From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Lunch Hour at a One Room School

Another Trip Down Memory Lane... Life in The Nebraska Sandhills...



At Duff Valley District 4, we loved our lunch hour. It was an extra-long hour -- really about an hour and a half, so it was a real break during the middle of the day for both students and teacher.

pitcher pumpAt 12:00 we washed our hands. We didn't have running water inside, but we had a pitcher pump in the schoolyard. In warm weather, we went outside to wash our hands. One person pumped and we got our hands wet, passed a bar of soap around and rinsed off. In cold weather, the teacher poured some hot water from her teakettle into a bucket of cold water from the pump. One person poured from a dipper, and we took turns washing our hands over a basin.

After a blessing was asked for the food, we opened our lunchboxes and ate the sandwiches, apples and cookies our mothers had packed for us. And we talked. Usually we talked in plain English, but sometimes we talked in Pig Latin, Pig German, or in Pig Spanish.

If you're wondering why you never heard of Pig German and Pig Spanish, it's because we invented them. In Pig German, every word began with "r" and ended with the former first letter plus "er." In Pig Spanish the first sound was "sp" and the ending was the former first letter plus "ish."

When everyone was done eating (usually about 12:30,) we were dismissed for a long lunch recess. Our teachers always required us to play a game to help us stay out of trouble, so someone chose one -- Dare Base, or Hide and Seek, or Run Indian Run, or Ante Over, or whatever -- and we ran around like crazy for 30 minutes.

If there was snow on the ground, we scooted out a maze with our feet so we could play Fox and Geese or Fox and Deer. When the weather was bitterly cold, the teacher let us stay inside and we played Blind Man's Bluff, or Captain May I, or The Prince of Paris. We knew lots of games, but we had our favorites which we played again and again.

At 1:00, the teacher rang the bell and we got a drink of water and sat at our desks again. Then the teacher read aloud to us until 1:30. During my grade school years, I listened to my teachers read many Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew adventures, most of the Black Stallion series by Walter Farley, the entire Laura Ingalls Wilder series, Henry Reed Inc., and many others.

This was the best part of our lunch hour and the best part of the day. Our tummies full, our bodies pleasantly tired after playing hard, we rested and listened and for a few minutes, entered the world of the story and lived there. We hated to go back to schoolwork when the teacher closed the book at 1:30.

All of this came to mind today when I saw a couple of Hardy Boys books at the flea market. I guess Frank and Joe and their pals Chet and Biff are still solving mysteries. I'm the one who has grown up and left, not them.


Hardy Boys booksI really wish the seller hadn't put the price tags on the dust jackets!

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1 comment:

Collagemama said...

In fourth grade my teacher read Lois Lenski's "Prairie School" to us. You lived it.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.