Sunday morning The Westmoreland Historical Society and board member Sandy Burg Rolewicz welcomed parishioners from the Lairdsville United Methodist Church who came to tour our famous one-room schoolhouse, view our displays, and enjoy root beer floats on the lawn.
Sandy displayed antique maps from rollers attached to the top of the chalkboards. Various ones depicted Cold War-era Europe, 19th-century shipping lanes between the continents, and the country before most of the West had been divided up into states.
One of the guests, Margery (Kitchen) Coleman recalled being educated in Westmoreland district schoolhouse #14. I asked her what it was like to learn with so many different grades in one space.
“It was wonderful, of course, we didn’t know any different,” she recalled laughing. “It never bothered me in the least. We had an old wood stove for heat in the wintertime. We wrote on slates.”
Classes were very small in those days. “The teacher started [a lesson] with 1st grade, then did one for 2nd grade — if there even was a 2nd grade.”
She attended the one-room schoolhouse for six years, after which time the district was divided up with one-third of her classmates going to Westmoreland, one-third to Clinton, and another third with Margery to Vernon consolidated school. She walked the quarter-mile to the schoolhouse but took a bus for the first time to the school in Vernon.
“Miss Albaun was the teacher,” Margery said. “She was a wonderful teacher. I cried when I had to leave.”
She doesn’t remember if her schoolhouse had a bell like ours does, but she does remember that the students were all friends.
Another parishioner, Gay Marie (Houck) Wood shared her personal experiences. Her grandfather taught in one in the Catskills. At age four she was technically too young to attend school but he brought her along anyway and even assigned her a little desk but he didn’t give her a report card.
“I was his spoiled granddaughter,” she smiled.
A brief presentation began with Sandy leading the group in reciting the pre-1945 version of the Pledge of Allegiance which, in its original wording, omitted the words “under God.”
During the visit, while guests discussed the instruction they had received in the Palmer Method of writing and asked questions about the inkwells, Pastor Mark Adsit playfully donned the dunce cap and sat on the stool in the corner to the delight of the parishioners.
“You’re going to sit still, you’re going to work quietly, ask permission to leave your seat, stand when answering a question, and make your manners bow or curtsy to the teacher.” Sandy read the list of 19th century rules.
Pastor Adsit promised to do that from now on and was allowed to return to his seat, but not before getting a laugh by sticking out his tongue at his parishoners.
Sandy also held up a picture of Beverly Zingerline who had the schoolhouse built at her home on Dix Road.
“After research she had a contractor build it as it might have been [if it had been an actual historic site], then she began searching for antiques to fill it,” Sandy explained, then added, “She wasn’t a school teacher but she acted like one.”
Afterward, the tour guests explored the Historical Room where they saw our newest displays including the deerskin box owned by town founder, James Dean, and several items from the Foundry, and our collection of school yearbooks that date all the way back to the 1930s.
The visit concluded with an impromptu ice cream social where guests enjoyed root beer floats on the lawn. Everyone had a good time, and all were invited to join our Historical Society which meets on the first Thursday of each month at 7 p.m., or visit our Historical Room on Mondays from 3-5 p.m.
Ron Klopfanstein is the president of the Westmoreland Historical Society. Like him at Facebook.com/BeMoreWestmo and follow him at Twitter.com/BeMoreWestmo