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The Daily



09-15-03: A walk together down memory lane to a one-room schoolhouse


ROCKFORD — It had to be fate. What else could have brought Rockford-area natives Charlotte Anspaugh and Pauline Wilson together after nearly 70 years?
The former teacher and her pupil found themselves randomly sitting next to one another recently during a One-Room Schoolhouse program at The Laurels of Shane Hill. They soon discovered their lives had crossed for the first time decades ago.
“We asked the residents if anyone attended a one-room schoolhouse as a kid,” explained activities aide Sandy Schaffner.
Anspaugh, 86, (the former Charlotte Shope) answered first. “Well, I went to the old King School,” she said.
Wilson, 89, took a good long look at her table partner before replying, “Well, I used to teach there.”
Soon the childhood memories flowed like water — the long walks to school each day on dirt and stone roads, freezing in the drafty schoolhouse in the winter and packing apple butter sandwiches more often than they’d liked.
“It was so interesting to hear the ladies tell stories from back then,” said Brooke Reyman, an employee of the facility. “They talked for quite some time that day.”
Wilson attended Winkler School — not far from King School — as a child and didn’t know the little dark-haired girl who would become her student one day. The women’s lives became intertwined when Anspaugh was in eighth-grade at King School. Wilson was her new teacher.
“At that time, it took only two years to get your teaching degree,” Wilson (also her maiden name) explained, adding that she was only about 19 when she taught “young Charlotte.”
Anspaugh was a young lady about to turn 16, who longed to further her education.
“My dad wouldn’t let me go on to high school at Rockford,” Anspaugh said. “In those days you had to stay in school until you were 16, so I had to repeat the eighth grade.”
The one-room schoolhouse — there were nine in Blackcreek Township in the late ’20s and ’30s — no longer stands at the corner of Erastus Durbin and Winkler roads. Like most other rural schoolhouses in its time, all eight grades and one teacher inhabited the same brick building.
Wilson said it was a challenge teaching such a broad age group under one roof, but she always found ways to keep everyone busy.
“I’d give the older kids a big assignment with numbers to keep them occupied, then I’d go about teaching the younger ones how to read,” she said.
A big, round pot bellied stove stood right in the middle of the room, Wilson said.
“I had to bring my own kindling wood from home to get the fire going each morning,” she said.
Wilson said she vividly recalls being accused of using too much coal in the winter by the men who maintained the building.
“But it got cold in there,” Anspaugh said in her former teacher’s defense.
Back then the stove divided the wide desks from the smaller ones. “Big kids on one side, little ones on the other,” Wilson explained.
For punishment, she made her students stand in the corner.
“Charlotte’s brother, Toy, spent plenty of time there,” Wilson said as the two women laughed.
Anspaugh remembered wearing print dresses made of flour sacks sewn by her aunt. She had few school dresses and sometimes hurried home to wash and dry her attire for school the next day, she said.
They both laughed as they recalled the ink holes in their desks for dipping writing sticks. The hidden tubs of ink were way too tempting for the pranksters of their class.
“The boys liked to grab the girls’ pig tails and stick the ends in the ink. It was quite messy,” Wilson said chuckling.
In the warmer months, most of the farm children arrived at school barefoot. When the snow got deep they donned boots and their parents brought them by horse and sleigh, the women said. There were no car pools, no fog or snow days.
“Times were a lot tougher then,” Wilson added.
Wilson graduated from the former Rockford High School in 1931, and later in life attended several colleges before receiving her master’s in education. Before retirement, she worked as curriculum director at Celina City Schools. Her husband, Le Roy Wilson, died in 1946.
Anspaugh returned home last week to her husband, Virgil, in Mendon after her brief rehabilitation at the nursing facility. After reminiscing with her long, lost teacher, she took home memories that she had long forgotten.
“We were kids then, country kids. We didn’t know any better and we didn’t have much,” Anspaugh said. “But we’ll always remember our schoolhouse days.”


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