Agriculture & Livestock: And on the first day of school …

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Diane Prather

That first day of school on Morapos Creek was special for my sisters and me.

For one thing, we had new dresses, shoes and back-to-school supplies, which was a big thing in those days. We didn’t get new things all that often, even a new box of crayons.

Secondly, we liked school and enjoyed being with our friends.

Some years we may have also been a little nervous that first day, too, because we kids were apt to be meeting a new teacher. Some of the single teachers got tired of living way out in the country all of those school months and so they quit at the end of the year.

We girls were the closest to school, being within easy walking distance, but many of the other kids, especially in later years, had to be driven to school each day.

The number of pupils varied from year to year, from about six to 10. I attended the Morapos School through eighth grade, and then rode the bus to Craig to attend high school.

Our mom likely accompanied us to school on the first day. Since each community had its own school board, it was up to the parents to make sure that the teacher had everything she needed.

The mothers chatted with the teacher and brought in fresh drinking water. Then they visited in the schoolyard a little more before going home to start their daily chores.

We were left to find our desks and stow away our new supplies.

Our new supplies consisted of pencils, crayons and a Big Chief tablet. Before taking them to school, we had probably taken the crayons out of the boxes many times but never used them, and we were careful not to break them. The books were supplied by the superintendent’s office in Craig.

The smells of those new supplies are fresh in my memory.

We also had new lunch boxes that were decorated with the pictures of celebrities. Cowboy stars were especially popular in those days, so kids were apt to have new Roy Rogers and Trigger lunch boxes.

The boxes came with thermos bottles that were filled with soup when the weather turned cold.

The school day always began with the Pledge of Allegiance. Sometimes we sang a song, too, especially if the teacher played the piano.

Then, we got down to business.

As I recall, the teacher went from desk to desk giving out assignments. The older kids worked on math, English grammar, geography, history (Colorado History in eighth grade), reading and penmanship. There were lots of workbook pages to fill in.

The teacher worked more closely with the younger kids, having them sit with her on the recitation bench to read. Who can forget Dick, Jane, Sally and Puff? (“Run, Dick, run.”)

I think the older kids must have waited patiently for the teacher to finish with younger kids’ recitations before she could answer their questions.

Older kids got a turn at the recitation bench, too, for certain subjects.

Sometimes the teacher read to us from “The Instructor” magazine that, as far as I know, is still being published today.

In those days, the magazine was about 18-inches long and 10-inches wide and was filled with a surprising amount of information that included art projects, plays, music, poetry, ideas for holidays and even science.

The ads were mostly for books. There were stories, too, and I can remember the teacher sitting at her desk, holding up the large magazine and reading the stories to us.

I can still hear her pause, as the story was continued on another page. She wet her finger, found the page, and continued reading.

Teachers were big on penmanship in those days. I can remember dipping a pen (with removable tips) into an India ink bottle and practicing writing cursive letters on special penmanship paper. The directions came from a penmanship book.

The day was a busy one, and when school was out, the teacher was left with papers and workbook pages to grade.

We kids walked home and burst through the door with stories from the day. I don’t remember ever taking homework home.

Note: This story is taken from my memories, which may not be very accurate. Oh, to have kept a diary during those days. Also, I have written about “we girls.” We have a brother who was born after I graduated from eighth grade. Sadly, I did not attend school with him.

Copyright Diane Prather, 2011.

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