I have vague, hazy memories of returning to school after summer break when I was a kid. Back then, before the turn of the century, it began around the first of June and we never went back to school until after Labor Day. Three full months of summer vacation--*sigh*--those really were the good old days.
I do remember dreading the first writing assignment because it was the same year after year: Tell what you did on your summer vacation. It seemed like every kid in the entire world always got to go on a cool vacation in the summer. Well, every kid except me. We never went on vacation. I had to write about something embarrassingly boring every year. I think I may have told a big “Walter Mitty Whopper” one year, just to break the chain of boredom. Yeah, I prolly did.
Other than that writing assignment, I enjoyed going back to school. It beat sitting around watching the grass grow after you finished all your chores each day. And you got a new pair of shoes and some new clothes!
Recently, while in conversation with my mother (imagine that, HA!), she told me a school-related story about my father which I had never heard.
Apparently, my father had a deal with the two teachers, Miss Cooley and Mrs. Davis. Once the weather turned cold, he would go to the school early each morning and light the fires in the stoves at the schoolhouse.
He would get up early in the morning; the time depended upon the weather—if it had snowed, he would leave earlier because he had to break a path through the snow. Before leaving his house, he would make the fire in the kitchen stove for his mother, and have a cup of coffee. Then he would gather his tinder and kindling, shove it in his coat, jam his hands into his pockets (because he had no gloves) and set off for the two room schoolhouse formally known as South Alderson School.
It was a fairly long walk about a mile and a quarter. He had to walk down the hill into town and across the old bridge spanning the river which split the town in two.
After getting the fires started, he would bank them down and return home. Some mornings he went home, had breakfast and returned to school later, when class began. Some mornings he went home, had breakfast and went back to bed. Regardless, he always made the fires at South Alderson School.
Did I mention they paid him? He was paid $10 a month to light the fires during the winter months. Did I mention that he was only about 12 or 13 years old the first year he did it? Assuming responsibility at an early age and earning money for it in the late 1930’s.
These days our children dread going back to school for various reasons. Some of them are valid. Most are not.
I don’t think my father particularly enjoyed school, but I believe he probably looked forward to going back after summer vacation. The economic benefit the winter months would bring had to be a great dread inhibitor.