Gladys McCullough Alexander:
Looking Back at the Long Ago


Memories on Parade

Meet the Family

A Town is Born

The Growing McCullough Family

A Church Becomes a Reality

A Closing Word

The Man Called Guelcksie

A is for Arthur

The Coffin House

Poet and Philosopher -- Aged Seven

The Two Room School House

Open the Windows and Open the Doors

Sixteen Girls in White

Four Girls and Five Boys

The Poet in Hot Water

Windows Open for Edith

The Great Decision

Bo Peep




The School House, known as Little Room and Big Room, was not graded in any way. Alicia had no school board and no organization of parents. The Little Room was used by beginners and very young children. The teacher was a woman who taught numbers, letters, drawing, and simple songs and games.

The Big Room was presided over by a man. Pupils were of different ages and recited in classes when he called them to the front of the room. Children were promoted to the Big Room when they could read simple sentences and handle addition and subtraction of simple numbers. At recess they were all together to jump the rope and play "London Bridge is Falling Down", and get a drink of water from the pump.

Several boys came from the country on horseback, their dinner buckets hanging from the saddlehorns, and their horses were tied to trees near the schoolyard.

Being promoted was a great experience. I soon learned that life was more pleasant as a big girl in the Little Room than as a little girl in the Big Room. I did not like going forward with my class, with all those older pupils sitting at their desks in the rear of the room. But I loved bits of geography, bits of composition writing, bits of history. I thought my teachers knew everything -- and I loved having new books, new pencils and new shoes.

I do not know how the teachers were selected nor how they were paid. But I did know that the man teacher had a leather strap in the drawer of his desk, and I sometimes heard him call on a bad boy to come up and take off his jacket and receive several slaps of the strap across his shoulders. I buried my face in my folded arms during such trying moments.

On Friday afternoons we put away the books early and enjoyed saying speeches. Sometimes parents came to hear us. And we always had stick candy, courtesy of the teacher.

I had two poems that I liked to say on these special days. My mother taught them to me:

There was an old woman who, I've heard tell
Went to market her eggs to sell
She went to market on market day
And fell asleep on the King's Highway.

Along came a peddler whose name was Stout
And cut off her petticoats all round about.
He cut off her petticoats up to her knees,
And this little woman began to freeze.

She began to freeze, and she began to cry,
"Lawk a Mercy pon me, this is none of I."

"If it be I, as I suppose it be,
I have a little dog at home, and he will know me,
If it be I, he will wag his little tail.
If it be not I, he will bark and he will wail."

Home went the little woman, all in the dark.
Up got the little dog and he began to bark.
He began to bark, and she began to cry,
"Lawk a Mercy on me, this is not I."

Sometimes, just for change, I said the following poem:

I studied my tables over and over
Backward and forward, too
But I couldn't remember six times nine,
And I didn't know what to do.

My sister told me to play with my doll
And not to bother my head.
"Just call you dolly Fifty-four,
And you'll learn it by heart," she said.

So I took my beautiful Mary Ann,
Though I thought it a perfect shame
To call such a perfectly beautiful doll
Such a perfectly horrible name.

And I played with her all the afternoon
And I called her Fifty-four.
And when night came I knew six times nine.
I knew it for certain and sure.

Next day Elizabeth Wigglesworth
Who always acts so proud,
Said, "Six times nine is fifty-two"
And I almost laughed out loud.

But I ddin't, and the teacher said,
"Gladys, you tell if you can."
I thought of my doll, and Sakes Alive!
I answered, "Mary Ann!"

On warm spring days the teacher dismissed two of the older pupils to pump fresh water and bring it in buckets to refresh us. The long-handled dippers rattled as the buckets were passed up and down the aisles.

If a pupil dipped more than he could drink, it went back into the bucket with the dipper.

Both boys and girls dropped out of school when they thought they had learned all that it had to give. They became teenagers, with little or nothing to do.

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Copyright 2011 Ellen Wilds, all rights reserved. Redistribution and/or reuse terms of license. Disclaimer for this document: "Gladys McCullough Alexander: Looking Back At The Long Ago is published here with the permission of Ellen S. Wilds and transcribed by her, December 1999. The materials published here are presented "as is", without warranty of any kind to the extent permitted by applicable law, and without any promise of validity and/or accuracy."