Maple Lake Elementary third grade visits Maple Lake’s past

We had real nice guests named Jim Rachel, his wife Bernice, Curt Hofman and his wife, Janet. They came to tell us what it was like growing up in Maple Lake.

Jim lived on a farm with two brothers and two sisters for over 80 years. A lot of people farmed in those days, but because Maple Lake was once all trees the land had to be cleared first. Maybe that is why we have such a good lumberyard. Cordwood was a strong wood that was used a lot, and of course there were many Maple trees.    We asked a lot of questions about the school and found out that they had to walk one or two miles everyday no matter how cold it was. The teacher went to school early to start the wood burner. She taught all the grades in one room. They had country schools with classes the size of 15-50 kids. The older the students the bigger the class. School was from 8:00-4:00.

They had penmanship and lots of spelling Bees besides others like ours. Janet could remember counting matches for math. They called it arithmetic. When matches were missing it was because the teacher used them to light the wood stove. Their computer was pencils, paper, and the brain. No back packs, only pencil boxes carried their eraser and crayons. They didn’t have white boards. Their boards were black and chalk was used to write. They took turns going outside to clap the erasers together to get the chalk off. They had double desks. They had two recesses. If they were naughty they would have to sit in the corner on a stool in front of everybody, or maybe even get the “Ruler Trick.” This is when the teacher would hit your hand with a ruler.

For lunch they had to bring bags of homemade food. They had to get up early to get the milking done and only had lanterns. The bathroom was outside, and the moms made their clothes and blankets out of string. Janet was knitting something when she came.    Maple Lake had a movie theater when they were little, and a lot more stores. Like three grocery stores, hardware stores, a drug store, a blacksmith, the lumberyard, a doctor, two or three barbers, a bakery, and more. Candy bars were only a penny and Jim remembers a 1923 car cost his family $350.00. They didn’t go fast though, and the tires broke fast. The roads were rough without tar, and during snowstorms it could take days before they would get out.

Snowplows were men with shovels. In 1940 a snowstorm caused school to be closed for 3 days. That day they went to school in short sleeves. The temperature went from the 60’s to below zero. Over 30 inches of snow fell. Cattle and other animals died, even people. In those days the fire truck was men pulling the water and hose on a cart.    It sounds like life was really hard in those days, but they knew how to have fun. Dancing in barns was a big thing and lots of house parties. They said neighbors knew each other better then. We learned where the phrase “Rubber necking” came from too. Talk about getting to know your neighbors! They had telephone lines you could listen to their neighbors on. Each phone had a different number of rings so you knew when someone was calling your house. It was very fun listening to these friends. Like experiencing a good teacher. We learned a lot.  

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