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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.