Old School Days
Narratives from the Georgetown's
A special thanks to The Georgetown Heritage Society and Martha Mitten Allen for letting us post these wonderful first person stories.
view Foreword and Preface
Old school days
Before the days of school buses and consolidated schools in the 1940's, every little rural community had its one or two room school. The neighbor children walked to school or drove a buggy, and all the elementary grades worked and played together like a big extended family. Facilities were limited, but the memories were fond ones.
Erna V. Richter: Marilyn Lane, Interviewer
There wasn't no gravel. There was very few gravel roads. When we went to school, there was black muddy roads and the ruts got this deep and we had to walk on that and the shoes got as big as boats, but we had to walk that mile to school, and some of them had to walk two and three miles to school. I was thinking about that last night and, oh, my, what a mess that was, around the house and everywhere, it was so muddy, and the lots where you had to milk and feed the cows everything was in such a mess. Of course, we had big barns and every cow had her stall, and they knew which one was their stall, and it had a little gate in front of it, and we'd open the gate and call the cow by the name and she would come and get in. But it got so muddy to where, we always had to wear high top shoes, we going to school, and when we had to go in the cow-pens, it run in on the top of them shoes.
THE PONY WENT HOME
Beulah Yearwood Irvine: Frank Leffingwell, Interviewer
We used to go to a country school, Mount Prospect, north of Georgetown, about two miles from our home. We went through the seventh grade, then went to Georgetown, ten miles, to finish our schooling. Church and Sunday School were held at Mount Prospect, and my oldest sister would take us there. She drove a team of mules hitched to a surrey it had double seats and a fringe around the top and she would tie the mules to the fence. One mule would lie down as soon as we got out of the surrey, then, as we came out, she would get up and be ready to take us home. She never broke her harness.
My sister, just older than I was, and I went to school together, and we used to ride a horse to school. If Dad needed the horse back that day to go over to the ranch, it's over on the Florence highway, why we'd put his reins up on his saddle horn and tell him to go home, and he went home. And if the gate was closed on the highway, he went all the way back around to the back of the farm and came in and waited. He never failed to go back. [It was about two miles each way.] He was a gentle old pony, and all nine of us children learned to ride horseback on him.
JIM HOGG SCHOOL
E. C. "Pete" Bouffard: Bobby Deaton, Interviewer
We lived out there on the ranch. We went to school in an old two-room school house at the upper end of what is now Lake Georgetown. That was seven miles from our house. We went with a buggy a horse and buggy no top, no curtains, no nothing, but the north wind. Sometimes it was rather raw riding in that buggy. I remember we started to school, and it was wet, drizzly weather, and had had a week of the same type of weather, and at that time, that road was not graveled. It was just a dirt road and there was a few automobiles in the country, and you went, in this kind of weather in those days, you had to put chains on your tires in order to make it. Well, this morning, there were ruts where some car had gone down the road the night before with chains on. It rained enough to fill the chain marks with muddy water, but not to fill the tire marks. As we rode to school, the buggy wheels in the ruts of the car, would hit the chain marks and splash with every six inches. We were rather spotted when we got to school. Everybody laughed at us. You can imagine seven miles in that splash, splash, splash all the way to school, every six inches. It was something.
Of course, just a mile up the road from us were some boys that rode to school on horseback. They usually joined us so by the time we got to school, there would be three or four young folks on horseback, our buggy and usually another buggy in line, and, of course, we tied our horses to a fence.
Jim Hogg didn't have but seven grades. Then, of course, that was just a two-room school house, but then there were so few pupils out there that they only had one teacher in one room. She taught seven grades, and I think the biggest that I can ever remember was thirty-two students. She'd start in the morning with the first graders and have one lesson, then she'd move to second, the third grade, the fourth grade and right on up the line. So after you had been in school two or three days, you knew just exactly when you were going to have what. Of course, me, I got smart, see, and I hated spelling with a purple passion, so I managed to be excused to go to the rest room just in time to miss my spelling until I got so slow that my Daddy got real ugly. When I got down to "F," Daddy got rough. Now I miss it, because I can't spell a dang.
But there was a teacher out there that I was in the fourth grade, I believe it was, third or fourth grade, and she said that she was going to make me learn the multiplication tables if she never taught another child in that school one thing. She said, "Now, you live seven miles from the school house, and if you can't recite one multiplication table per day for me, you'll stay after school until you can and walk home." After dark, seven miles, me, a little kid? I learned the multiplication tables. As a result of that, in the eighth grade, I took third place in the state of Texas in math because that teacher made me learn that. And I still say if the kids of today will learn the multiplication tables and the sound of the letter, what do they call them, phonics? if they'll learn those two things, the rest of it is easy, very easy.
Then there was the year that I must have been in the second grade and there was some thirty-two pupils out there and one teacher. We decided that on April Fool's Day, we would all run away from school. Some child got word back to the teacher. There's going to be some April Fool's going on, and she announced that anybody that ran away from school that afternoon, or that day, would receive a very good whipping. So we talked it over out there in the ditch and we decided or the older boys did that everybody would run away from school, but we would go to school in the morning, attend classes, and when she turned us out for lunch, we'd all go to the usual place in the ditch by the side of the school building, and eat our lunches and when she rang in those days, a teacher would ring a bell, and the pupils would line up in a line out front, in front of the building. Then everybody got in line and got quiet, usually the first graders in front and as the grades proceeded further back, the upper grades-men in the back, they would file into the building and each go to their respective seats. Well, when she said the word, to go in to classes, that would give us the signal to run.
We were in line, after lunch, ready to march into the school building and she said, "All right, march." and everybody screamed and hollered and everybody ran in a different direction. You can imagine how surprised that little teacher was. And we decided, up in the woods, we stayed away from there until after school let out that afternoon. She was gone from school when we gathered back to get in our buggies and go home. We all decided that the next day, if she wanted to whip us, the bigger boys would make her start with the big boys so that as she worked down, she would become tireder and by the time she got to the first and second graders, she would be about wore out and she wouldn't whip so hard.
Well, the final result was that, I think, she whipped ten of the older pupils and quit, but when Mammas and Dad-dies found out about it, we got some good spankings at home. We sure did.
"The Chicken Coop"
Billie Hoffman - Interviewer: Theresa Wineinger
Where the Wesleyan Retirement Home is, on Church and University, that was where a lot of us started to school back in the early 1900s, and we had a little L-shaped wooden building there that was called the Chicken Coop. The first and second and part of the third grade was over there. When you passed into the high third grade, you went on up to the building on the corner of Austin and University. You went from the 3rd grade through the 11th there. Can you imagine children in the 3rd grade in the same playground with the ones in the 11th grade? That's the way we were.
Where the Middle school is on University Avenue, that was at one time the high school. That property at one time had a building that Southwestern owned. It was called the old Prep building, which was a place where the students who were not qualified to get in Southwestern scholastically went to qualify themselves by other studying. The school district bought that before they ever moved out of the one on University Avenue. We then moved the 8th-11th grades to the old Prep building. When it was torn down to make room for the building that is there now, we went back to the old three-story building and part of us went to school in the afternoon and part of us went to school in the morning until this building could be completed.
Woodie J. Givens: Chris Janning, Interviewer
I went to school down on the Ridge, where most of the black kids went to school. I passed, almost literally, by the school that Miss Annie Purl was principal of. I went from 15th street, down Hart Street and then across town until I got down on the Ridge and went down to the end of the Ridge almost to the Blue Hole, and there was the Black School.
At that time, cotton was king. There were very few black, whites, or any children in Georgetown who didn't pick cot-ton. All of them picked cotton. And I wanted to pick cot-ton. At that time, my father, Reverend Walter James Green, who was a minister and a teacher, had died, and I was the only child. I suppose that is the reason I am named Woodie James Green instead of Mary or something. I was named after my father, Reverend Walter James Green. When my father died and my mother was alone, she had a phobia that something would happen to me. And as a result, she didn't mean to tell a story, but she would tell me, "Yes, Woodie, you can pick cotton as soon as it gets a little cooler." She knew that school would start in September. Many times I've been the only child in my class at school until the others got through picking cotton about October and came in. Sometimes there were two of us. And I have been there alone.
My family was not aloof but clannish. I have even had an uncle take me to school. This teacher from Victoria roomed in his house and he drove us to school. She saw a black cat go across the path and she said, "Oh, Mr. Van Hoose, turn around, you're going to have bad luck. There's a black cat." Well, Turner said nothing—they didn't do a lot of talking—but he came back and he told Mamma, "I don't want Woodie to be taught by that woman. She's too ignorant. Anybody who is afraid of a black cat is too ignorant to teach Woodie."
We didn't call it prejudice, because that was the status quo. Black children went to black schools. Mexican children went down in Grasshopper to a Mexican school. The Mexicans did go to High School, but very, very few of them finished. I can recall when it was just a seven day wonder for a Mexican to finish high school. I remember one Mexican girl who finished high school. Later, Southwestern gave a theology course and a Mexican boy came here to go to school to get his bachelor of theology. This girl was possibly the only Mexican girl that he could relate to, who had 12 years of schooling, and they married.
The Black School was a school like all schools, because it was the only school I knew. It was a white stone building. I first went to a little school for two years, off from there, a little frame building. I don't remember that too well. I went there in the first and second grade. This new school was built when I was in the third grade, I went there. It was a stone school. I think that must have gone from the first to the third grades. Behind that was fourth, fifth, and sixth, no doubt. Across the hall was home economics, the whole side. It was better than any of the homes that we lived in, because it had hardwood floors. There were very few hard-wood floors among the blacks' houses in Georgetown when I was born, and not too many among the whites. A few [houses] on University Avenue had hardwood floors.
Marshall-Carver High School Historical Marker - Text
The first school for African American students in Georgetown was established in the early 20th century. Called "The Colored School," the institution served grades 1 through 8 and provided the only local educational opportunities for African Americans. The school's principal, Mr. S. C. Marshall, was an outspoken advocate of higher education. A scholar himself, he persuaded the school board to allow him to provide classes through the high school level. He named the new program "The Georgetown Colored High School," and the first student enrolled in 1913. A new high school building was erected in 1923 due to increasing enrollment. When Marshall left the school in 1930, it was renamed Marshall School in his honor. The name was changed to George Washington Carver in the 1940s. In 1962, the parents of seventeen Carver students who had been denied admission to Georgetown's white schools filed a lawsuit in U. S. District Court to force integration. The court ordered the Georgetown Independent School District to integrate one grade level per year beginning with the first grad.e Partial integration began in the fall of 1964. Convinced that gradual integration would not benefit their children, African American parents appealed the decision to the Fifth Circuit Court which upheld the lower court's verdict. Proponents of full and immediate integration engaged in a letter-writing campaign to the U. S. Attorney General, the U. S. Department of Health, education and Welfare, and the Federal Assistance Program urging another review of the case. In the fall of 1965, the Georgetown School Board agreed to a plan to complete integration of the school system by September 1967. The Carver School was permanently closed due to integration. (1999)
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Erna V. Richter: Marilyn Lane, Interviewer
We were all Germans around here. Everything was German. Daddy sent us to German school. We were five miles from Walburg where the church was, and six miles away from Georgetown, and so we lived in the middle between Walburg and Georgetown. When we were too young to drive a horse and buggy to school, we stayed with some of the uncles that lived in Walburg, and they sent us to school and we learned how to read and write German. I was nine when I got started. I stayed with one of the cousins when I was nine, and then I stayed with Uncle Adolph when I was ten.
When we stayed in Walburg with the folks, we went and spent the night over there, and Mama took us on a Monday morning and we stayed over there all week. And Fridays he came and got us after school. And she took our dirty clothes home and washed and ironed and on Mon-day morning, she brought us back and brought our fresh clothes. It was kind of lonesome, especially the smaller children at home. We all loved each other. It wasn't like it is now. We weren't jealous of each other. We all loved each other.
Then, after while, we got old enough where he got a horse again, and we drove a horse and buggy those five miles to Walburg, and we started at 9:00 in the morning and took feed along for the horse. We had to take the horse to water at dinner time and tie him up again. Then we had to hook him up and drive home again at night.
There was a community that was only German, and then there was a big circle, they was Swedes, and the Swedes and the Germans didn't mix. Then there was a big circle they were Americans. So they had a little school there, and we all went to the same school, Ranger Branch School. In the summer time, we had two months German School, and in the winter time we had seven months English school. So we had to learn both. And it was very hard when we started and didn't know English. . . . [The teacher] had a bunch of little kids there, to teach, and quite a few of them were German. I remember that so well, when I started school, and the teacher got us all up there, little beginners, and she said, "Now, you all say this with me, and we going to recite that every day until you know it." Then she started off and she said, This is east, and this is west, soon we learn to say the rest. This is high and this is low, oh, to see how much we know. This is narrow, this is wide, something else I know beside. If a lady I should meet
or my teacher on the street, from my head my cap I take, and a bow like this I make. Now I fold my arms up so, and softly to my seat I go.
And we repeated that every day until we knew it. And you know, by that, she taught us what high and what low was and what narrow and what wide was, and she taught us talking English, too, by that. What else could she do with us us? when they are so dumb?
Some of them were mean because we talked German to each other and they couldn't understand us, but some of them were good to us. In all, we learned to talk English.
TALES FROM RANGER BRANCH
Frances Mayo: Martha M. Allen, Interviewer
Ranger Branch was a little school seven miles northeast of Georgetown. It opened its doors in 1910 and closed in 1941. Then the children from there went to Georgetown. It was a German community. Nearly all the children were Lutherans and they went to the lower Lutheran Church. A few of them went to the upper Lutheran Church, but most of them went to the lower. We had one or two Catholics, but very few any other denomination. The grand-parents spoke German, period. The parents spoke English and German, but the children spoke English fluently, and that's why to this day I cannot understand why we have bilingual education .. . I had some very intelligent trustees; Mr. Homeyer, Otto Liese, and Will Nord those were my trustees most of the time. Those three men were just excellent.
A month or two ago, I ran into Louis Miller, a boy I taught in the 1930s, and he said, "Oh, Miss Frances, do you remember the day that the elephant came to the school house?" I said, "Oh, no, Louis, that's too far back for me." He said, "Oh, yes, there was a man came by the school house and we were all out playing. And he stopped and said, `Would you children like to ride?' " And of course, they all did. And every child in school got to ride around the school ground on that elephant. I guess they were on their way to Georgetown, probably, in the circus or something, and had probably been to another little town. And, of course, that would be good advertising. That was at Ranger Branch. I taught there eight years.
We were playing baseball. The older children were in the principal's room and they played baseball, and when they didn't have enough on each side to even up the team, I would play and Miss Fay [Perez, the principal] would be the umpire, or the referee or whatever you want to call it. One time I had hit the ball and had run all the way to third base and I was so proud of me. Then the back catcher threw the ball to third base and I thought, "Oh, Brother, I can make it home." And so then I ran on from third base to home, but in the meantime the boy on third base caught the ball and he threw it back to the catcher, so he could put me out, but the ball hit me and knocked me cold. And the little boys thought they had killed their teacher, and they were just simply scared to death. And after while I came to, and the little boy that hit me was standing there ringing his hands saying, "I killed the teacher, I killed the teacher."
Another little boy came in from Mexico. He had never been in a school in the United States before. He didn't know a word of English. This was the first grade, he did not know the rules or regulations. And this was before the time of bilingual education. The teachers were not allowed to speak anything but English in the schoolroom or on the play-ground. This little boy ran all around the schoolroom and would say something in Spanish to every child that he passed. He disrupted the whole room. I could not teach, because when I tried to teach, the children were watching this little Jose. I thought how in the world am I going to get that child to sit down? I was afraid if I used any Spanish, I'd get fired. But after this went on a week or so, I thought, well, I'm going to take the bull by the horns, and I'm going to put this kid down. So, one day when he was just running all over the schoolroom, I caught him by the shoulders and shook him and said, "Sientese, pronto!" And his little eyes got real big, and he looked at me and he sat down. But he kept jabbering, he just jabbered and jabbered and jabbered. I thought, well, the kids keep watching him in-stead of me. It doesn't do any good for him to sit down if he keeps talking. And I thought, well, if I'm going to be fired, I'll just be fired. So I looked at him again and caught him by the shoulders, and said, "No habla in escuela." And that quieted him. But I was afraid that the people in the community and the principal would find it out, so after school, I went and told the principal what I had done, and he said, "Well, that was the thing to do, but we're not going to tell anybody."
"The Birth of Georgetown High School"
Berna Sillure Cooke - Interviewer: Rodney K. Kaase
When I started to school, it was a tall three-story, rock building, and all of the grades from first through the eleventh grade I'm not sure whether it was the first through the tenth when I first started. We could not start until we were seven years old. The upper grades were all upstairs and we started with the primary, first grade on up. We started to school at 9:00, then we went home for dinner; it wasn't lunch in those days, it was dinner. The children from the country brought their lunch. Then school took up again at 1:00 and went till 4:00 p.m. We had about fifteen minute recesses in the morning and the afternoon. The building was facing University Avenue between Austin Avenue and Main Street, so we had a big playground all around the building. The teachers all came out and supervised.
When I was in the tenth grade, the Georgetown schools bought the old University Preparatory building which is now the campus of Central [Middle School]. It became the High School for Georgetown, and so our class moved into the new high school, the old Preparatory building, at the start of our senior year in 1916. It wasn't the red brick building that is there now. I was in the first graduating class from that high school in 1917. We had the best football team. High school was born at that time. Because when we were in the other school, our classes were in the upper floors, but it just didn't seem like it was "High school." But when we got up there, it was an entirely different feeling.
Doc Simons, who was the science teacher, was the athletic coach he coached football, basketball, baseball, and track, all four. He had excellent teams in all four. He was from South Texas, a graduate of Southwestern, and an excellent coach. He had an outstanding football team. In our first annual, the record said that the football team played six games. Out of that, they were only scored on in one game and the other high school, San Marcos, made six points and they made 24 and, in all, they made 224 points to six for the entire time. In addition, he was the instigator of the first annual. He talked to the senior class about putting out an annual. With his help, we got it out. The editorship seemed to have been saddled on me. So we met every night at my house, the staff. We started right along about Christmas and we finished up that album by graduation time. We named it the Whirlwind. It was definitely a Whirlwind. Everybody in that senior class did their part, as well as our teachers and Doc Simons, who were our advisors in so many problems and questions.