Volume VIII, No. 1, Fall 1980
Edited by Carl Davis
The friendly couple sat on the back porch around a table, reminiscing of days past and experiences during their lifetimes. I was intrigued by the way that they remembered some things in such descriptive ways.
Archie: When I was born, they said they wouldn't ever be able to raise me--said it was impossible. I was weakly, shaking all the time, but I got ninety years of life gone!
Alma: Did you know he's ninety years old? And the twenty-ninth of this month, we'll have been married sixty-five years.
Archie: Been married to the same woman.
Alma: He was from Humansville and I was born down close to Polk and Cedar Counties.
Archie: My sister Ola told me when I was just a small boy, she'd pick me up and say, "You're the prettiest thing that ever bloomed." And my brother Dana started pulling on her dress and said, "Ola, I bloomed," He was getting kind of jealous of me. I've been very fortunate in health. I've had about every disease, except smallpox. I've had typhoid fever three times, pheumonia twice and the flu pret'neer ever time it came around. Wasn't ever in the hospital. I accepted Christ as my Saviour when I was eighteen, and he's kept me ever since. But I had thirty-seven falls in the last three years, and not a broken bone yet.
Carl: Thirty-seven falls! Wow!
Alma: Falling down is his hobby!
Archie: I had six brothers and two sisters that was younger than me.
Alma: I didn't have any brothers. I just have five sisters. There was six of us, and usually if one was out anywhere, why there was more than one along. Maybe all of them. Now, in growing up with that many, I guess they did a lot of things, but Archie was younger than the youngest boy, and I think that he didn't always get to do what they did.
Archie: One more brother died. He was the first one to be born.
Alma: But Archie is the only one of all of them that is still alive, and he was the second youngest one and the youngest one has been gone for several years, and all the others are gone.
Archie: When I was young, in my childhood, I just fished because I had nothing else to do for entertainment. A neighbor there named McSmith had a big farm, and I fished more in his pond than I did anywhere else. I caught catfish. I never did go to the river. All the big boys went to the river, but I didn't go.
Alma: He was too small to go.
Archie: It was dangerous. I couldn't swim--didn't ever get in the water.
Carl: Where did you go to school, when you were a boy?
Archie: I went to Elm Grove School in Polk County about two miles from where I was born.
Alma: It seems strange that children walked a long way to get to school some times. Now they don't.
Archie: I never got into any trouble as I was going to school. I was never reprimanded.
Alma: I think he'd gotten into little fights when the teacher had her back turned, though.
Archie: Oh, when I was going to school, on the way home from school two boys jumped on me, and they were bigger than me. They wanted to fight me. They had on mittens, their mother had made for them, I guess. I told them to wait a minute and I'd put my mittens on too, because they'd have to have their mittens on to whip me, and I was going to take them away from them so's they couldn't. So they started to come at me. One of the bigger boys came and stopped it before they got torn apart. The next day, why, the teacher had seen the other boys and had talked to them, and pretty soon he came to me and told me that the next time he would have to punish us. I played games like jail. One time a bunch of us boys were playing outlaw and sheriff. The sheriff thought he had all his prisoners in jail, and I slipped around and unlocked the jail and turned them all loose.
Carl: Where did you two get acquainted?
Archie: Alma and I got kind of acquainted in November of 1911 at a pie supper. I got her pie. And we were married the twenty-ninth of October in 1914.
Alma: He was teaching over there, in the adjoining district where I lived. I guess most schools had a pie supper maybe sometimes during their school year to raise a little money for something.
Archie: We lost one child--our first child when he was two and a half years old because he took the flu. The flu was so bad. The twins came along later, and so did Gloria Ellen.
Alma: I have thought about it and wondered, but to look back on it now, we simply did not have any trouble with our children. They were never in any trouble, and they never did cause us any trouble, and they are still our friends. We just went ahead and lived our life with them. Now they're very conscientious about our welfare and anything we do. I'm truly thankful that we've raised them up. It was easier then than it is now. We have seven grandchildren, and five great grandchildren. They didn't cause any trouble-haven't yet. I'd dread to raise one up now. Don't you think it's harder?
Carl: Yes, It would seem harder nowadays.
Alma: We're both retired now and we still work here at home. It's all we can do to keep up the house and yard.
Archie: Well, she made a garden.
Alma: I did some gardening. It's hard to go to the grocery store to get what we have to get. Most of the time we're here. Back when we were young, we did play games once in a while, and we'd have neighbors over, once in a while. That's the only diversion we all had. People were as good neighbors then as they are now, most of them. We couldn't have nicer neighbors than we have here. They're just as nice as they could be.
Archie: But over the years we both worked out on lots of jobs. Besides teaching and being in politics I worked in a shoe store-- I worked there for like eleven years.
Alma: We lived in San Diego, California, for a while during World War II. We worked in building airplanes.
Archie: We worked at Consolidated Aircraft.
Alma: We did two or three different things. We worked on B-27's. I was in two or three departments. One was where they had great big sheets of metal and I riveted.
Archie: We worked on B-27's for four years, '41 to '45. At that time they didn't pay much. However, the work needed to be done, and it paid more than you could get in most places. The pay was controlled by labor unions. They practically set the price. The worker doesn't have much say, so they just take it.
Archie: I worked at Joe Knight's bus depot during night shifts in 1945 after the war, when we came back from California. At night, I was the cashier at the cafe and gift shop. Mr. Knight was an awful nice man to work for. Just before bus time, he'd tell the cook to heat the coffee and get it hot. He'd get it so hot, and the passengers wouldn't have but five minutes to stop, so they wouldn't have time to drink it.
Alma: I worked at a variety of jobs. The last one, I operated the Physicians and Surgeons exchange twenty-four hours a day for thirteen years here in Springfield. They kept someone to keep calls.
Archie: We both started out as teachers. I began teaching in 1911. I was about twenty-three.
Alma: I started after I was out of country school and went to high school in Stockton. From there I went to teaching. The school where his folks lived put their teacher out, and I took an examination from the County Superintendent of schools and passed the exam and went on over, finished the school year out and then taught the next whole year there. Then, if you could pass the exam, you could get a certificate to teach.
Archie: The State Superintendent would know all of the questions then the County Superintendent would give the special examination. He gives the questions that the State Superintendent has sent out to all teachers. So the one taking the special exam has to pass the same questions that the teachers before had. She took that examination, and he gave her a grade of 100. She was the only one in the county he'd ever given a 100 to on that examination.
Carl: Well, good for her.
Alma: There wasn't any certain age you had to be before you had to take the teaching test. I wasn't sixteen. It just depended on if you could pass the examination, and after that year and a half we were married. But he was teaching all that time, before I was, from when we first met at the pie supper. Then we decided to get married about the time school was out, but he was teaching on one side of the county and me the other. I was a pupil when I met him first for I was going to a school in a neighborhood district, and we would have things going on at his school. Sometimes I would go over there. Then it wasn't long before I was starting high school over at Stockton. I guess it was half way through when I took the examination and I taught his home school, but he was teaching near where I lived. Then I didn't teach any more after we were married until we moved to Lebanon and he went to teaching there. After we had our twin boys I decided to try to get a school and, of course, I had to take the exam over there in that county. So I did take it and passed it.
Archie: I began teaching school in Cedar County and I taught in Cedar and Polk and then in Laclede County.
Carl: When did you quit teaching?
Alma: He quit in 1927 and I just taught two terms in Laclede County. That was when our twin boys was about three years old. Our daughter wasn't old enough to go to school, she lacked a little bit, but sometimes they would let them go before they were six years so she went.
Archie: I would play with the children in the schoolyard. I think that keeps them happy. We'd play ball, blackman. Do you know how to play that? The distance is about 300 yards, I guess, and you go from one line to another, and you get some catchers. If they catch you, then you would have to quit the line you were in and go to the other line. We didn't have the equipment you do now. Kids were more inventive then than they are now.
Alma: The teacher had the privilege of punishment in some way if they didn't behave.
Archie: You didn't have much trouble if you were out there playing with them.
Alma: We never had any trouble with our own children at school at all. Of course, we told them that if they had to be punished at school they'd get it at home, too, when they got back. At one time I had two or three boys, and one of them happened to be Archie's nephew. Having relatives in school isn't very good for teachers sometimes, but anyway they had a little squabble. It wasn't anything bad, but I told them to either quiet down or take their books and go home, that we didn't need them there. And I never did have any trouble with them after that. They all stayed in school and that was it. I guess they thought that since the boys was a little younger than they were that they could do a little different.
Archie: I never did have to punish anyone. They sort of knew what to expect. I never did have much trouble with that. For bad behavior, I had them write. One time I was kind of embarrassed. There was two boys, Edward McFarland and Robert Benson, who kept fighting on their way to school. I told them if they ever got into another fight on the schoolgrounds, I'd have to punish them some way. Well, they got into another fight, so I took them in the dressing room at the back of the schoolroom. I had a short switch, and I gave each one three licks, and I looked out the door, there sat Mr. McFarland, Edward's dad, setting on his horse just laughing. I was kind of embarrassed. His dad didn't say anything. He was one of the directors.
Carl: Did you ever have any trouble with identifying twins that you taught?
Archie: I taught two little twin girls. When they came into my class I put one on one side of the room and the other on the other, and after recess time, instead of going to their own seat, they'd go to the other's.
Alma: They'd change places. They were just so much alike.
Carl: Are the kids in school different now?
Archie: I think that it's about the same as it is now for children wanting to learn. Some do and some don't.
Alma: Of course, some of them would learn faster than others. They would be able to get around things better.
Archie: You know there was one thing back then that I think was the saddest thing that could have been done--but it was popular--was having a Christmas tree in the school. That used to be the way a lot of schools did. They'd have a community Christmas tree at the school, and the parents had the right to go, and did go, but sometimes, you know, there's always some in school that are not financially able to have things like others are. The ones that did would just cover the tree with gifts for each other, and there would be those poor little children that wouldn't get anything. And that would be about the saddest thing I can remember, but that was common. There was candy for everyone. The teacher bought the candy.
Alma: They would give a bag of candy to all of them. When others came into the school to the tree and brought their gifts for one another, I thought it was pretty sad for the little ones that didn't get those things. Dolls were hanging on the tree there and every girl wanted to know if she was going to get that little doll. Yes, every little girl was looking at those dolls.
Archie: Sometimes the children would bring apples to the teacher. They were a frequent thing then. At Washington school, one girl sixteen years old took the fever and died. We went to the funeral to the cemetery where she was buried--took the whole school. It wasn't far off. When we got back from the cemetery I made the remark, "I never saw so many beautiful flowers." I also said, "I would rather have them before I died." The next day I got to school and my desk was covered with flowers for me. That kind of touched me. When I first started teaching, the first term was six months, then it went up to eight. When I was going to school it was about six months. We had devotional services at our school of a morning. They can't do that now, they say. We had graduation ceremonies at the end of the year for the older kids. The eighth graders were the higher ones. They had a program, children would get up and speak a piece, sing a song or something. When I taught in the country school, I had all grades. Had seventy-four pupils one year out at Washington--taught four years over at Washington, one year at Independence, three years over at Liberty and two year out at Bolles. But at Washington I had from beginners to eighth graders. They said I was the first grade school teacher they ever had there that had graduation exercises for eighth graders at the end of the term. They really liked that.
Alma: I don't know how many was the most that I had in school. Must have been fifty or more. It wasn't bad, teaching in a country school. From what I hear now of the schools and the pupils, that it must have been real easy then, easier than it is now. But that's just hearsay. I never had any trouble. I had some that were older than I was at that time, and then some were just beginning school. It wasn't hard having to teach such a variety of pupils because they were used to each class having its own time. Now I guess they don't ever do that at all.
Carl: What was it like in the one room school?
Archie: Well, in teaching a bunch of students, the first thing you do is you make out a time table--how much recitation every day has to be put down or the parents will raise hallelujah with you, if a child don't get their recitations. So you divide your time evenly, about twenty minutes--about as much time as you could get one recitation.
Alma: The little ones get to sit up front and the older ones in the back of the room.
Archie: At Washington School, and Liberty School, the children had what you call a cloakroom and it came in handy for recitations. We put some desks back there for the little ones, to recite back in that cloakroom.
Alma: He had so many pupils in one room. Each one, whatever grade they were in, each got a book or two for that grade. In those schools, the pupils would buy their own books most of the time. They'd have to, but there'd be a certain book or a kind of book that was required and they'd get those. I never went to any schools that the books were furnished.
Archie: I think that a child that had to go to a rural school would miss some good education, but I think that if a pupil were very attentive and listened, to the other classes recite their lessons, they'd learn the other lessons as well as their own. That's two ways of learning.
Alma: I taught elementary through eighth grade.
Archie: Eighth grade was what we had. When you finished the eighth grade, then you were promoted to ninth grade. Lillian Edwards, she's a teacher now, and she said that if it hadn't been for me writing on her report card, "Promoted to the Lebanon High School," she'd never have gone to high school. She went on to high school and college and became a real good teacher. They didn't have to go on to high school unless they wanted to. School began after harvest about the first of September.
Alma: Doesn't seem to me that we got any vacations back then, like they do now.
Archie: Another thing they did, they had just a few months of school, and that wouldn't be in the spring because the children that were old enough to work had to stay at home and work in the crops in the country. What schooling they got had to be in the winter because the children that were old enough to work, they couldn't go in the summer.
Carl: What were some of the problems with country schools?
Alma: The worst thing was to get transportation, and the last two that I had, I sometimes took the car. My sister and I were running a horse race one Sunday. Archie had a pony and I had one and one Sunday why, one of my sisters said, "I think Archie's horse can beat yours," and I said, "Well, let's see if it will," and I think the shoe came off her foot and made her stumble. My shoulder hit the ground first and broke. I couldn't drive at all for a long time so I went on horseback, till I got to where I could use the car, and even then, I used just one hand. I went ahead with school but it wasn't easy to get there. You wouldn't think I'd ever get out and horse race.
Archie: As I was growing up and going to school, ordinarily I lived within a mile and a half of school and I didn't have to walk very far.
Alma: He didn't have to walk all the time, very little, in fact. I don't think we had more than maybe a couple of miles, usually a little bit less than that. I don't think children would go to school if they had far to walk nowadays.
Archie: Some kids rode horses and some of them walked. A lot of them walked two miles or two and a half.
Alma: They didn't have school busses, back then. Many felt that they didn't have any way to get to town to school.
Carl: Did you have a favorite subject that you liked to teach?
Alma: No, I always liked reading, though.
Archie: I like history and mathematics.
Alma: I didn't care for mathematics, but I had to like it. I didn't have any trouble with it, but I always liked reading and writing, things like that. English, I liked English pretty well.
Archie: History was my favorite and government.
Alma: I like history better now than I did in those years. Seems like there's much more to it now that it's different in a way. When I was young, I attended spelling matches. My teacher took me to one, because I wanted to go, but I didn't have a ride. I think that one was at a school I later taught at up there in Polk County. We did have programs sometimes and we'd always have spelling matches and things like that.
Archie: That was when you turned the moon down, wasn't it? Had a teacher by the name of Moon down there at that school who was pretty fast, but she was turned down. I told Alma that she turned the moon down.
Alma: Ciphering was one of the things we used to have. There was always a contest between me and one of my cousins, and it just happened that I beat him. The next time that he'd come up, why he'd say that that one was the one that he would win.
Archie: To think back about the schools, I think the children then were not quite as adverse as they are now. They didn't tear up things. They all don't do that now but there's some that does. But there's so many children now compared to then. I think they could have more individual teaching.
Alma: You know they claim that there are so many that can't read or write today. It seems strange because ours went to school earlier. They didn't go to school like they have now, but they just went to school where they'd start in learning. I hardly can remember when they couldn't read or write.
Carl: You mentioned a little about politics, what got you interested in it?
Archie: I got into politics because it paid a little better than teaching. I won the first time I ran. I got around to all the people I could while campaigning. I was elected circuit clerk in 1926 and took office January 1, 1927. After my four years of circuit clerk I worked for Mr. Esther, as deputy county collector. I got Mr. Esther to change a way of writing in tax sheets. I got a fleeter named Brooks sold on the idea of loose leaf taxes. It's three copies. One is a statement sent to the taxpayer. When he's paid his taxes he gets the other one, and the office kept one for records. So that was the first form of tax receipts the county had ever used. I think it's still used. Later on, I was deputy county clerk for four years when Lee Hill was county collector.
Alma: Both of us got implicated in that some. That was after our boys got a little older.
Archie: She helped a lot in the work. I worked in the treasurer's office and then I worked the county court's office, some during the years that I wasn't teaching.
Alma: I did all these other jobs after I quit teaching. The boys and our little girl were big enough that they could go to school.
Archie: Of all the jobs I had to do I liked circuit clerk best, then deputy collector, and I liked to work in the county clerk's office. Before I worked for Mr. Esther, I worked for Mr. McCulloch. He was the tax collector, and I worked for about a month, the last month that he was in office. He was a fine feller to work for, and Mr. Esther was fine to work for, too. Lee Hill was a good boss. He'd rather stay at home and run a tractor, than to be in the office, anyhow. I got to run the office most of the time.
Carl: What kind of work did you do in the offices where you worked?
Alma: In law offices where I worked, most of the work was paper work, like doing taxes.
Carl: What do you think about politics?
Alma: I don't like politics. There's just really nothing about it I liked, to be straight honest about it. It's all right for anyone who wants to do it, but there's too many tricks in it. A vote doesn't mean very much.
Archie: That voting machine now, I don't like it. I'd rather take a pencil. The county is run now by computers. They have a lot more campaign money going around than they did when I was a-running.
Alma: That's one thing that I dislike is there's so much money circulating, but the people that need
the money aren't getting it.
Archie: People that take money for voting, sell it to one and he may sell out to another one. You don't know whether you've got him bought or not.
Alma: Trouble is you hear something you don't know whether to believe it or not. That's the main thing I don't like about politics. Reporting it out, it should be accurate, and you find out it isn't. It's just been to use you. I just don't care for it. But to vote, I'll go ahead and vote for some things. It's a little harder for us to go vote now than it was, anyway. I was glad when Archie stopped running. He's been a lot better off than he was then.
Archie: I enjoyed it.
Alma: I think he did. But I wouldn't want to do it.
Carl: How do you feel about women politicians?
Archie: I think women politicians are okay. They have as much right to be in it as I did.
Alma: I think some of it is all right and some isn't.
Archie: They have to live under the government, same as I do.
Alma: So much has changed, but I guess it's because there's more people now than there were then. Where we lived there wasn't anything going on, and that is, I guess, another reason that it seems as though things have changed an awful lot. I couldn't express just why, but I believe that they have a different attitude now about a lot of things. I think it's better, though. They have better ideas now than they used to. As I look back there would be things that I'd like to redo--a lot of them. I think that most people would find it that way. Yes, I think I would. Really, I never expected to get as old as I am. We grew up out in the country not very close to other people. We'd walk around or we could go from one home to another--never think anything about being afraid or anything like that. Now, you can't trust a child to go a few blocks to school. There's something wrong somewhere. Even around Springfield, there's things happening all the time. But, when we were growing up, we didn't hear anything about that. I think children are going to have a pretty rough time in the world because there's more people and fewer jobs. I think there is more vandalism and that kind of stuff, than we were accustomed to. Right here where we are is a place in town that doesn't have as much as other places do. Yet there has been some stealing, but no vandalism. I read just about every day in the paper about people going in and tearing up the schoolhouse.
Carl: What do you think about that?
Archie: I don't know, it's hard to know or think why they would do that, unless they think they're being mistreated in some way or another. It's usually school or something related in some way or another. Maybe they have some type of grudge or something against the school or teacher or some of the students.
Alma: As we were teaching, we didn't encounter much of that type of stuff.
Archie: That starts at home with the parents. Likely they have a grievance with somebody. They think they've been mistreated in some way and try to take it out on the people by destroying the schoolhouses.
Alma: I don't know, it must be that they have nothing else to do, or else they feel antagonized and want to do something to the person or people that they feel have wronged them. I think that most of it here has been traced to the students.
Carl: What do you think of people's attitude now toward religion?
Alma: I think that people aren't as religious-minded as they were during the day I was growing up. I think that there's a lot more people that belong to churches than they did then, but I don't know how much religion there is about it, really. It could be used for business or a lot of things other than going for worshipping. It's not the lack of having enough worshipping places, because there's a lot of them all around everywhere, so that doesn't make it any better. People have a different way of thinking.
Archie: But then that's good. Everyone should be yourself. The other fellow could be wrong, same as you could. Did you ever think about that? A child doesn't have to be very old to know right and wrong, and it's just what their mind develops into--their responsibilities and things.
Alma: We have a lot of nice times to remember. We've been very fortunate. We lost our first child, but the others all grew up and we think into very nice people. Of course we've gone a lot of places, but it comes to mind a lot of times, if you could live life over, it would be different. It's too late for that though.
Archie: I just haven't thought about. I try not to live in the past, but in the now and the future. I think it's much better than living in the past.
Copyright © 1981 BITTERSWEET, INC.
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