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School Days At Oak Hill

Submitted by Ray Evans

I attended grade school at the Oak Hill School located about 5 miles from Brodhead in western Rockcastle county from 1934 through 1942.. Following are some of the things I remember about attending school there.

My first teacher was Hundley Rigsby ( 1906-1936) He spanked one of the older boys with a wooden paddle when I was in the first grade. That scared the daylights out of me. I was as meek as a lamb from then on.

Initially Oak Hill was a one-room school house. About 1937, an extra room was added and it became a two-room school. The new addition had a rather tall foundation. The floor was about 2 feet off the ground. Consequently, it was dry year round. It was an ideal place to talk to the DOODLE BUGS. There was always several of those little cone shaped indentations in the dry soil. As I recall the chat was: “Doodle bug come out, come out your house is on fire”. Over-and-over. You could watch the dry dirt moving around. I don’t remember if I ever actually saw a doodle bug. I wonder if children ever call for doodle bugs today.

As I remember, It was fairly regimented in the beginning. For example; following recesses and lunch periods we formed two columns of students with the boys in one column and the girls in another prior to entering the school building. Also at the end of the school days we were instructed to straighten our desks and when finished we were to sit with both hands together on top of the desk. I often wonder if school children do that today. Another convention we had was: If there was not a school book laying in the doorway, you could hold your hand up and be excused to go to the toilet. There were two of those typical outhouses with a path -- one for the boys and one for the girls.

The floor of the classroom was made of tongue and groove pine boards and they were kept oiled with a dirty black oil in order to minimize dust. A blackboard was located at the front of the room that extended almost the entire width of the room. Of course there was one of those map cases positioned above the blackboard. There was a lot of strange looking maps that could be selected from the case. The maps uncoiled much like a spring loaded window shade. The teacher would pull down whichever map was desired and they never seemed to want wind back up.

Water was obtained from a well with one of those long narrow buckets that was lowered into the well with a rope and pulled back out with a bucket of water. The well bucket had a valve arrangement at the bottom so once it was retrieved from the well the bucket full of water could be allowed to drain into a conventional water bucket. Since the school building and well were on a rather high ridge, the well seemed to be awfully deep. Water was kept in the schoolroom in a galvanized water bucket with a common dipper. In order to get a drink, we fashioned a drinking cup out of a sheet paper and folded it a couple of times to form a drinking cup. Its no wonder we learned to make paper airplanes.

Recess and lunchtime were the most fun. We played all kind of different games To name a few; Jump Rope, Ring around the Rosy, Under the Mulberry Bush, Ante-over, Mumbley Peg, Marbles and Hopscotch, (Many years after grade school when I was walking down a street in Seoul, Korea, I came across some Korean children playing hopscotch. To their amazement and giggles I jumped through their hopscotch diagram) We also played stick ball with a sponge rubber ball. Whenever some wise-guy hit the ball into the bushes, we spent quite a bit of time hunting for the ball. In the wintertime, after a big snow we always fixed a skating place by packing snow and adding a little water to form a thick layer of ice. We would form a line and get a running start and slide (skate) standing up across the ice. As I recall our parents never liked the wear and tear on our shoes.

We spent a lot of time at home memorizing some kind of poem so we could recite it in front of the class. Except for possibly improving presentation skills, I’ve never figured out the value of memorizing a poem. Of course I still remember a few lines from Kipling’s “If.”

Sometimes on Friday afternoons we would have a ‘program’ where we would provide ourselves with some form of entertainment. I recently made contact with Georgia Marie Lewis Esch who played the guitar and sang at one of those ‘programs’. She made a big impression on me with her ability to play the guitar.

Almost every year, Jack Hysinger would visit the school and tell some stories. He had a mouth full of gold teeth that sparkled like new money when he talked and he always rode a beautiful saddle horse. The thing I remember most about him though was that he always gave each child in the class a new nickel. Undoubtedly, the nickel was spent on a candy bar or some other foolishness. What would I give today for one of those nickels?.