For those of us who are “senior citizens”, the thought of school is a far cry from sitting and staring at a computer screen. Back when all 12 grades were in one building, school was something we looked forward to attending. I was privileged to have ridden a bus to school, but I remember my grandparents talking about walking great distances, sometimes through snow just to get to school. These are not just stories, they are actually real. Nowadays, kids have no idea what difficulties their ancestors endured just to get an education. Most of the old schoolhouses like the three-story Ramseur High School that once was in the center of town have long been torn down for newer, more modern structures. I tend to think that while the buildings may be more efficient, learning has not increased. I remember my grandmother talking about the days of her childhood that were spent in the old Parks Crossroads schoolhouse. That building has long been gone. But I do remember a one-room schoolhouse that stood for many years just up the road from Franklinville. It was the old schoolhouse at Whites Chapel. This building stood close to the church and I am told it even served as a Sunday school room when needed for Whites Chapel Church. A great history of this building was written by my old friend Henry King back in 1977 and was published in the Courier-Tribune. He did an interview with Mr. Lacy Kivett and his wife Lucy who owned the land that the schoolhouse occupied.
The building is an unassuming structure that measures appx 28 ft square, with a rock chimney on one end and a large poplar tree on the other. The building was constructed just after the Civil War, during Reconstruction, and the last time the school bell rang for students was in 1929. The main evidence of its use as a schoolhouse is the “blackboard” which is merely black paint that had been smeared on two walls on the interior. The teacher and students wrote directly on the black wall planks that were painted in a band about four feet wide on the east and south walls.
“On the right side of the door going in there was a little shelf and that was where the cedar water bucket was kept,” Mrs. Kivett recalled.
“Each child brought his own tin cup from home to use when he or she wanted a drink of water out of that wooden bucket, else they had to use the gourd dipper and drink behind everybody else that was using it.”
Water was lugged from a spring almost a quarter-mile away, Lacy said. “I had to go for water many times myself. All the bigger kids had to tote water, only the little kids were excused because the bucket full of water was too heavy.”
There were no indoor toilets, and children had to use outdoor privies, or if they were in a hurry and the privies were occupied, “they ran to the woods,” Mrs. Kivett said. Those were the days of blueback spellers and hickory sticks, the couple remembers.
“And in one corner of the room was a little shelf where everybody put their lunch pails,” Lacy said. “We happened to live close by and we’d run home for lunch, but the other kids had to bring lunch buckets because they walked a long way to school — some of them a couple of miles.” “YOU’D BE surprised, but there were as many as 30 kids in that one room. We’d sit four to a bench and on each side of the aisle.” “The kids were all ages from wee little and just starters right up to the teens. The teachers switched around all kinds of lessons because of the different ages.”
Back in those days, there was no such thing as being “politically correct.” People were just thankful for the privilege of getting an education. History was taught as it actually happened, not through corrective lenses. The education given out from simple structures like this one-room schoolhouse produced what became known as the “greatest generation.” These students went on to build the greatest country on earth, to fight a World War and defeat evil, and laid the foundation for the freedom that we enjoy today.
–Taken from “The Little Ol’ School In A Field”, by Henry King, 1977, W. T. Cox