Here’s a fun fact: most children don’t like school. They will find ways to avoid schoolwork or at least amuse themselves and make the best of an awful situation.
Last week Edgerton shared some stories from the early days of rural schooling in our district and looked at animals, humans and the ensuing mishaps and mayhem.
When skunks, gophers, rabbits or gentle saddle horses weren’t on hand the children turned on one another to brighten their days.
Finding ways to get out of work was a popular pursuit for rural students, with the schoolhouse itself apparently bearing the brunt of their assaults.
Porter Lake School was immensely proud of their being one of the only Edgerton district country schools to have indoor toilets. However, it was surmised that if these indispensable facilities were damaged, school couldn’t continue.
To that end a large rock was dumped into the toilet bowl, achieving a partial clog and cracking the bowl. Nonetheless, school continued and everyone, including the offender, had to go outside to use the toilet for a time.
La Pearl School’s toilet was also tampered with in the hopes of cancelling classes. Once again members of the rougher sex have been blamed, this time with the offense of stuffing paper towel in the toilet vents and proceeding to light the towels on fire.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, the towels were doused and classes proceeded.
Being a rural student meant your pockets held peculiar items, as in the case of binder twine for gopher teams and then those poor gophers’ tails, or they might hold bullets.
Giles School, No. 2494, had a heater known to spontaneously contain .22 rounds.
Occasionally the desired effect was achieved and class delayed, but one would imagine with diminishing results.
If class couldn’t be cancelled or disrupted, fun times were sought nonetheless.
One May 1936 day at Dolcy School, the same that saw the creation of a gopher team, has a story about “trading sandwiches.”
These, of course, were sandwiches made at home and traded amongst students.
Lyle tells us that Jason and himself conducted such a transaction but Jason had personally prepared a special sandwich just for Lyle, made of horseradish, mustard and pepper.
Everyone except Lyle thought this was hilarious.
Sometimes things happen unintentionally to disrupt class.
Browning School, named for the English poet, brings us the story of hot lunches being put on the heater around 11 a.m. to warm up.
On one occasion a jam can lid was not loosened and “needless to say, before the dinner hour arrived the ceiling and most of the students and their books were wearing cocoa.”
Some of the boys in La Pearl, upset that late classmates meant extra lessons for all, planned their revenge.
A bucket of cold water was carefully placed on top of the coatroom door, with the intention of soaking the tardy offenders.
The bucket performed admirably, with the exception that the classmates were even later than usual. The Superintendent, however, arrived just in time for a cold shower!
An investigation of sorts ensued, with the windfall of cancelled classes.
Empire School was host to a show of patriotism and resourcefulness. A young girl, having fallen and gotten wet in a spring puddle, was instructed to hang her clothes by the heater to dry.
She, of course, didn’t have extra clothes and so the teacher wrapped her in the “good old Union Jack” while she waited for her clothes to dry.
Luckily, “the inspector never came by, as he may have taken a dim view of the situation.”
The bucket boys at La Pearl could have used some of that luck.
These tales remind us of a much earlier time. The good natured mischief and unplanned mishaps provided humour to our rural schools in difficult circumstances.
Pioneer and homesteader life was hard for everyone, especially our young boys and girls in rural schools.
As we look toward celebrating our 100th Anniversary Homecoming celebration in August 2017, the Village of Edgerton will be sharing more stories, next week looking at some of the ways these difficulties impacted schools and the perseverance and grit needed to make the system work in the Edgerton district.
by Wes Laporte
**Source: Edgerton History Book, Winds of Change