Ask a kid today if he’d like to do math for fun and more likely than not a bewildered stare would be the reaction.

The Black Oak School, circa 1938

Years ago, however, ciphering matches were one of several ways rural kids had fun while attending one-room schoolhouses.

There were other things to do for fun, like railroad spelling matches and geography bees. It was a necessity for teachers in those days to be creative; dealing with children all the way from age 5 through the eighth grade, it was a job requirement.

Rural education was another fundamental element behind Webster County’s history. At one time, there were nearly 90 rural schoolhouses within the county. Since many students simply walked to class, it was important to keep their education within walking distance. Most of Webster County’s schoolhouses were only one room, but there were a few that were two rooms. Others offered a hot-lunch program, however, most did not.

A day in a one-room schoolhouse had a farily typical schedule. At around 9 a.m., class would come to order with the Pledge of Allegience and prayer. Then lessons would begin. Many students learned their lessons on their own, or with help from older students. The teacher worked with students throughout the day, but with so many students, his or her time was limited.

There would be a break for lunch. Many students carried their meals to class; occassionally, the teacher would cook a pot of beans at the schoolhouse for everyone to eat.

Classes were dismissed at the end of the day, around 3 or 4 p.m. Various things were different in those days. Classes were held on an eight-month calendar instead of nine-months. This was done to allow students time to help out on the family farm during the buisest season. Also, the teacher usually borded with a family in the area and her keep was included as a part of her salary.

There were numerous benchmark days in the rural school’s calendar. One was the Christmas pagent, another were the pie suppers held to raise money for the school. The last day of school was also a time for celebration, filled with programs for parents to attend.

Webster County’s last rural school consolidated with the Seymour school district in 1965. Since then, many of the old schoolhouses have gradually deteoriated beyond repair. The memories created at them, however, will live far longer than the boards and nails could ever support.


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