Friday, January 7, 2011


In sorting through some old photos today, I found this one of the attendees of the rural Spring Valley School, located about 6 miles east of Caldwell, Kansas, and taken sometime close to 1915. The smallest girl in the front row was a visitor. Her name was Virginia Louise Ryland and she was born on June 14, 1911. How do I know this? She was my mother, and her mother (my Grandma Jessie)was very careful to label this photograph -- for posterity, of course. The little boy on the far right is my Uncle Bob, the oldest child of the Rylands and the little girl next to him is my Aunt Florence, the second of the Ryland children. My mother was the third.

Having grown up in a city, I really had no real perception of what a one-room schoolhouse was like until this photo -- in an old album that passed into my mother's hands at some point -- came to light. Of course I had always heard about these one-room schools and even had read about them in novels of "the old days" but when I saw my own mother and aunts in that setting, saw the age range of the kids that the schoolmarm was paid to teach, and saw the bleakness of the Kansas prairie in that part of Kansas down near the Oklahoma border, I better understood what shaped my mother and her siblings.

I remember mom telling us about the cold winds and trying to keep the schoolroom warm in winter, the hot winds and hanging wet sheets in the doorways to try to cool off the inside of the wooden building in the summer. I remember her talking about the older boys bringing in the water in buckets and carrying in logs for the stove. And I remember seeing a photo of my Aunt Florence and much younger sister Marie on the back of an old horse that took them to school sometimes.

Seeing this interesting photo reminds me of how very different my own school days were. Whereas my mom started school in 1916 in a one-room schoolhouse on the prairie, I started school in a K-6 elementary school in a big city, of a size that required two classes per grade level. My own kids' elementary schools were not so different in size from mine.

As I compare the children's clothing styles between 1916 and 1940 I see such a vast difference, but I don't see that much change between what I wore in 1940 and what my kids wore in the 1960s. However, I'll betcha that my kids would see it differently. I suspect that they would look at the 1940ish clothing that I wore and say MOTH-ER! What kind of clothes did you guys wear? Look at those Peter-Pan collars! Look at the suspenders that go up and over your shoulders to hold your skirts up! Why are you all in dresses and Buster Brown shoes and bobby-sox? And look at those silly bows in your hair. And why are you always in dresses? Didn't you get to wear pants?

I'm sure my kids will see a vast difference in dress between them and my generation that somehow has escaped my awareness.

There really isn't a point to today's little walk down memory lane -- except for this. Please, please take some time to look at your old photos with the goal of putting some kind of identification on the edge or carefully on the back. I am so thankful that my Grandma Jessie did that with her album. Had she not, I would never have recognized any of my three family members in this darling photo of a time and place long past. There are no members of my mother's generation left. I am the oldest of the next generation - and yes, I have labeled all my photos too.

The acorn didn't fall very far from the tree, you see.

1 comment:

marciamayo said...

Amen sister on taking care of our memories. What a gorgeous picture and story.