Thursday, April 23, 2015

Chapter 8: Memoirs/ Cavendish Schools

Center Road School today

Following Chapter 8 is an article by the Cavendish Historical Society on Cavendish schools To read the prelude and other chapters of Tiemann’s Memoirs go to Coming to Vermont (Cavendish): Memoirs of Philip Tiemann 

Meantime, the children had started school early in September, walking the half-mile down the hill to the one-room building which had served the neighborhood for many a year. They carried their lunches. Our house seemed very quiet until they returned in late afternoon.

The country school system was new to us, of course, and we had some doubts as to its efficiency. The town head once been divided into ten or a dozen school districts, including one for each village, spaced as advantageously as possible to accommodate the children from all the scattered farms. Then as time passed some of the farms were abandoned and certain schools closed, with the result that in our time a few poor kids were isolated and to reach a school had to travel close to three miles each way, or even further if they had to follow the roads (in bad weather). rather than coming cross-lots. Theoretically, if the distance was two miles or more the children were carried, their families being allowed something for transportation; but plenty of times it did not turn out that way. Either carrying them wasn't convenient, or the roads were too bad. Then the children had to make it on their own, and generally did; there were not too many absences. - A brother and sister used to come by, and sometimes would come in to get warm. They didn't have any gloves.

(Eventually this problem was solved by building a good consolidated school in Proctorsville* and carrying the children by bus but that came a good many years later following improvement of roads and vehi­cles, and only after a terrific battle among the voters.)

The situation meanwhile was accepted without question: people had been given legs to walk with, and were expected to use them. The teacher was boarded in the neighborhood, near enough, of course, so she also could walk., This was a pleasant arrangement, as we found when we had girls stay with us several years; but never think there was money in it for anyone. Looking back in an old town report, I see that our teacher at "Center School No. 1" was paid $558. "for teaching and janitor work" "for the year ending January 31, 1935" (a weird accounting system which I helped to change.) This meant if she wanted help lugging water and wood and tending the big pot-bellied stove she had to pay a pittance to one of the boys. Five to seven dollars a week for board must have seemed like a lot - to her! - That year Center School cost the taxpayers $665.50, probably a low for the twentieth century: it was up to almost nine hundred the following year. I have no record of the number of pupils then, but in 1941 a new superin­tendent had a brainstorm and his annual report shows that Center had fifteen children divided among seven classes.
It's hardly surprising that a teacher seldom stayed more than two or three years; even if their homes were near by they generally found something better or got married. But I take my hat off to them (at least, most of them) for the job they did. In general the children were pretty well prepared for high school. Under the circumstances that was a considerable accomplishment.

At least it may be said that the one room was spacious, light, and pleasant (when it was warm.) Generally windows were along two sides, black boards on the other two. The stove has been mentioned.' This was practical enough for the times. Otherwise the building was as primi­tive as might be expected, some of them with only an open-sided wood­shed which generally housed the two privies (for boys and girls.) At Center, the latter facilities were in small alcoves off the main room and in the end were provided with chemical toilets,- at about the time the wood stoves gave place to oil heaters. This was much later.

These little buildings also served as neighborhood gathering places, and there were some gay times at Halloween and Christmas parties. A number still stand, as after having served their purpose they were sold, generally to the nearest neighbor upon whose land the school probably was originally built. Even after being refurbished as guest houses or hunting camps, and painted anything but red (which few of them were, anyway) it is impossible to mistake these structures for anything but what they were.

Center Road School-Intersection of Center  &
Town Farm Roads
Cavendish Schools: From 1795 to 2009, there have been 13 public schools in Cavendish. Students were assigned to the school closest to where they lived. These included: • Stoddard-Bailey Hill (closed by 1874)
• Hudson School-Old County Rd (burned in 1901) 
• Parker School-near Knapp Pond (closed 1911)
•  Densmore School-Brook and South Reading Roads (burned in 1922)
• Rumke School-Greenbush (closed 1923)
• Gilchrist School (closed 1947
• Center School-Center and Town Farm Roads (closed 1955)
• Wheeler School-Twenty Mile Stream and Chambers Roads (closed 1955)
• Tarbell Hill School (closed 1955)
• Proctorsville Village School (closed 1959 and replaced with the Cavendish Town School)
• Duttonsville School (closed 1971)
• Stockin School (half in Weathersfield and under Weathersfield School District)
• Fittonsville School-Cavendish Gulf Road Built for the children whose parents worked at Spring Mill. When the mill burned, the school closed in 1884

While Proctorsville had all 12 grades at one time, for many generations, students would go to Ludlow, Chester or Springfield high schools. This changed when the Green Mountain Union High School was built. Today, through school choice option, while a majority of the students go to GMUHS, many opt for Springfield, Ludlow or Woodstock.

School District #1, Center Road  School, where the Tiemann children went to school has been written about extensively in Sandra Fields Stearns’ book Cavendish Hillside Farm 1939-1957. Stearns school days begin in the 1940s, a decade after the Tiemanns would have graduated. Still there are many similarities, with the school being a hub for the social activities of the community.

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