Sunday, August 25, 2013

Back to School

An excerpt from an oral history interview with Margaret Gilfillan recorded in 1974.  
Her memories of school:
M. Miss Poellot was the first teacher, Annie Poellot.  They lived right here where this restaurant is, which was Gammons.  Her house was torn down.  But she knew all of the children in her one room school, maybe twenty-five, knew all the families, knew all the circumstances, everything.  Every child was well-known to her.  She knew what to expect from them, what to allow for.  She was a good teacher, but I never remember of her being cross.  That was children from six years old up to fifteen or sixteen, all in one room, all subjects.  You just moved along as you were able.  There weren't any grades.  Some of them never got very far, but they went to school until they got old enough to do something else, and then quit.  They didn't have to go to school until they were sixteen. 
 Q. Did most of them quit to help out on the farm? 

M. Mostly.  Then the big boys come in during November, or in March, and then if there was something doing at home, they would drop out.  Some of them seemed enormous to me.  I thought they were men, but I don’t know how old they were, but they would take the same thing over and over again, maybe the same books, and probably about in the same place if they really wanted an education.  But they would go wherever the teacher thought they should be, and I know we read the same books, readers, over and over again.  You had a first reader, and you read it through, and started over again reading it three or four times.  There were no new books.  You stayed right in that room.  And I learned to read long before I started to school so that was real interesting. 
 Q. Did you help any of the students that were less able?  

M. No. There weren't that many.  Well, the building was just down here until a while ago.  Where the tennis courts are now. 
 Q. What was the name of that school? 

M. Clifton School.  It was a Lodge Hall at the last.  There is a football field there now.  They filled it all in.  But the school was right up on Washington Road.

From Margaret Gilfillan [1901-2001], life-long Upper St. Clair resident.