artikal,” meaning submit an article. Would you? To such a writer? Why?

Anyway, Pappy Schwartz, then about age 60, was famous for his firmness. An old time teacher, he was ready to do what needed to be done. We had a list of 20 words each week to spell correctly and on Friday we were tested. You qualified for a spanking from Schwartz’ hefty paddle if you misspelled two or more. The week’s spankings could be heard outside his door in the hallway. The spelling list did not contain obscure words, but those commonly subject to misspellings. So, we became good spellers. An exception was made for Ralph who was about five years older than the rest of us. If there were other exceptions, they were known only to Mr. Schwartz.

By the way, no one called Mr. Schwartz “Pappy” to his face, but it gradually became a term of endearment for many of his pupils once they got older—something like ‘I’m proud I survived Marine boot camp’.

Mr. Schwartz also made potato chips every Saturday morning at his home located where the trolley tracks once left East King Street to head for Hanover. His chips were especially good because, unlike store bought chips, they were fresh and made from lard! Similar to Gibble’s today. (Unsolicited advertisement.)

Oneda Collins taught sixth grade. There we produced a hectographed newspaper nearly every month and I got involved in writing rhymes for it and was known to a few as the Sixth Grade Poet. Sadly, to the best of knowledge, all my literary gems have been lost. I think that it was also in this grade that we started memorizing famous poems and even the Gettysburg Address. Why not? After all, most Littonians were born there, on the site of the second day’s battle. Seriously, we did memorize Lincoln’s classic speech and, if I remember correctly, also a poem nearly every month. Not much comes to mind now but, ‘Oh Captain, My Captain, Tear her tattered ensign down, The boy stood on the burning deck’ (yeah, eating peanuts by the peck) etc. Why am I giving you these bits? Because, I’ve forgotten the rest. Although since age five, I had recited Christmas pieces (Mother calls me Richard, Father calls me Dick…) before the church at St. John’s, the grade school experience really taught me how to memorize stuff—a useful skill. In truth, it put pressure on me to teach myself how to learn--which is at the heart of most education. Also, memoriter learning is always more than just memorization. Unfortunately, our teachers rarely provided any sensitive context for these pieces; that certainly would have helped juice up our appreciation. I still like poetry best that rhymes.

Blonde Miss Emma Ulrich taught my seventh grade. I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t remember much from her’s or Leon Weidner’s eighth grade classes. I just remember that we exchanged classrooms sometimes, just like in high school. After all, we were supposed to be junior high. If I was in an adolescent daze some of the time I didn’t realize that I was.

But I do remember that in eighth grade I was given the job of bell ringer. Our large homeroom must have been the old high school assembly hall—its second floor windows faced the Alpha Fire Company. My seat was in the back of the room and I left it 17 times a day to ring bells. The first five grades were downstairs and 6,7,and 8 were up. I did ding dong bells and buzzer bells. There was a 20 minute recess (defined by my rings) for the lower grades and soon thereafter followed a similar break for the upstairs classes. As I recall, the roof top ding dong bell marked the end of recesses and the one hour lunch break. On one occasion I became the brunt of Pappy Schwartz’ ire when he claimed that I rang the downstairs return-from-recess bell ten minutes early. I still don’t think I got it wrong; on another occasion my over enthusiastic pull of the rope upset the bell in the tower so that Mr. Weidner had to climb up in the belfry to set it back to its ringing position.

There was a national election for president in 1940. Roosevelt was running for a third term. It seemed likely that it was only a matter of time until we would join the war against Hitler’s Nazi Germany. The entire school had a mock election. My dad favored the Republican candidate, Alf Landon, of Kansas. But Roosevelt had been very popular in my class and I didn’t think Alf had much of a chance. So, at our secret-ballot eighth grade election I voted for Earl Browder. When final school votes were tallied, no vote for Browder was reported although he was the legal American Communist Party candidate for president. I learned a bit more about American ”democracy” on that November day.


Social Impacts

Although I didn’t know it when in school, I learned from a Littlestown web page that my Uncle Sam was a member of the town school board. So too was my family physician, Dr. Crouse. A nice man but who, my mother reported many years later, hinted darkly that my heart was not then fully developed and I might not live long. I have so far proved him wrong!

As the Depression wore on, in about 1936, new kids began to appear in our classes. Some of these, like Eddie Hood, had left the local Catholic school; no tuition was charged if one attended our public school. And there was some increased employment at local factories. I remember Betty Lambert, a lovely blonde girl in my fourth(?) grade whose sweet savoir faire charmed all of the sentient boys. I’ve concluded since that her father was a new shoe company executive. She disappeared the next year as he (probably) moved on. Our local female classmates were generally decent and wholesome girls but seemed to lack the urbane nuances (charm?) that Betty possessed. It’s what some suburban private schools encourage. For many locals though, the teaching of such values might have been deemed inappropriate, undemocratic and possibly even harmful to kids especially by those whose highest ambition at that time was holding a full time factory job.

The truant officer must have been an important figure although I never met one. Depression parents sometimes felt that their children’s labor was more valuable than regular school attendance. I suspect also that the school was probably eligible to claim a state subsidy based on attendance. Thaddeus Stevens, a Gettysburg lawyer in the 1830’s, is nationally acclaimed by historians for making the speech in the Pennsylvania legislature that led to a system of free compulsory education that subsequently became a national pattern. Mr. Le Fevre, proprietor of a private school in Littlestown, and a state legislator, opposed it. Free public education, by teaching in English, threatened the treasured German ethnicity of southern Pennsylvania.

Physical Facilities and Routines

Boys entered the schoolhouse from the right entrance; their bathrooms were in the basement; girls entered from the left.
Each classroom was arranged so that daylight came in from the left, thus favoring the right-handed. Kids inclined toward left-handedness were encouraged to write with their right hand. After all, the alphabet and penmanship lessons were designed for the right-handed.

At least once a month, or less, as needed, all pupils were issued a Roberts and Meck tablet and a yellow lead pencil. A wooden steel pen was also issued for handwriting lessons. In some states you had to bring your own writing supplies. Ball-point pens did not exist. Textbooks were signed out to each student by the teacher and they were returned unmarked at the end of the year. Some texts grew old in service. It would have been better, but more costly, for students to have been permitted to mark up their texts and keep them. Once the pupil read them they became a valued personal reference.

Our formal school day began in the classroom with state mandated ceremonies. There was the pledge of allegiance to the flag of the United States, and “to the republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Each classroom had its flag. “Under God” was added to the pledge much later. Read on and you can see why it wasn’t needed in my day..

State law also required the daily reading aloud of five verses of the King James (Protestant) version of the Bible. Some teachers decided which five were to be read, others gave the pupil reader discretion to decide. If my memory serves, the last item of the ceremony was this prayer, recited in unison: “Our father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen”.

In contrast, I attended a public high school in Santa Fe, New Mexico for a short time in 1946 and none of this opening ritual was present. Over half the students were Roman Catholic non-immigrant native speakers of Spanish. Although English was their second language, they spoke it more grammatically than my friends in Littlestown. Why? They used it only in school where educated English set the standard.

Did the Pennsylvania state required religious and patriotic ceremonies make a difference? When I did a survey of my high school classmates about fifty years after their graduation, I found considerable respect for the values echoed in those rites. However, only a few of my respondents had continued formal schooling beyond high school.

Our playground was mostly gravel. The Lock Up (town jail) in one corner, was a small two cell brick structure with iron bars. It was not intended for pedagogical purposes. Sometimes we would peep in to see the “criminals.” Mostly, if anyone was there at all, were drunks drying out, and the odd vagrant.

By 1933 most pupils arrived at school having had enough to eat. Mush (cooked corn meal) and milk with a little sugar did for breakfast, fried mush and molasses for supper; potatoes, sauerkraut, cooked dried beans, and rice, even some “pon hoss” (scrapple) were usually available.

Littlestown’s second largest bank closed its doors early in the depression. The state bank corporation that replaced it offered saving account banking to children in my school. I felt that saving accounts were a good idea, especially for the banks, but I had long contributed to a personal account of my own with the local national bank. There was an effort to get all kids in each classroom signed up for an account, even if only for a pittance. My dad, having lost substantial savings in the crash of the state bank’s predecessor, understandably did not encourage me to join. And I didn’t. I was the only one in my class. In retrospect, what we kids really needed was some basic understanding about what banks do and how investment in banks has advantages and risks for small investors. That kind of information was never provided..

Deportment and Demeanor

Generally kids were well behaved. Fights during recess were infrequent. I do remember one in sixth grade because I was involved. I made a remark in the hall during recess that Paul Bolin didn’t like; I wish now I could remember what it was. His younger sister, Thelma, was in my class. Anyway he gave me a Hollywood style punch that knocked me to the floor. Since he was about six inches taller than me, I had to work up from the bottom. I grabbed his ankles and he toppled to the floor. My dignity restored, I walked off.

There was usually little opportunity during class for pupils to interrupt school routines. Children always raised their hand to speak or ask a question. All seats were single, unlike the rural schools that shared double desks, and all were firmly attached to the oiled floors in ranks and files. The teacher was the one in charge and was the one who knew. Children were mostly of the same age, perhaps half of them the offspring of factory workers; they were expected to behave and most did. Failure to be passed on to the next grade did happen for poor performance, but was uncommon. Schools were seen by parents to be an opportunity for the improvement of one’s life and kids did the best they could. Elementary children usually respect competent teachers and try to cooperate. On one occasion, in the upper grades, I got a quick whack with a ruler that I did not see how I deserved. Although the teacher may have just been having a bad hair day, I restrained my “cooperative spirit” for a couple of weeks after that.

Curriculum and Special Subjects


Report card grades were one of the keys to managing an orderly school. Teachers weren’t required to write essay comments about your performance; letter grades for each subject, four times a year, sufficed. But the list of topics on the report card very clearly showed what subjects mattered and which values were important.
Report cards listed, in order: days absent, times tardy, effort, conduct, neatness; then reading, language, writing (penmanship), arithmetic, geography, history, spelling, nature study, music and health. We were taught (and often actually learned) a lot about American and world geography. I’m still thrilled when I visit some obscure place like Budapest, Rio de Janeiro or the Silk Road because I once heard about it in my elementary geography classes. My recollection of U.S. history is far less vivid, even when taught by the same set of teachers, probably because its American content tended toward patriotic justification of the status quo rather then explaining why America became what it is.

My dad gave me a nickel for each report card A.

We had a music teacher once a week and she taught about how to read music. Mostly though, we sang songs from our text. In eighth grade, on Friday afternoons, we listened to a half hour of classical music broadcast to schools on AM radio out of New York by Walter Damrosch. Boring.

I clearly had a problem with music. I had been taking piano lessons at home since age five (until age 13). Although I could play some relatively complicated stuff, and although I could laboriously decode musical notation, what I could play well I had memorized. I had never known music in school as something to be enjoyed, or as an inspiring and active adjunct to marching or dance. But I did help a lot of my lady music tutors weather the “hard times.” School music seemed cast as low-key cultural uplift.

There was no FM radio or TV in those years. There were no science labs nor school plays; there was no gym, no physical education or school sports program in the elementary school. A bit of pick up baseball at recess is all I can recall and sometimes it was fun. I often “spectated” Saturday afternoon baseball down at the “stadium” on the town playground. Littlestown played lots of nearby towns and usually did very well.

Out of School Education

In the mid thirties daily 15 minute late afternoon radio shows at home were popular. I favored Tom Mix and his Ralston Straight Shooters, the gist of which was that honesty and justice should prevail in cowboy land and ultimately did. Also I listened to Little Orphan Annie and her rich capitalist benefactor, Daddy Warbucks. Cooked wheat cereal and Ovaltine were the products being peddled. I was a very loyal listener to both. We could get stations dependably from York and Baltimore. Later came the Lone Ranger and his loyal Indian sidekick Tonto. Although it was never explained, Tonto’s name in Spanish, a major language of the southwest, means “stupid.” Amazing, isn’t it? Didn’t anyone know? Or care?

Later still came the celebrated traveler and newscaster Lowell Thomas, known as Loyal Thomas by my much younger sister, Nancy.

Littlestown had no public library. I cycled seven miles to the Carnegie Library in Hanover. School taught me to read early but the downside of all this reading was that by age 13 my vision had become slightly blurred, clearly due, in my opinion, to the staring associated with prolonged focusing on print. So, sadly, instead if taking the exercises that might then have restored good eye vision, I bought glasses for mild nearsightedness and from then on my vision, without glasses, gradually got worse.

Johnson Smith and Company sold novelties by mail to kids and adults. I bought a book on hypnosis and hypnotized my cat Tommy. Many years later it was psychology students, but that’s a different story. Anyway, Johnson Smith’s products opened up a world that few of my classmates then dreamed of. It offered list of E. Haldeman Julius’ Little Blue Books—32 and 64 page pocket books on a thousand different subjects. They sold for a dime each. Besides Darwin and Darrow, Einstein and Relativity and so on, I was fascinated by his books purporting to teach foreign languages. Years earlier, when I was eight, along with every pound of Swift’s Brookfield Butter we bought, were enclosed a premium of two or three used foreign postage stamps. They really piqued my interest. I had never heard of anybody who knew anything but Littlestown English…imagine! Of course Mr. Okul, our green grocer on the Square was Turkish, but no one seemed to know that. Decades later I finally figured out why his wife, who lived down the street from us, seemed to stay hidden, usually concealing her face and wearing droopy, somber clothes. After Iraq, everyone knows the answer.

I hesitated to mention Haldeman-Julius as a formative influence during my elementary school years because I couldn’t remember exactly when I began acquiring his stuff. But I know that my 9-year old cat Tommy was last seen at 8:00 am January 28, 1942 and he had been my hypnosis subject much earlier, therefore I concluded that Johnson Smith and his Haldeman-Julius’ books were important during my last two elementary years. By such means I managed to make vague but important impressions more precise.

The Regent Theater, just off the Square on Frederick Street, should be mentioned. It showed the usual Hollywood fare, mostly black and white sound films. Why refer to them as education? Well, for ten cents a kid could see a newsreel like The March of Time, or a Flash Gordon serial as well as a feature film. In the decade before my time, movies had a sin-tainted reputation. By the 1930’s they had acquired sound (not just a pianist down in front) and a code of self-censorship adopted to deter actual church lobbied government intervention in the name of decency. Apart from the cowboy films where the Indians were usually the bad guys, plots were wholesome and moral. I even saw one day’s features through three times. It’s interesting how differently a feature film appears during the second and third viewings. Nowadays you can even try this at home with your DVD player.

Critique

The good thing about schooling in Littlestown was the feeling that we kids were all treated equally, that is fairly, and I think most of the pupils felt this way. Perhaps I was insensitive to the fact that my family was on the fringe of the managerial classes and that therefore I saw conditions as rosier than they appeared to others, but I have since lived in other parts of the USA and my perception of fairness back then remains much the same. Littlestown schools could have developed ruses to discriminate against the local Catholic children, the Maryland factory workers’ kids or the children from needy families, but as a kid, I got no sense of that. Yes, we called Negroes ‘niggers’ because that was the polite word used locally but we knew none, although they were known to exist. Oh, there was a feeling that Maryland drivers were somehow morally undeveloped but we never let that apply to our Marylander friends.

Teachers sometimes reminded us that were lucky to live in a democracy. We should be proud of it and ready to vote when we grew up. There was nothing mentioned about how to become active in a local election, what it takes to get justice in a court of law and so on. Sex education was not only out of the question, but was pretty much a taboo topic. If there was use of illegal drugs we never heard of it.

But more could have been done. Years ago, in South Australia, I observed instruction of 7th graders on how to debunk advertisements in their local newspaper. The teacher explained and demonstrated the tricks that were being used to mislead consumers. One quick illustration, the term “on sale,” is meaningless if touted in the absence of previous, or other comparative price information, data that is rarely supplied by the advertiser. Learning to think carefully as a consumer seems more valuable to a factory worker’s child than the location and significance of Sarajevo. But when school boards are locally elected; advising pupils to favor Renner Brothers’ over Zerfing’s for hardware is to invite serious problems for the teacher who does so.

Although we did learn to fill out a check properly we received few candid tips on to how to succeed in life. Perhaps I expect too much from an elementary school. But to leave such instruction to parents sustains social inequalities.

Some of the my younger teachers gave evidence of an inclination toward the philosophy of the American educational theorist John Dewey. By the 1930’s his ideas had come to dominate most teachers’ colleges. But the “progressive” group work by pupils is difficult when desks are fastened to the floor. I believe that most of my recently minted teachers also shared Dewey’s “progressive” view that they should be more concerned with each of their 25 or more pupils as individuals, as more than simply vessels to be filled with academic skills and information. Littlestown elementary taught data in abundance, but what to make of this cornucopia was in the end, up to the student. Apart from hard work, and learning to tolerate tedious effort, what other lesson was to be learned? After all, anticipation of a European war was bringing an end the problem of unemployment; who then could guess where the new high school and American participation in World War II might take us.

Author’s Note

People often wonder how I can remember so many details nearly seventy years after they happened. Well, some scholars claim that we never forget anything; what we once knew reverts to our subconscious where it remains dormant until needed. Consider the following example that occurred after I thought I’d finished these recollections. I was annoyed because I remembered, at 6:00 am on a recent Sunday morning that Littlestown school rules prohibited me from riding my bike to school. Why? Kids near my present house in Florida do it every day. Modern critics might accuse Mr. King and his school board of a power play. But, could it have been that the Board took the “no bikes on sidewalks ordinance ” seriously? Sidewalks were the province of pedestrians and bikes had to travel legally, with traffic, on the side of the roadway. This situation could be very dangerous for novice cyclists, especially in ice and snow. That topic led me on to crossing guards. I didn’t remember any during my first year or two. Were there none? Perhaps not. But by third grade I remember safety patrol students officiating at the intersection of East King and Maple Avenue, probably in response to the increase in traffic to the new high school. Then this reminded me, of my very first walk to school from 381 East King Street and it jogged the memory that my mother accompanied me. After that I went with neighborhood kids. Next popped out the thought that we walked proudly un-chaperoned, with friends and were rarely driven by parents. In those days families had only one car, if any. Then too, many would have been unable to transport their children because of home duties or employment demands. What’s more, little school kids are proud to be their own boss and walking to school was a way to show it. So, another pile of facts and insights emerges.

So, perhaps, to sum up, what Littlestown’s elementary school taught me was to do a job thoroughly. Perhaps too much so, as the length of this essay illustrates.

June, 2006

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Littlestown Area Historical Society
50 East King Street, Littlestown, PA 17340