I Remember My School Days
As another school year comes to a close for students and teachers in Pendleton County, I think back and remember the beginning of my school days until the end. Twelve years seems like forever, but the person school is helping you become determines what you will do with the rest of your years, however many that might be. I’m proud to say that I had really good teachers each of the 12 years I attended school!
I started school at the one-room school in Doe Hill, Virginia, in September of 1947 at 6-1/2 years of age. There wasn’t a school close to the Siple Place nor a bus running on the Thorn that I recall. It was decided I would stay with Aunt Cleo and Uncle Vernon who were living at Doe Hill at the time. I still had a walk of over a mile to the school.
I was a pretty adventurous person but walking to school those first several months was no adventure, I assure you!
We were taught to stay away from the farm animals, especially the horses, from the time we were able to walk and be outside. The horses, Clay and Bute, were kept in the long field that went to where the lane to the main road started and I had to walk through that field. These two horses were just as mean as the ones at the Siple Place had been. I learned very quickly to walk along the fence, and this worked well unless I needed to cross the fence as there was a herd of Black Angus cattle and a big bull on that side of the fence. The animals were one thing to manage but the airplane/airplanes were something else. I don’t know if there was just one airplane or more that would pick that exact location to practice air stunts. I would hide in a fence corner until the plane moved on. There was an airport in Monterey, Virginia, but I to this day don’t know why those planes would practice over that field. I sure was glad when the rest of the family moved to Doe Hill. Where was Aunt Cleo you might say—well, most people don’t know this, but she was just as much afraid of farm animals, and probably moreso, than I was!
My first teacher was Mrs. Edna Armstrong, and she was teaching grades one through eight. I don’t remember how many of us there were, but I was the only one in first grade. Mrs. Armstrong would start with me, and we would do what required her help and then I worked by myself while she moved on with the next grade. Completing my work usually didn’t take too long, so I would listen to what she was teaching the other students.
There was always a morning and afternoon recess. We played Tag and Hide and Seek mostly, but sometimes the older students played softball. The room was heated with a coal burning stove that was in the middle of the room. The drinking water was carried in a bucket from a spring that was across the road and a small stream. There was a foot bridge to cross in order to get to the spring. We didn’t have individual cups, so everyone drank from the same dipper. Imagine that being allowed today. There was no hot lunch—everyone carried lunch from home. Some students were lucky enough to have a lunch pail but I carried mine in a paper bag. I was lucky to have that. I ate a lot of scrambled egg sandwiches and grape jelly sandwiches my first two years in school. I really didn’t like that jelly after it started to crystallize.
There was one outside toilet up in the field some distance from the school. Everyone was expected to go to the toilet during recess and trips out there were few during class. We all know where there are children, there is going to be mischief.
Doe Hill School was no different. I remember one of the older boys went to the toilet and a couple of the others shut the door from the outside with him in there. When class started, he wasn’t there, and Mrs. Armstrong soon knew why. I don’t ever remember that happening again. She was business and she meant business.
There was a stool in the corner next to the blackboard. That stool had a special purpose, and a few students were honored to sit there with a dunce cap on their head. I’m glad to say I never received that honor. I also remember students standing in front of the blackboard with their noses in a chalk ring. I don’t ever remember a paddle being used.
As I mentioned earlier, the family moved to Doe Hill in November of my first year in school. Where I had been walking over a mile to school from Aunt Cleo’s, now I walked over two miles from where we lived. If the weather was bad daddy would ride Jerry, the riding horse, and take me to school.
I finished the first grade well prepared for second. I knew all about Baby Sally, Dick and Jane, and Spot and Puff. I loved those little books! I knew the alphabet, could print my name, count and write my numbers, and tie my shoes. Like a lot of small children, I had a hard time learning to tie my shoes. I also found that I couldn’t use right hand scissors and thank goodness there were left hand scissors. I still use my left hand when using scissors.
I started second grade and my sister who is 11 months younger than me, started first. I don’t remember why but I remained at Doe Hill School while she rode a bus to McDowell, Virginia. She was always by my side when I did my first-grade homework, so she had memorized what I was doing. Mrs. Ervine, the first grade teacher at McDowell, found my sister already knew all she was teaching the other students, so my sister was returned to Doe Hill and Ms. Audra Judy, my teacher, decided it was no point keeping her in first grade, so she joined me in second grade. We finished school together—graduating in 1960.
I think that Ms. Audra Judy was the last teacher to teach at Doe Hill School. She was from Pendleton County and stayed with the Moyers family while teaching there. I just loved Ms. Audra and she has remained the favorite of all my teachers. I never dreamed that one day Ms. Audra and I would both work for the Pendleton County Board of Education. Although both older, married and now widows, with children of our own, that bond and friendship from many years gone, is still there. I consider Ms. Audra “Judy” Arbogast one of my dearest friends to this day.
With the Doe Hill School closed we were all set to start third grade at the McDowell School. That didn’t happen as the school burned down. We spent third grade with Mrs. Ruth Pullin at the Hiner Church. I don’t remember who did the cooking, but we did have hot lunch there. My sister and I both got the chickenpox while in the third grade. The construction of a new elementary school was done while we were at Hiner Church, and we started fourth grade in the new school. The old school had been a high school but after it burned, all high school students were sent to Monterey High School.
My sister and I finished elementary school at Stonewall Elementary and started eighth grade at Monterey High School. One of the classes we had each week, after starting in the new building, was week day religious education taught by Ms. Elsie Coffey. I really liked this class and Ms. Coffey was very thorough in her teaching. All students took part in the discussion and work she presented. No one was excluded!
In all my 12 years of school there wasn’t a single book we weren’t allowed to read, if able to read, and none pulled from the shelves. We were encouraged to read and assigned books to read and then to write a report on what we had read.
My sister and I continued in the same grade all through high school. We both had basically the same classes except for my junior year when I chose practical math and she took general business. I made it through that class by the “skin of my teeth” as the saying goes.
One would think that siblings in the same grade, doing the same assignments would help each other. I can honestly say that wasn’t the case and that I worked hard for and earned every single grade I ever received.
Did I look forward to the close of school each spring? Of course I did. That meant that I would have time to roam over the hills, after chores and enjoy nature. I always enjoyed and still do what nature offers. Was I excited when school started back in the fall? I was. I didn’t know what to expect or what the teacher would be like, but I was ready to give my all. A new school year meant that I had a few new clothes bought with money from selling huckleberries.
I have fond memories of my school days and all those special teachers who worked with me and taught me the skills and lessons I would need to become a successful adult. I should have said “thank you” many years ago.
Violet R. Eye
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