Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Monday, September 6, 2010

Back-to-school: Vintage photo of Dan's 3-room schoolhouse

Pomfret No. 4 School, Laona, NY, 1948.

Plainfield kids heading back to school tomorrow put me in mind of the annual back-to-school ritual when I was a kid.

I was finally able to track down a photo of Town of Pomfret School
No. 4 (above), thanks to YWCA interim executive director Donna Dolce.

Preparations always included a trip into town for supplies: packages of 3-hole lined paper and replacement protractor, ruler and compass from the G.C. Murphy 5¢ & 10¢ store, plus some No. 2 pencils. (The school supplied black enameled wooden stick pens and steel pen-points for penmanship lessons; the ink was kept in little glass bottles set into the tops of the desks.)

A haircut and a new pair of jeans plus a couple of long-sleeved shirts and we were ready to go.

Opening day included a welcome back treat from Miss Cumro, who taught (and wrangled) grades three, four and five in one room, plus the mandatory 'How I spent my summer vacation' essay.

Everyone loved summer vacation, but we were always ready and eager for the new school year to get under way, because it also meant the Chautauqua County Fair would be opening with its (to us) huge midway, and judging for best animals, cooking and fruits & vegetables. There were tractor pulls. Young courting couples enjoyed the egg-tossing contest, where they both took a step back after each toss of the egg -- the point being to be the couple that tossed it the farthest without breaking it. A special treat every year was an appearance by Joie Chitwood and his famous Daredevils racing car team.

As for school, the building with its large windows and plain 'sanitary' woodwork and simple paneled doors signal that it was built in the early part of the 20th century, when concerns over public health led to the banishment of overwrought Victorian decor in favor of light, airy interiors -- where supposedly there would be fewer germs. Don't know about the germs, but the rooms were wonderfully light-filled, even on the darkest winter days, and a great environment in which to study and learn. Though it must be said the window sills were high enough that we were prevented from seeing anything lower than the treetops so as not to be distracted from the three R's.

Alas, with the centralization of the school district all the outlying K-8 schools were demolished in favor of the sprawling single-story complex of today (which is similar to Cedar Brook School, but on an enormous scale).

Do the buildings in which kids learn play a role in how well they learn? And what values they inculcate?

What do you think?

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Anonymous said...

Absolutely it does. My school was clean with no holes or water stains in the ceiling. I looked at PHS and was appalled at what I saw. Dirty bathrooms, ceilings and rooms. Is it that the families are poor and think this is OK to live with less than standard conditions?