"I have so many fond memories of country school. I loved being in the same classroom as my best friend who was a year younger than me & with my brother who was two years younger. I loved the holiday parties with the whole school gathering in one little room to eat sugar cookies. I loved the Halloween costume parties, the filled up Valentine boxes, & the Christmas gift exchanges.
Every year the school would put on a Christmas play for our parents & community. We'd all haul the platform & curtains up from the spider-filled cellar in late November/early December and then spend the next several weeks learning our songs & practicing our parts in the play as elves or reindeer or angels. The night of the production we would clear our classroom of all the desks & put out benches for our audience, put our costumes on in the little library room behind the "stage" and listen nervously to the benches fill up with the chattering presence of all our friends, family & neighbors. They would clap & smile as we finished our performance yet again with, "Ho, Ho, Ho, who wouldn't Go". At this point Santa would come out and sit and hand out bags of candy, peanuts & oranges to all the kids & we would hand out our hand made gifts to our mothers & then mill about drinking red koolaid & eating homemade cookies that the parents on the snack rotation had brought for all to enjoy! We'd leave happily and exit the little schoolhouse into the cold dark night where we'd find our cars by the light of millions of stars...hoping that perhaps we'd catch a glimpse of Rudolph's nose guiding Santa's sleigh back to the North Pole.
Recess was always a fun part of every school day. We had three recesses every day. The first was a structured recess that acted as a substitute for PE. Then for the others we would be free to do what we wanted. My friends & I had so much fun...part of the beauty of recesses in the country was the ability to enjoy the dirt & grass & flowers rather than being limited to a playground set entirely on blacktop or pavement. We would put picked grass in folded leaves & call them tacos, pretending we were running an outdoor restaurant. We would build little structures with rocks & do somersaults down the hill behind the school. In the winter we would go sledding & build snowmen. I remember one time we went on a hike with the teacher's aide and when we got back the girls got out of history for the day because we had to spend that hour getting the cockle-burs untangled from our hair! Another thing I recall was making up our own games. Our schoolhouse was structured where the entrances to both the upstairs & the downstairs jutted out from the building so that there was a nook between them. My friends & I invented our own game utilizing this space which was a mini-soccer type game.
Going to a small school there was a limited number of families who were in the district & qualify as school board members so a number of the students had parents on the board. The first Monday of every month was board meeting nights and the school board generally met right after school around 4 o'clock. My dad was on the board as was my best friend's mom. We (along with our siblings & the children of the other board members) obviously got to spend this time together as an extra recess time only without adult supervision. These nights were the most fun of all! Our imaginations ran wild & we loved (& hated) the boys vs. girls banter & bickering & dirt flinging that would go on during that time. One time while our parents were in meeting (we were 6 & 7 years old at the time), we saw smoke in the distance and my friend & I pretended we were investigative reporters and we wrote what we refer to as, "The Fire Report" Which we eagerly showed to our parents when they got out. We still have a copy of it to this day that her mom saved all these years!
Multi-school events were another thing I look back on fondly from my time in country school. Science Fairs, Spelling Bees & Track Meets were the highlights of each school year. When I was in the younger grades, we had our own science fair at the school which the District Superintendent would make a special trip out for but when I got a little older they held a county-wide Science/History fair at Chadron State College for all rural student in 3rd-8th grade which we spent a lot of time prepping for. I was always a good student so these were really fun for me. I placed in the top three two different years--Once for my project on butterflies & once for my project about Denmark. My brother also placed for his project on poisonous plants. The Math/Spelling bee & track meets were also held at CSC. I always did well in math but not so well in the spelling. And not being the athletic type, at track meets I would usually only get a ribbon if there were less than 5 people in a particular event! I enjoyed the track meets anyway though because I loved spending an entire school day outside and it was fun being at the college instead of at school.
I had one teacher who would give us our lessons and then he would let us go off and study or do our homework where ever we wanted. This resulted in wars between the boys and the girls over who got to study in the cleaning closet! We spent a whole afternoon rearranging the supplies so that three of us could sit in there and read (or talk!)
Speaking of cleaning supplies...my parents served as the custodians of the school as well. So not only did I spend five days a week at that school I usually spent an hour or two on the weekend there helping my parents by cleaning the toilets & mopping the wood floors. I remember one year a couple of students got Hepatitis B and I spent the weekends with a Lysol can spraying all the doorknobs & toilet seats & any surface that came into contact with skin. I got a warped sense of satisfaction from that job! By the time I was in my late teens (and out of grade school) the school gave the custodial job over to me. As a way for me to earn a little extra money, I would drive out to Valley Star and spend my Sunday afternoons scrubbing the building down from top to bottom & emptying the trashes and whatnot."