In 1880, when a School teacher was hired, he or she could expect room, board, a small salary, a one-room schoolhouse for the ten or so students (of all ages), along with a wood stove for heat in Winter, a chalkboard and some chalk. That was it. And the teacher was happy to have the job.
The schoolhouse wasn’t much. The one-room schoolhouses were much the same for style and function in Lakeport, Kelseyville, Middletown and all around the Lake: a single room, three large glass windows on each side for light enough to read their books and lessons, and, sometimes, a school bell on the roof to call the children to school or in from recess and lunchtime.
In the 1800s, even until the later part of the century, teaching in early Lake County was hard work with few perks. When it came to furniture in the single room school, if the schoolmaster (or mistress) got a desk, they were lucky. Students sat on benches and read and wrote their lessons the best they could unless some talented carpenter was handy in the community to fashion desks for the children.
The books came from whatever source the parents could find to be bought or borrowed. A teacher was expected to teach several different grades during a school day, and allowances had to be made for harvesting time and the outside duties of some of the older boys and girls. Boys came to school barefoot in summer and, since shoes were hard to come by, an effort was made to save on shoe leather.
The kids played. They had the whole front yard of the single-room schoolhouse in which to play. The miles of open land beyond was a playground. There were few swings, slides, teeter-totters, and none of the steel and plastic toys that children had much later. What they had was just as you might imagine put together out of ropes and planking or whatever was handy. Yet they played at leapfrog, or tag, or baseball, or the boys shot marbles in a game played with a ring drawn in the dust. Using their knuckles and some prized marble ‘shooter,’ a champion could strike and force an opponent’s agate out of the ring and capture the prize.
When the author was a boy and played that game in the later and more modern thirties, he amassed a fruit jar fortune of glass marbles; every color and swirl of glass design one can imagine. They came in all sizes, from pee-wees the size of a round bean to giant marbles nearly as big as a golf ball. Today such a collection is worth a small fortune to the collector. That forgotten jar of marbles may yet lie, gathering the dust of decades, along with a collection of baseball cards and war cards (World War One and the Japanese invasion of China in the thirties) in the farthest corner of some forgotten attic in the house where the author grew up as a boy in Michigan.
Pomos were sent to Mission Schools. Except once, in an old Kelseyville Grammar School photograph, the rule was ignored. A Pomo boy was standing in the group. His darker skin stood out against his whiter classmates. He had slipped through the cracks and was, most likely, one of the first of the Pomo boys to attend a White Public School in Lake County.
The incongruity occurred in a school district where only nine students had been found. A school District required ten children. The problem was solved easily enough with a clever ploy. Forced integration drove the small community to the point they had no other choice but to bring one of the local Pomo boys to the school and thereby fill the minimum requirement of ten students.
Next Episode: School children put meat on the table in 1880
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