Monday, May 11, 2009

Center Lisle School House: By Lucille Taylor Kinsella

Here’s a picture that should please the offspring of N. Ethel Baker Taylor and Lilian Baker Howland--the Center Lisle School ( District #9) students around 1930 or 1931. I won’t go into the scholars’ names, except to tell you that Leona Howland Maffei is on the left in the last row, then in the middle row, second from the right, stands Sylva Howland Emhof. I was anxious to hear how their school day went so I interviewed each. This is the result.

School began at 9AM and you were reminded to be on time by a big bell in the cupola of the building bonging out several times, usually five or ten minutes before nine. There were two floors, grades one through four on the first floor, and five through eight on the second. Leona remembers each floor had a large blackboard at the front and the rooms were well lighted. Maps of the USA and of the world could be pulled down from the front wall.

There was no running water in the building when they were in school, but on each floor, on a shelf near the coatroom, was a pail of drinking water and a dipper. One of the boys was usually delegated to pump a fresh pail full daily from a nearby well. There were also shelves available for each student’s lunch pails. Leona also remembered that there were two staircases, one UP and one DOWN.

Sylva remembers there being a pump organ at school and one teacher who had the higher classes taught those who wanted to learn to play it. Of course, Sylva did learn, her parents bought a player piano for their home (how we all loved that machine!) and she eventually became the organist at her church, thanks to Center Lisle School!

Leona remembers singing lots of songs and always enjoying school. Sylva remembers having to learn and recite many poems, a task she has always been good at. Both girls remember a stove on each floor as a heating source, but not who took care of the chores involved.

Recess was the favorite of all students and the Howland girls remember games played in front of the school. Kickball, hop scotch and jump rope certainly, and the boys used to play ‘catch’ with a baseball. The teacher rang a hand bell to call them back to class. The hand bell used in their day had been purchased when a nearby school closed in 1923 (District #6, the Popple Hill School). Years after the school was sold, a hand bell was seen in Lil’s store, but whether it was the one used to toll them back to class is unknown.

There were also two toilets, the girls to the left of the school building was a "three holer", complete with catalog pages. In back of the girls was a wood pile and beyond that the boys toilets. Perhaps the boys were required to carry in a few sticks of wood when returning to class. Most of their schoolmates lived in the country. Only the Howlands and one other family lived in the village. After the eighth grade students were bused to nearby Marathon to attend High School.

The school, built in 1868, was finally closed in 1953, when only eleven students were attending. It was sold to a former student and trustee of the school for $1000 and used as a henhouse. Finally, in the early 1990’s, it was torn down.

My mother, N. Ethel Baker Taylor, attended this school as did her sister, Lilian and brother, Adin Baker. Their sister, Ruth, came when she was well enough.

Ethel continued on to earn first, a certificate to teach in country schools, from Cortland Normal, and eventually a full degree, enabling her to teach in high school. Thus, at the age of eighteen, she was teaching in the Caldwell Settlement School, just past the farm on the same road where they all grew up. I asked her how, while still a teenager, she had ever managed to teach in a one room school. Her reply was “why I just thought back to my own school days in Center Lisle and used that as the pattern!”

Picture One: Center Lisle School
Picture Two: Center Lisle School Kids, circa 1930


Pat said...

Thanks, Ma--Great reporting!

And thank you to Leona and Sylva for sharing their memories.

For those of you who want a closer look, at least on my computer, just click on the photo of the children and the picture will get bigger.

Kathryn said...

My Aunts are the prettiest girls in the picture!
I remember buying eggs and chickens at the chicken farm that used to be the school. They kept the eggs in a milk house that kept them cool. You ordered the chickens and when you got them they were freshly killed. You took them home and plucked them. Yuck. I hated chicken for a long time.

sue kinsella said...

Thanks for the stories about school in the old days. It's hard to imagine school in a one-room school-house, compared to today's schools with computer labs and all. But they still exist - even just a few miles from us in California, near the coast, the school district is small enough that there are still multi-grade classes in one-room (maybe two-room) schoolhouses.

I had to laugh at the part about how recess was the kids' favorite. When my son Alex was getting ready for kindergarten, he asked me what his new school would be like. We talked about learning colors and letters and numbers and reading, all of which he already knew. We talked about building with blocks and singing songs and drawing pictures and recess.

A little while later, I found him crying. "What's the matter?" I asked. Alex answered, "I'm worried about school," he told me, then confided, "because I don't know how to do recess!" Needless to say, when he got to school, he excelled at recess, too.