The Schools We Knewby
the 1800s to shortly after World
War II, East Texas was made up
mostly of farming communities--small in size, but big in community spirit. |
communities were the world to their residents.
They couldn’t run to places like Tyler,
Longview and Paris,
like people do today. A trip in a mule-drawn wagon took hours away from farming
where the farmers (and the mules)
needed to be.
Some communities had a small general store and a church,
but almost every community had a school
which acted as the glue that held each settlement together.
Heaven! what sorrows gloomed that parting day|
That called them from their native
Photo courtesy Stephen
were dictated by the size of the community and by the distance the kids could
be expected to walk. School buses had not yet arrived.
had only two or three rooms with wooden floors and were warmed during cold weather
by a wood-burning potbelly stove in each classroom.
Hot days were made
cooler only if a breeze blew through the windows. A rope was strung out one window
and hitched to a bell hanging on a post. The rope was yanked by a teacher to call
the classes to order and end the recess.
One such school stood at Hickory
Grove in Anderson County, not far from the Neches River. The community had a church,
a graveyard (Muse Cemetery), and a store or two down the road.
behind the school were two outhouses,
one for the boys and one for the girls. Recess meant mumblety-peg and wolf-over-the
river or, if there was enough ground without trees, baseball games were played
by both girls and boys.
often provided entertainment for the community--usually plays performed by students,
some with homemade costumes.
Each student carried a lunch to school, sometimes
in a syrup bucket filled with cornbread, boiled eggs, and a piece of fried chicken.
That continued until Franklin D. Roosevelt’s commodities program supplied food
to the county schools.
school usually had a well that supplied water. Some even had a drinking fountain.
drinking fountain of the old school in Lagarto|
TE Photo, February 2006
of East Texas’ small farming communities
began to fade away when their schools were consolidated with those in other towns.
If you travel across East Texas, you
can still find some reminders of the towns, often abandoned buildings that once
served as schools and stores--places like Dextra in Nacogdoches County and Denning
in San Augustine County.
October 11, 2009 Column
A weekly column syndicated in 109 East Texas newspapers