Volume 6, Number 8 - Summer 1978
HOW LONG has it been since youve seen a one-room school in operation? In Missouri? In the Ozarks? A LONG time, Ill bet! There were only 17 one teacher, one room schools left in the entire state of Missouri at the beginning of the last school year. Twelve were located in what we term the Ozarks. All were on borrowed time and stand to be discontinued by consolidation with larger schools.
Weve roamed the highways and country roads for five years now in our truck-camper. Never had we seen any of the one-room schools in session until last fall. We had often pulled into a shaded yard of vacant, forlorn looking one room school to eat lunch and rest awhile during our wanderings. Weve found them almost anywhere along a country road.
They were usually of frame construction, and painted either white or red. Sometimes they were brick or native stone, but not very often. A single teacher taught the eight grades. Such schools in my day were called "grammar schools" for what reason I do not know. This, of course, was long before the days of "Junior High," which took the seventh and eighth grades away from the grammar schools.
Many old-timers reading may have fond memories of attending such a one room school. Here you were taught your readin, ritin, and rithmetic... and a lot more. And you remembered most of what you were taught, even up to today, didnt you?
Around the first week of October, last fall, we were driving in our usual lazy fashion north on route YY in Texas County. We were a little northwest of the village of Simmons, about 12 miles north of Cabool, Mo. We heard the voices of children ahead. I dropped the truck into second gear. Suddenly there they were 27 of them, all ages, 15 boys and 12 girls, all at play on the school playground, during the 15 minute afternoon recess.
This was the "Lone Oak" schoolhouse on the west side of the road. I flipped the truck into low gear and turned into the school driveway, past the large lone oak in the front yard of the school. Several more oak trees were on the playground to the side and rear of the building.
The children swarmed about the camper as I parked the truck. When we asked "if they would like to have their pictures taken," they started to form into rows in front of the school without our request and with no fuss whatever. Thats when the teacher appeared at the front door to find out what was causing all the commotion. We introduced ourselves to Mrs. Darel (Melba) Baker. She has taught at Lone Oak school for two years. She is married to a teacher. Melba and Darel live in Raymondville, a village lying several miles to the northeast. They have a son, Steven, 17, and a daughter Diana, 15. Both attend high school.
The little 26 x 30 foot one room school is enjoying its last term. It will close its doors in mid-May, 1972 Never again will we hear the happy
voices of these children at play at Lone Oak District 115-R 2. Of the present 27 students, 24 will attend the R 4 school in Cabool. The remaining 3 will go to the Houston R 1 school. The last one-room school in Texas County will be only a memory.
District 115, Lone Oak bus, manned by friendly Arlie Vickers, picks the children up in the morning and delivers them home in the evening. School hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. There is a morning and an afternoon recess of 15 minutes each, and a lunch period of 30 minutes.
The school board members for the 1971-72 term are Raymond Flowers, Vein Altis, Falus East and Erma Flowers. During our visit we found out that Lone Oak school was itself a consolidation of three other country schools, the "Oak Grove," the "Freely Give," and "Lone Star" schools.
Bernadine took several photographs of the children, of the school building and of the teacher, then wandered about the yard taking snapshots of the school pump, mounted on a concrete platform at the porch near the side door of the school. The school bell was atop a post, next to the pump. The bell didnt have a clapper. That didnt seem to matter it made lots of noise when hit hard with a stick.
A tall flagpole in the front yard flew a large U.S. flag. When we finally left at closing time, two boys reverently lowered and folded the flag and stored it away.
The steps and front porch of concrete bore an etched date, 1937. We were unable to learn the date the school was built. It was in excellent condition. It had an aluminum roof and a stone foundation. Large windows on the south side allowed light to flow into the room.
Far to the back and to one side of the large yard was the usual set of outdoor "privies" common to most such schools during the early part of this century. There was a basketball court and well-used playground equipment seesaws swings and a little self-propelled "merry-go-round. A fence stretched across the back line of the school grounds.
Inside the school room a row of double (two student) desks lines each side. Work tables are in the center of the room. Mrs. Bakers wood desk is at the rear wall. She surveys her classes, all seven grades (she has no eighth grade students this term), seated in her swivel chair, facing the children. Back of her on the wall is a long blackboard and above it an engraving of George Washington.
A sanitary drinking fountain stands at the side doorway. It holds five gallons and is filled from the school pump, just outside the door. The school is electrically lighted. A telephone was installed during the final months of 1971. On side walls are framed photographs of classes of years past. In one corner is an upright piano. In a small trophy case alongside the piano are trophy cups and ribbons won by the school in various events.
Mrs. Baker told us several social events were held throughout the year for students, their parents, friends and relatives. A "Pie Supper" was held at Thanksgiving season, along with a program, the theme being "Bring Back My Memories to Me." Mrs. Baker wrote a little play along the lines of the old Mother Goose rhymes. Each student had a speaking part.
There is always a Halloween Party, a Christmas Program and an Easter Party. Lone Oaks
Christmas Party Program is held in the Free Will Baptist Church, located a few hundred feet to the rear and side of the school. The church is much larger and has more comfortable seating arrangements.
The climax of the school year, of course, is naturally the last day of school. Thats when the school picnic is held. There is always a wiener roast then, besides new crop strawberries and other goodies for the kids.
For many years the school was heated in the winter with a wood-burning stove. This ceased in 1967 when a gas burning furnace was installed by the school board.
We were pleasantly surprised when Mrs. Baker showed us a copy of Lone Oak Schools Annual Yearbook. We never dreamed that such a small school would have a Yearbook. It is a nicely printed 20 page 8 1/4 x 11 inch booklet, "1971 Memories" is the title. It is illustrated with individual photographs of each student, and in groups by grades. There is a photograph of Mrs. Baker, of Arlie Vickers and his "District 115" school bus, of the school building, of the playground and other scenes. Back of the booklet are many advertisements by Cabool and Houston business people, who made printing of the annual possible.
I think one of the things that impressed both Bernadine and myself about the children at Lone Oak School was the fact that they seemed to be much more well-behaved than children of the same ages in city or large town schools. Better mannered, more polite, and more natural. We are certain this is not just our imagination, but is a fact. I would judge this is partly due to the lack of pressure, the smaller number of students than is usual at most schools, the isolation and to the teacher herself. We felt a certain pang in our hearts as we said good-bye to Mrs. Baker and drove away from Lone Oak School.
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