Updated date:

What It Was Like Going to a Two-Room Country School

Paul lived near a two-room school in Honey Creek, Wisconsin for many years. Two of his sisters and a close neighbor attended the school.

What It Was Like Going to a Two-Room Country School

An abandoned one or two-room school in the U.S. Midwest

An abandoned one or two-room school in the U.S. Midwest

In 1957, we moved to a farm one-half mile north of the village of Honey Creek. A two-room public school was in the village,

Although I did not attend Honey Creek School, a close neighbor Bonnie went there for eight years 1948-56. Later, two of my sisters, Patty and Beatrice, also attended Honey Creek School from 1960-62.

In this article, I share Bonnie's and Patty's interesting stories about attending Honey Creek School. These stories include memories of this school, teachers, staff, classes, recess, and school activities.

Author's Memories of One-Room and Four-Room Schools in the 1950s

Although I never attended a one or two-room school, I remember one in the rural area of Vernon in Waukesha County, Wisconsin where I lived in the mid-1950s. Looking through the window of the school, I saw a teacher's desk and four or five rows of desks for students. A big piano was in the corner of the room.

Mom and dad, instead, sent me to Saint James Catholic School in the village of Mukwonago four miles away. This school had three classrooms in the basement of the church and one classroom in the basement of the Parish directory. Each classroom had two grades with one teacher.

When I was in seventh grade, our class shared a classroom with eighth-graders. My class had about 15 students and 15 were in eighth grade. The seventh-graders sat in two columns on the left side of the room with the eighth-graders in two columns on the right. While our nun teacher taught lessons to the eighth grade, our class was busy doing assignments.

Memories of the Two-Room Honey Creek School Building

Honey Creek School was a two-level structure built in 1915. It was located on a small hill in the village of Honey Creek. Although situated in Walworth County, the school was only a stone's throw from the Racine County line. Memories of the inside and outside of Honey Creek School are recalled by my sister Patty and former neighbor Bonnie.

My Sister's Memories of the Honey Creek School Building

As my sister Patty recalls, the school was so big. It had two large rooms. The one on the west side was the "little room" for grades 1-4. The one on the east side was the "big room" for grades 5-8.

Bonnie's Memories of the Honey Creek School Building

According to Bonnie, Honey Creek School had cloakrooms for girls and boys. The boys' cloakroom was a long hall that went to the lower level. A big bell/rope was in the upper-grade boys' hall.

The lower level consisted of restrooms, a playroom (used on rainy days,) and a lunchroom.

There was a pretty long sidewalk in the front of the school.

The back of the school was the play area. It consisted of a baseball field, swings, monkey bars (a.ka. a jungle gym,) and a merry-go-round.

Honey Creek School Staff

During its existence from 1915 through 1965, Honey School had two teachers. In the year before it closed, the school actually had three teachers.

Patty and Bonnie's Memories of the Honey Creek School Staff

Both Patty and Bonnie recall the school having two teachers. The upper-grade (5-8) teacher was the principal. A subordinate taught grades 1-4.

Bonnie recalls that when she was in the third grade, her teacher re-enlisted in the Army. She left Bonnie's class at Christmas break. Bonnie felt very lucky because she had very dedicated teachers.

Bonnie further remembers that hot lunch could be bought for 25 cents a day. There were two long tables in the lunchroom. One table was for hot lunch and one for cold.

Bonnie also notes there was a county nurse that came to give shots, test hearing, and eyes. She also filled the goiter pill bottle. Each student took one pill every week.

Honey Creek School Classrooms and Classes

Honey Creek School had a public school curriculum that included classes in reading, writing, and arithmetic. Patty and Bonnie's memories of specific classes follow.

Patty's Memories of Honey Creek School Lower-Grade Classrooms and Classes

Patty recalls that in the first and second grade, there were four or five rows each having one grade in her classroom. When she had a class like reading or arithmetic, the grade called would go to the front and sit at a big table near the desk of Patty's teacher. Mrs. Dick would then call on each child or have them do arithmetic or write things on the blackboard.

Bonnie's Memories of Honey Creek School Upper and Lower-Grade Classrooms and Classes

Bonnie also remembers her classroom having four or five rows with one grade in each row. Like Patty's memories, when a grade was called, it would go to the front of the class and sit at a table near the teacher's desk.

Bonnie notes that science and social studies classes were taught by combining two grades.

Although there were no gym classes when Bonnie attended school, in later years, a teacher and students would walk across the road to the Community Hall for gym class. The author personally saw Honey Creek students playing basketball in the Community Hall in 1958.

Bonnie also recalls that Honey Creek School had art and music classes taught on the radio.

Honey Creek Baptist Church with Community Hall to the Left

Honey Creek Baptist Church

Honey Creek Baptist Church

Memories of Honey Creek School Students

At least half of the students who attended Honey Creek School lived in the village of Honey Creek, Many students, however, from rural areas in the townships of Spring Prarie, Waterford, Rochester, and Burlington also went to Honey Creek School.

As Bonnie remembers, almost all the kids walked to school. Those living on farms outside of Honey Creek were usually driven to school by their parents. Some kids lived more than a mile away and walked it every day. My two eldest sisters who lived a one-half mile away walked to school every day.

Bonnie's Honey Creek School Classes in 1948 and 1956

Bonnie's eighth grade graduating class.  Also  Bonnie with grades 1-4 students.

Bonnie's eighth grade graduating class. Also Bonnie with grades 1-4 students.

Bonnie's Memories of Recess

Bonnie recalls that she had two recesses a day plus the noon hour. Her teachers never had a break or prep time because they had to take turns supervising recess. Baseball was the game of the day for upper grades. Bonnie and her classmates also had balls, jump rope, and jacks.

Her fifth-eighth grade teacher set up a series of games during the winter. They played dice, dominoes, and carrom. If you won the game, you moved to the next one. The teacher punched your card. At the end of the noon hour, whoever had the most punches got a Hershey bar.

Patty's Memories of Recess and After-School Activities

Patty vividly recalls that recess was looked forward to all morning. In the fall and spring, they would play behind the school with the big kids playing baseball and Patty and the little tykes playing tag and pom-pom pull-away.

After school, some big kids would take a large tractor tire and one would sit inside. The kids would push him down the hill in the back of the school and he would go round and round until the tire fell to its side with a dizzy rider!

In the winter after school, Patty and her classmates would go down to the creek. If it was frozen, they would walk under the bridge hanging on to the steel beams underneath hoping the ice wouldn't break.

Bonnie's Memories of School Activities

As Bonnie recalls, "We always had Christmas and Valentine parties in our classrooms.

Every year we had a great Halloween party at the Hall. There was a costume parade and prizes along with a spook house. Upper grades were treated to a hayride.

At Christmas, we performed at the Hall. Upper grades put on a play and sang. Lower grades had a rhythm band. The little kids wore red or blue capes and hats. They sang, too. Santa came and handed out a bag of candy and nuts.

In spring, our school hosted a Play Day for the rural schools. I guess we had the biggest playground. There were all kinds of field day activities. If you won the event, you got a button. Everyone tried to get as many buttons as they could."

My Sister Patty's Memories of School Activities

My sister Patty remembers her Honey Creek School activities this way. "Halloween was scary with the windows in the big room decorated with very colorful scenes of cemeteries, witches, and ghosts. Rae Ludwig I believe was the main artist.

For Halloween, we also had a party and the teacher had a contest to see what child had the best costume. One year (my sister) Beatrice was an Indian girl wearing a gunny sack and a headdress with feathers from our chickens. That year mama gathered cornsilk from ears of corn and sewed them on a piece of cloth and I was the bearded lady. I think I won a prize.

Nothing compared with the pageantry of Christmas! Trees were put in each room decorated with ornaments and lights.

The little room drew names from each class and we exchanged gifts. I received a tiny pinball game which I cherished.

A school play was put on for the community in the village hall and everyone had a part. The plays were quite imaginative. One year, all of us little kids carried a lit candle to the front stage in the darkened hall. The only lights were the huge tree in the front and the many candles. Then Santa appeared with a big bag of candy for everyone. Sixty some years later, the memory still makes me smile."

Honey Creek Bridge Looking East

Honey Creek Bridge Looking East.  The School is on the Right at the Top of the Picture.

Honey Creek Bridge Looking East. The School is on the Right at the Top of the Picture.

Concluding Thoughts

When younger, I always thought that the education of students in two-room schools was inferior to larger one-room-per-class schools in towns. In reading the memories of Patty and Bonnie, I think their school would have been interesting and I would have received a good education. Many graduates of Honey Creek School went to college and some became teachers like my neighbor Bonnie.

Sources

  • Burlington Historical Society
  • Rochester Historical Society
  • Bonnie Hefty
  • My Sister Patricia Kuehn

© 2021 Paul Richard Kuehn

Comments

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on August 26, 2021:

Thanks for sharing personal insight into one-room schools. I am happy you liked this article.

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on August 26, 2021:

Great insight into the way classrooms and schools used to be. I attended the same one-room school in Georgia where my dad had once been a student. I even had the same teacher for 1st grade that he'd had for 3rd. This was the late 50s but some kids still came to class barefoot in threadbare clothes. I've never forgotten that life lesson.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on August 21, 2021:

Yes, they are. I wish I could have shared some of them.

Liz Westwood from UK on August 20, 2021:

These are interesting schoolday reminiscences.

Related Articles