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Archive for June, 2009

Settlement had only begun in Jordan Township, Michigan, when a new school was built near the Pinney Bridge, and children in the area found themselves in class. Then as the bright reds and yellows of the fall foliage began to wane and the days grew cool and dark, great billows of drifted snow covered the landscape. Children slogged through drifts up to their hips as they made their way to class. The only way to maintain roadways was to pack the accumulation into a hard mass.

But winters didn’t last forever and the snow melted, giving way to mud and slush. Yet the children made their way each day, tramping through the mire and often arriving home soaked and covered with muck.

Then as the days grew ever warmer, the bears awoke from winter slumber and began to prowl the forest in search of food. Thus the children might come in contact with old bruin. On these occasions they hurried to the nearest home or place of safety. It was not unusual for the times, however, and school went on. It was just one of those things it seems.

On one occasion a man named Mr. Staley shot a bear and was transporting him home with his horse and buggy, when he passed the school. Suddenly the children came streaming out the door to watch. The teacher had felt it better to allow the event than try to contain their fascination.

Sometimes the call of the forest made it very hard for children to remain in class, so on one occasion when the teacher left the room, the students climbed out a back window and skipped for home. The escape was a big thrill for the kids until the realization set in that they would need an excuse for their behavior. So they made a plan; they told the teacher that their cows had strayed near the school and they had gone to take them home.

Of course the teacher’s raised eyebrows left little doubt as to whether she believed the tale, but she did let them get by with the story. And many years later, when the kids had grown into adulthood, they still laughed with glee at their not so secret secret.

Dismissal time could be a problem in those early schools as well, for a clock was considered a luxury. The only furnishings might be a stove and several benches, so when the end of the school day came near, the teacher simply went outside to check the stake——a pole that had been placed in a strategic position in the school yard. When the shadow fell at just the right angle, school was dismissed. This method of telling time was called stake time.

Yes times were hard, but the people were a hardy bunch. Cold winds, deep drifts, prowling bears and lack of furnishings were taken in stride. Nothing seemed to dismay the sons and daughters of our early pioneers.

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