Then and Now: History Edition
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Then and Now: History Edition


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THEN & NOW: PAGE 7C PRESS & DAKOTAN n MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2017 Days Of Country Learning Rural Schools, Once A Backbone Of Prairie Education, Live Now Only In Fond Memories BY RANDY DOCKENDORF I t wasn t Little House On The Prairie, but Yankton s Loy Gravholt holds fond memories of his time in one-room schoolhouses. Gravholt not only attended a country school, he also launched his teaching career in one at the age of 17. I grew up on a farm 16 miles north of Yankton, he said. I went to the Slowey School, on the northwest corner of what became the intersection of Highway 81 and 46 (in northern Yankton County). The Slowey School rural district was small because of the large number of rural schools in the area, Gravholt said. Using the Highway 81-46 intersection as a reference point, he estimated the district extended two miles north, one mile east and one mile south. It was a one-room school that served the families in the area. It was all farmers, and we had families with eight or nine kids, he said. We didn t have kindergarten, and we had 18 to 20 kids in grades 1-8. When I was in eighth grade, we had six students who graduated that year, and that was a large class. The school had three teachers, one at a time, during the eight years Gravholt attended Slowey School. He remembers one particular teacher who remained at the school for most of his time as a student. I had the same teacher from third through eighth grade, he said. Her name was Delores Jensen, and she later married a Larson. She was an excellent teacher. The teacher didn t interact with the students only in the classroom, Gravholt said. She also enjoyed playing sports with the students, he recalled. Every time we went out for recess, she would play softball with us, he recalled. She would be running the bases or around the diamond in her skirt. PHOTO: DAKOTA TERRITORIAL MUSEUM The student body (and teacher) of Pike country school in 1942-43. It was one of many rural schools in the area. A DIFFERENT ERA Gravholt was born in 1938, and the school year was shorter than today s calendar. We only had eight months of school back them, compared to the nine months they have now, he said. We had the shorter year because the boys had to stay at home to help in the fields. We usually got out (for the year) around the first of April. With one teacher and a small number of students, the rural school offered classic one-on-one instruction, Gravholt said. However, the teacher and students met for very short classroom periods. Each session, like science or geography, lasted about 15 minutes, he said. We sat with the teacher, and she taught the lesson and asked questions of us. The students learned the three R s reading, writing and rithmetic but they were also exposed to the fine arts, albeit with few frills. In the mornings, we sang songs and recited the Pledge of Allegiance, he said. On Friday, we had art for about a half-hour, during the last few minutes of the day. The rural schools also emphasized good citizenship, Gravholt said. We had YCL, or the Young Citizens League, he said. We were responsible for putting up, taking down and folding the (American) flag. Students were also assigned chores, such as sweeping the schoolhouse, that were expected as part of the routine. Every Friday, we washed down the chalkboard with a rag and water, and we took the (chalk) erasers outside and beat them on the steps of the school, he said. We had a coal chute, but then we got a fuel furnace later on. And we had a cistern outside where we pumped water. In a corner of the school, we had a wash basin. The cistern wasn t the only item found outside. We had two outside toilets, one for the boys and one for the girls, he said with a laugh. ONE BIG FAMILY The one-room schoolhouse also fostered a family atmosphere often because a rural school was made up mostly of siblings and cousins. However, the students also worked together in learning their lessons, Gravholt said. The older kids would help the younger ones with subjects like RANDY DOCKENDORF/P&D Retired Yankton School District teacher Loy Gravholt attended the Slowey rural school north of Yankton, then wound up teaching at a country school for a time before coming to Yankton. I have a good feeling about attending the little country school, he said. I think we turned out all right. math, he said. We took turns reading for the teacher, and you learned as much just listening to the grade level ahead of you. The family connection to the school extended in other ways, too. Every fall, the teacher and the students mothers washed the curtains and cleaned the floors, Gravholt said. They put reddish sawdust on the wooden floors, so oil would go right into the wood, he said. The winters could be harsh, but there were few cancelled classes because of snow days, he said. We didn t miss many days, he said. If a snowstorm was coming, the parents would come to the school and pick up their kids. FUN TIMES The Christmas program provided a major highlight for the students and their families, he recalled. We had skits, and the dads built a stage by hanging a heavy wire across the room with a curtain that we pulled, he said. The event drew large audiences, sometimes standing room only, Gravholt said. RURAL | PAGE 13C Join Us For Our 114th Anniversar was only itting then that she chose U and previous clients ind the
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