The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Beginning Teacher

By Beulah S. Fox © 1985

Issue: September, 1985

I was nineteen at the time, a brand new teacher assigned to a one room school that I had never seen. The road that led to the country school was a narrow dirt road and long. Upon the brow of a little hill the building stood. It was there that I enrolled forty-five pupils, grades 1-7.

I had room and board with a good family who charged me ten dollars a month. My salary was sixty-five dollars a month. I usually went home on the weekends. I walked two miles a day and carried my books and biscuits. School opened at 9:00 and closed at 4:00. I stayed another half hour to sweep the floor. In order to do this I had to move desks, sweep, then move the desks back in place. The pupils gathered pine knots and I built the fires and carried the water from the well. There were two toilets out back, one for the boys and one for the girls. I rang a hand bell as a signal for the pupils to get in line and march into the classroom. On cold days desks were moved around the pot bellied stove where hot chocolate was served on Fridays. Older children helped the younger ones. Lessons were heard on a recitation bench. Christmas programs were major productions. Names were drawn. Angel wings were made from coat hangers and crepe paper. Sheets were hung on wire for curtains with safety pins which made a scraping noise as the curtains were opened and closed. I remember giggles behind the curtains, holly with red berries decorated the cedar Christmas tree along with popcorn and paper chains. Probably the next most important holiday for the pupils was the Easter egg hunt.

The teacher was expected to spend the night in each home. I spent the night in one home where the roof leaked and the mother of the home had petitioned me a room using sheets. Children were on their best behavior when the teacher came to spend the night.

Winter came. I was walking up the road trying to keep the snow out of my face. I turned around and saw a man backing down the road. He was trying to back into me without me seeing him.

It was in this little valley that I met the man who was later to become my husband. That was the best thing that happened to me that year.