COUNTRY SCHOOLS

By Bill Grosboll
July 29, 2007

 

Shipley School, Menard County, IL

                    
The old country school in Menard County is now a thing of the past but for me, it was an experience I would not trade.  My first three years of schooling were at Shipley School located north of Petersburg about ten miles, I would guess.  As with most of the old country schools, it has been made over into a residential dwelling.  It was a single room brick building and first, second, and third grades shared this room.   My teacher for theses first three years was Mrs. Jesse Rebbe and looking back, she either had the patience of a saint or was a glutton for punishment.  I would guess that there were a couple dozen students, maybe more, in that single class room and believe me, not all of us students were well behaved.  Girls usually were more well behaved but most of us boys had to push the limit, when it came to discipline.  I’ll get into this more later on.

The room was furnished with wooden desks that were fastened to planks so that the desks could not be moved without moving the entire row.  The desks fastened to the planks were in rows that placed each desk directly behind another.  An aisle was between each row of desks and ran from the front of the room to the rear.  Across the front wall of the class room was a large “slate” black board.  Above the black board was the ABC‘s and on the wall was a map of the United States.  In front of the blackboard was the teacher’s desk.  Along side the desk was a trash can, which meant that if you got caught chewing gum or writing notes, you were required to make a spectacle of yourself as you walked to the front of the room and placed them in the trash can, much to the amusement of the other students.  Mrs. Rebbe never got too upset with the other students giggling, as this embarrassment was just part of the punishment. 

Each day began by either Mrs. Rebbe or one of the pupils going out on the steps and ringing a small brass bell with a wooden handle.  That was the signal for those of us who were outside to come in and take our seats.   From this point on, school was in session and no talking was allowed without raising your hand and getting Mrs. Rebbe’s permission to speak.  One of the first things we were taught was the Pledge of Allegiance since every day began with the pupils standing alongside their desks, right hand over their heart, facing the flag, and reciting this pledge.  After this, the teacher would get each class lined out on their studies and then begin teaching to a single grade.  While she was teaching an individual grade, the other two grades would work on their assigned studies.  We were allowed two recesses each day, one mid morning and one mid afternoon with a lunch hour at noon.  I’m not sure but lunch may have been just a half hour.  When the weather was nice, we went outside during recess and lunch to play.  It was here that I was introduced to the famous “sand burr”, something we did not have near our farm.  These little burrs were very painful, but were very practical when it came to practical jokes.

Now, getting back to the discipline.  Minor infractions earned you a lecture from the teacher, possibly having to go stand in the corner for a period of time.  My sister Sue reminded me of the blackboard on the rear wall of the classroom which was used for writing the phrase “I will not do (whatever the infraction was)”,  over and over until the blackboard was full.  Since I didn’t remember this blackboard and she does, indicates to me that she spent more time there than I did.  Using any curse word, or words, got your mouth washed out with soap.  This is not a pleasant experience and very effective, believe me. Once was enough!   A major infraction of the rules required you taking home a note from the teacher which had to be signed by the parents.  As we pupils got older and “smarter” we decided that we could just sign each others notes by forging the others parent’s signature.  This didn’t work out too well and usually ended up with twice the punishment, at school and at home.  Oh well, that is what we were sent to school for, to learn, which sometimes is not easy!  I don’t ever recall getting a paddling from the teacher but I do remember several from my dad, and they weren’t exactly “paddling’s”.


Pantier School, Menard County, IL (current picture)


Pantier School was the next step, where the 4th, 5th, and 6th grades were taught by Mrs. Helen Derry.  School there was pretty much identical to Shipley, just closer to home.   One instance of my misbehaving at Pantier School that stands out in my memory was when some of the boys decided to throw rocks at Mr. and Mrs. Russ Stevens as they came by the school in their horse drawn buggy.  I know that this was the last horse drawn buggy being used in that part of Menard County and was just too tempting a target for us.  I managed to throw a rock, breaking the glass out of one of the three small rear windows of the buggy, whereupon my dad was advised of this.  After Dad administered his punishment (not pleasant), he loaded me into the car and we drove to Mr. Steven’s house and I was required to apologize and offer to pay for the repairs.  Their home was well off the road and was located behind the north end of Tom Grosboll’s timber.   I was really afraid of facing Mr. Stevens and this was the only time I even met him face to face.  As it turned out, he was a very pleasant man and told Dad that boys will be boys.  He said he accepted my apology and would just take a glass out of another buggy and replace the broken one and that I would not have to make restitution.  Many times after that Mr. and Mrs. Stevens would pass by the school on their way to and from Petersburg and never did he repair the window.  I always regretted (and still do) throwing that rock.   

Looking back at the old one room school house, it had it’s benefits.  It made you study harder so that you wouldn’t look stupid in front of your older peers.  Another benefit was the fact that each year, depending on your grade, you had the opportunity to learn, in advance, what was coming as the classes above you received their instruction and when you were in the higher grades, you received a refresher course when the teacher was teaching a lower grade.  Even though there were three grades, each class bonded with only their’s and that bond remained all through the school years to come. 


Petersburg Jr. Sr. High School, Menard County, IL (current picture)


The greatest drawback to the old country school was the lack of indoor plumbing.  It wasn’t until 1953, when I began Jr. High in Petersburg that I had the luxury of indoor plumbing at school.  Seems somewhat strange, the atomic bomb already existed, homes were starting to have television, and many more modern conveniences were coming on the scene but yet we still trudged through the snow and rain to visit “Mother Nature” in the old outhouse. 

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