Friday, March 6, 2009

How about some goosedown pillows for their little chairs?

The photo above is of the 1921-22 class at the old East Buffalo Grade School. The teacher of the class was my Grandmother Mitchell, then Mary Durigg, who is sixth from the left in the top row. Somehow, she managed to educate all those children in one big room with none of the comforts we have today. The heat, as I recall her telling me, came from a coal stove and, believe it or not, there was no air-conditioning. Speaking of which, a group of parents recently approached McGuffey School Board to complain that their children’s education is being compromised because Joe Walker Elementary School does not have air-conditioning. They wanted the school district to spend thousands, probably tens of thousands, of dollars to retrofit the old school building so that their children and others are not overly warm. Fortunately, there was a stalemate on the board, and the proposal, at least at this point, has not been approved. The group of parents had the support of Joe Walker teachers and the principal, Sheryl Fleck, who said that on hotter days, the children are lethargic, have more behavior problems and find it difficult to stay "on task." Correct me if I'm wrong, but I didn't think we lived in equatorial Africa. In fact, I did a little digging on the Internet and found that the average daily high temperature in our area in September, the month when the school year begins in earnest, is 74.2 degrees. In May, the last full month of the school year, the average daily high is 70.8 degrees. Certainly, there are days in early September and late May when the temperatures exceed those averages, but surely not to the extent that it requires an expensive project to install air-conditioning. Somehow, I made it through 13 grades of school (counting kindergarten) in the very same school district without ever having the benefit of learning in an air-conditioned environment. I don't know how we did it. One possibility that came to mind is the fact that when I was a youngster, most of the kids in McGuffey schools were from farming families. Pretty tough stock. Now, a lot of former city dwellers have moved into the area, and I'm thinking that the city folk and their progeny might be a bit more dainty than the natives. My advice to those who must endure the brutal conditions at Joe Walker: Think cool thoughts.



Blogger Dale Lolley said...

They're just preparing for all of that global warming Al Gore has been warning us abot.

March 7, 2009 at 1:28 AM  
Blogger miss bess said...

Dale hates global warming. And Al Gore. And kittens.

C'mon Lolley! It was 70-some degrees today and it's March 7. Give in...come over to the dark side. It's warm here.

March 7, 2009 at 2:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I never had your grandmother as a teacher, but I do remember when the Mitchell family lived in Taylorstown. Your grandmother must have gotten a promotion in her later days of teaching, my wife had her as a teacher in the old Taylorstown school in the late forties/early fifties. The Taylorstown school was two story with 2 classrooms on each floor and had two grades per room. The upper grades were on the second floor and with a tin roof on the building I can just imagine how warm the place got in late spring.
As far as I know, nobody ever suffered heat exhaustion while in the school. However, I must say that today's youngsters spend a lot more time inside playing all the video games or whatever new computer toy comes on the market. These young people live in air-comditioned homes, ride in air-conditions vehicles and in some cases ride to school in air-conditioned buses. It's no wonder they cannot stand the heat.


March 7, 2009 at 9:07 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

Thanks for the info, Chuck. I'm wondering if you know my mother, Alice (Mitchell) Newman or my aunt, Wilda (Mitchell) Smith? My grandmother taught initially until she got married to my grandfather, who worked in the oil fields around Taylorstown. In those days, teachers had to be unmarried. Why? I don't know. Then, later, when they changed that, she went back to teaching, probably in the new and "improved" school you mention. She had retired by the time I was a kid, but she came out of retirement and taught one more year in the late 60s when a fifth-grade teacher at Claysville Elementary took an unexpected leave of absence just before the school year started. I was in third grade then, so it was kind of cool to be in the same school with her. She was nearly 70 then, but she ran a tight ship. I know she pounded my lessons into me when I was a kid. She and Miss Patterson made sure I had a good background in English grammar. I don't think the kids get much of that these days.

March 7, 2009 at 10:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I knew of your Aunt Wilda from my older sisters and your mother Alice was a couple years ahead of me at Claysville High School.I also remember your father John was a student there also, but do not know what year he graduated. I know one of your aunts who lives in the Taylorstown area. My children went to school at McGuffey with some of your cousins.
I check this blog often and really enjoy your honesty when discussing any subject. I won't insult your intelligence by saying I agree with everything you have to say, but do agree with you about 95% of the time. Chuck

March 7, 2009 at 4:34 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

Thanks for the kind words, Chuck. I couldn't have imagined growing up in a better place than the Claysville area. Of course, I'd have to say it's not the same place now as when I was a kid there, but I'm probably just a grouchy old man.

March 8, 2009 at 10:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess what we need to do is put kids into the three-story, coal-heated, non-air conditioned Munster mansions people my age (60) went to school in.

Sometimes I think the best thing that could happen to America would be for us to be forced to go back to driving only when we had to, taking public transit, and sitting out on the porch to cool down when it got too hot inside. McCain was right -- we are a nation of whiners. And weiners.

I'm all for giving kids the advantages I never had, but it would be nice if they'd acknowledge or at least appreciate them. Now it seems that if one of their six video game systems goes offline for a night, they're ready to commit suicide.

March 10, 2009 at 10:01 PM  

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