Schools of today, schools of yesterday


“A large truculent male was then employed who declared he could break any school. We found in the morning of his first day a paper nailed on the door naming eighteen things we must not do. He explained them in detail, which was quite a help. They ranged all the way from plain and fancy whispering to fighting in class.

“That first day, we succeeded in breaking all his rules but one. There were just too many of them. That was the busiest day I ever spent in school.”

– Dr. Arthur E. Hertzler

The Horse and Buggy Doctor

In recent days, I have heard one 14-year-old girl say repeatedly that school is just no fun. It set my mind to thinking, and I wonder how many Farm and Dairy readers would wish to trade places with any eighth grader in the world for the balance of this school year.

You simply could not pay me enough.

The one-room schools of the early 1900s, maybe, but today’s junior high schools have to be one of the hardest places to be.

About a book. It prompted me to look up a great old book, sent to me by Farm and Dairy reader Bill Choma who has become family to us.

The Horse and Buggy Doctor was copyrighted in 1938 by Harper and Brothers of New York and London. It is a wildly entertaining, informative read that raises my eyebrows with every single page.

Arthur Hertzler wrote this book at the urging of his youngest daughter, who felt his grandchildren could learn about his life and times – how he came to be a country doctor, how he survived through horribly trying times.

My bet is that she didn’t bargain on just how ornery he had been in his younger days!

Ornery boy. Once, he had made a monkey on a string, “a clever piece of work for a 10-year-old boy to construct with nothing but a pocketknife” and a girl in his class convinced him to try to pin it on the teacher’s coattail.

The teacher stooped low, the boy reached up to pin the monkey on the teacher’s coat, and suddenly, the boy was gripped and whipped.

“If one knows how to take thrashings they may be made positively entertaining,” the author writes. “The technic in taking a licking is to wholly relax. It is difficult to apply the rod with one hand while the other is occupied in holding the recipient in the upright position.

“I have been getting lickings all my life and the same technic applies. Just relax; the other party is doing all the work.”

He adds, “Playing hooky was frequently indulged in; the free time was usually devoted to hunting rabbits or going skating. We did our own exploring. The teacher was prone to accept any excuse one offered for his absences, being thankful apparently for an occasional day of comparative peace.”

He told of a teacher who tried to shame him by treating him like a baby.

She said, “Okay, right now, you must sit on my lap and be treated like a baby!” He crawled right up on her lap, tall boy that he was, wrapped his arms around her and pretended to enjoy the whole experience.

She was stunned in to speechlessness.

Sweetness silences. “The following year we got as teacher the sweetest little lady we had ever seen. She brought no whip but simply announced that her name was Lilly. All devilishness vanished and not one of us ever did a single thing to annoy her.

“She weighed scarce a hundred pounds, and we saw to it that a path was broken through the snow for her each morning.

“This quiet little lady subdued us with kindness after daily lickings had failed to make any impressions whatever. Not one of us had ever been subjected to that sort of thing!”

Throughout these wild tales, I kept chuckling at the thought of this man’s daughter wondering, “What have I asked for?”

Closing. He seemed to spell out just about every form of orneriness possible, but he closed one chapter with this statement:

“The vast number of mischievous things we did are long since lost in the advance of civilization but even so they had an educative value, though one possessed of grandsons cannot regard them as suitable experiences for record.”

So, we are left to wonder just what other schoolhouse pranks went unwritten. Nothing dull and boring about that particular one-room schoolhouse, by the sounds of things!


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.