Saturday, May 9, 2009

Memories of Porter School

[Introductory Notes: In the early to mid 1980s, Mother (Dorothy) and her 2 sisters (Louise and Ruth) wrote Round Robin Letters between them across the distances of their homes in Missouri, Oregon, Missouri/Texas. When the letters began in January 1983, they would have ranged in ages from 68 to 60. These letters shared fond memories of their childhoods. The greatly loved Porter School and teacher (Marie Turner Harvey) were standard fare in these stories. The sisters with their parents (Fred Albert Brenz and Lottie Hart Brenz) would have lived in the Porter Community from about 1920 until they moved to Kirksville in 1927. Louise and Ruth attended Porter School, but Dorothy was too young. Since Louise was the oldest, her memories are more extensive. Ruth also shared her memory of Porter School in response to questions posed by her Great Niece Melanie Crawford for a Women Studies class in October 2000. Their writings provide a precious glimpse of memories and meanings of an earlier time in our family’s history.]

Ruth: Daddy and Mother wanted their girls to go to Porter School as it was well known because of its excellent educational program. Marie Turner Harvey was the head of the school and was well known as an excellent educator. So daddy sold the Oak Grove area farm and bought a larger farm in Porter School District. [Ruth Irene (response to questions posed by Melanie for Women Studies class, October 2000)]

Louise: Daddy bought another farm---a larger one---which was 5 miles northwest of Kirksville. It was a good farm and the land was level and the good part was that we would be in the Porter community which was the best rural school anywhere. The school was modern, having a full basement, a furnace and a drinking fountain in the basement. It also had a 9 month school. All the other schools had only an 8 month school. (My son even went to a eight month school---and his school had a coal stove in the middle of school, and had a water bucket where they got their drinks. It seemed strange that my school was modern---and his country school wasn’t.) We also had several different teachers---for the college sent teachers there to do their practice teaching. Our heat came from radiators---from the furnace! Mrs. Marie Harvey was the main teacher, and the young teachers from the college took their practice teaching under her. That Porter School and Mrs. Harvey were in my Encyclopedia Americana. She was a wonderful teacher. She was very strict, but-she made sure that all students really learned something! All grades were taught in this one room, but we had several teachers, most of the time. (My son only had 1 teacher, who taught all grades and all subjects.) There was also a smaller building near this school house, and this was the ‘high school!’ Glen Beltzer, Mrs. Helen Troester, Mrs. Elizabeth Link, Johnnie Tomich and many others went to this high school. This was so wonderful, for there were no buses to take kids to school or high school. If you wanted to got to high school, you would have to get a room in town or ride a horse. If you lived in the Porter district, you were lucky. Daddy took me to school in a surrey which had two seats. He would drive by Mrs. Harvey’s house, which she rented from Erma Darr’s in-laws, and he’d pick her up. Then, he’d come and get us after school. When I got old enough, he bought a beautiful little bay horse from Alice Commins’ father. Her name was Belle, and I was really proud of her. I drove her in a little one seated buggy. Some of the older boys would unhitch her and put her in the pony shed at the school house. They would also get in the gunny sack under the seat of the buggy and get the corn & oats and feed her. They would hook her back up for me when it was time to go home. Daddy was on the school board for several years, and President of it for a time. He seen [sic] that the board made a cement porch with railings and the porch had wide steps, which was much better than what was there. We enjoyed box suppers and ice cream suppers. (Round Robin Letter #1, ca. 1984, pages 3-4)...

Our farm was the first house west of Charlie Frobes. He had a daughter, Erma who married Virgil Darr. They lived with Erma's folks. I loved her Dad, Charlie Frobes, as I never had a grandpa. I called him Grandpa Frobes. Sometimes he would be be coming down the road, and I would run to meet him. He usually had some good home-made cookies which he shared with me. They were so good! (Round Robin Letter #1, ca. 1984, page 4) ...

It got real cold sometimes. Many times, Daddy took Ruth and I to school and we’d have lap-robe over our heads---and there would be jugs of hot water which we snuggled close to. Sometimes, you couldn’t tell where the road was---for [sic] couldn’t see the fence posts. (Round Robin Letter #1, ca. 1984, page 4)

Oh yes---I don't want to forget to say that we moved to town in Feb. and sold the farm. Since Porter school [sic] had a 9 month school, Daddy let us keep Belle, my lovely horse and the buggy and Ruthie and I drove back to the Porter school until the end of May---but Mr. Robert Jones drove with us--He did the driving--He was the high school teacher in the smaller building at Porter school. He was a handsome young man. I finished the 6th grade and I believe Ruthie was in the 2nd. Who ever heard of school kids driving to the country out of the town they lived in--to go to a country school. Well, we did! Remember, Ruthie? Dorothy [sic] you were pretty small--and can't remember much about the farm--I don't suppose. (Round Robin Letter #1, ca. 1984, page 5)

(Louise) Getting back to out [sic] school days--one morning I was in a hurry, as I was a little late getting started to Porter School. I grabbed a gallon bucket, which I thought had my lunch in it. I was so hungry, and could hardly wait for twelve o’clock to come. It had about 3 inches of lard in it. The folks had butchered and had put the last bit of lard in this bucket. If I had reached for another bucket--it wouldn’t have a been so light; and I would have known I’d had the wrong bucket. I finally took the lid off--I started to cry-and the teacher wanted to know what was the matter. I sobbed, “I don’t have anything to eat—just plain old lard"! [sic] and she explained to the other children, “Poor little Thelma has no dinner! She can’t eat the lard. Shouldn’t we help her out?” Each child gave me something, and I remember I had far more lunch than any of them! (Round Robin Letter #2, ca. 1985, page 2)

On Memorial Day---they would have picnics at Fort Madison Cemetary [sic]. We girls would have to speak a piece--and maybe play a number on the piano--that would be moved out to the platform. I would have mine down pat--for the folks would have me go to Mrs. Harvey's for speaking instructions. (Round Robin Letter #2, ca. 1985, page 3)

(Dorothy) I don’t remember much about life on the farm, but I do recall getting to go with daddy when he dragged the dirt roads to help keep the ruts down. Daddy would hitch the horses to the road drag and there was only enough room for him and one of us girls-so the three of us had to take turns going with him. If he happened to drag the roads while you girls were at school (Porter) I got to go each time, and I remember thinking it was just about the greatest thing in my young life! (Round Robin Letter #3, February 1986, page 2)

(Ruth) ... Another pie story evolving [sic] the two of them was in the Porter School community. Mother sent Daddy to the school with 2 or 3 pumpkin pies for a social of some sort. Daddy arrived but with one less pie than he left home with. They often laughed about it. To my knowledge Mother never knew what happened. Did Daddy eat the pie or drop it? I do not remember how old I was when the above two stories happened but I remember hearing about them. (Round Robin Letter #5, Summer 1986)
Source of Photos: I found the above photos on line. Both were taken about the time the Brenz family lived in the Porter Community. Top: "Completed Porter School in 1923"; Bottom: "Children at recess at the Porter School"(ca 1920) ---from Adair County Porter School House Collection, Missouri Digital Heritage, Adair County Public Library, (May 10, 2009)


Nathaniel and Rebecca in the Pacific Northwest (and other places) said...

I so love reading these stories. Thank you!

Nicole said...

I don't know that you will get this comment, as it's now 2011. But, I have been doing some family history searching (as my grandmother has been placed in a nursing home and I want to know more of her family story). Erma Darr was my great, great aunt. We used to go visit her on the farm when we were young. My aunt, Alice Ward Armstrong, loved her dearly. I have always had a penchant for education and am now homeschooling two of my children. I ust have gotten my love of education from Aunt Erma. The Porter School is now a passion of mine. I will be learning as much as I can about it.

Have a wonderful day!