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Schoolhouse Memories

Schoolhouse Memories

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I will continue to tell my stories to my children and their children so that none of them will ever forget the blessings that have been passed down through the years. My schoolhouse memories will not be forgotten as long as we keep the past alive through our stories.
I will continue to tell my stories to my children and their children so that none of them will ever forget the blessings that have been passed down through the years. My schoolhouse memories will not be forgotten as long as we keep the past alive through our stories.

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Published by: The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine on Sep 18, 2013
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09/18/2013

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Schoolhouse Memories
 
Reese Whitaker and Emma Swan
 
It is Sunday and I am busy preparing dinner for my family. It is a tradition we hold dear toour hearts, as the whole family gathers for dinner every Sunday after church. Today is a bitdifferent, though; my great-grandkids have asked to interview me about my childhood.The door opens and my tiny house is filled with the joyous sounds of children. I have twoboys and a daughter visiting, along with their families. My only granddaughter, Elizabeth,has three gorgeous kids. The twins, Grace and Brooke, are doing a research paper aboutEast Tennessee. They have chosen to write about my experiences as a student attendingthe Greenbrier Schoolhouse. I cherish this opportunity, eager to pass my enthusiasm forhistory on to their generation.The sounds of their v
oices filled the room as soon as they trotted into the kitchen. I couldn‟thelp but smile as they talked about their project. At times, it‟s hard for me to imagine howmuch the world has changed since I attended school. I‟ve seen the invention of numerous
items, lived through wars, visited every state in the country, and traveled to other parts of 
the world. Through the years, I‟ve lived in various areas of the Southeast, but nowhere felt
like home until I returned here.
Today I‟ve chosen a typical Souther
n meal to prepare for the family: fried chicken, pintobeans, and cornbread, along with fresh veggies from the garden. The smells and tastes of this simple meal have my mind drifting to the past, and memories flow through me like fogflowing with a stream.My eighty-seven years seem to be catching up to me, and I sit down at the table while mydaughter, Lucy, takes over the cooking duties. She brings me a cup of tea and I try togather my thoughts about what I would like to pass on to my grandchildren. I want them toknow how different our lives were back then but also to know how very blessed we were.I hear Grace say my pet name, Great-ma, and I turn to her. Her eyes shine with excitementat the chance to question me. I can understand. When I was her age, I loved the
opportunity to question an adult‟s life. I know Grace dreams of spending her days doingtelevision interviews, so I do my best to encourage her interest. Brooke doesn‟t share the
same dream, but her interest is spiked through Grace.
 “How old
are you, Great-
ma?” Grace questioned.
 
 “My last birthday, I was 87 years young,” I say.
 
 “Don‟t you mean „old‟?” Brooke chimed in.
 
 “No, my dear, age is a mindset; you‟re only as old as you think you are.” 
 Grace grinned and moved into their next question
: “Tell us about your school; what was itlike?” 
 
 “School was much different back then compared to now. We didn‟t have school buses andhad to walk several miles to school.” 
 
 
 “You had to walk to school?” Grace asked, shocked by my statement.
 
 “Yes, Grace,
we walked to school most days
church too. We had cars back when I was
little, but most people couldn‟t afford them. We didn‟t have one for many years. In fact,
when Papa had to travel to Maryville, he took a horse and it took him three days to getthere. N
ow, when you go visit your Aunt Janie, it takes you less than an hour right?” 
 
 “Wow, three days is a long time, Great
-
ma. If we had to travel by horse, we‟d never get tosee Janie!” Brooke seemed to share in Grace‟s earlier disbelief.
 
 “We didn‟t travel as
much back then as we do now girls. Life was harder, but we wereblessed in so many ways. Even though walking to school seems rough, it provided us withplenty of exercise. It also gave me the chance to bond with my sisters and brothers. Thefive of us walked to school together, and to be honest, we fought some along the way too,
but riding a school bus isn‟t the same.
 
 “I think the closest home had to be the Walker residence, which was about a mile away. We
lived further down from them. A few times, we were allowed to take turns riding Penny, oursmallest horse, to school. We would stop and let her drink from the streams or the river and
the Jenkins‟ boy would bring her an apple from his farm. He had a fondness for horses.
 
 “Once, a boy named Stephen Harrow
 
tried to let Penny inside the school. He didn‟t think it
was fair that she was outside while he was stuck indoors doing his reading assignments.
Stephen was the first boy I‟d ever met who was constantly in trouble.” 
 
 “Did he get Penny inside the school?” 
 
 “No, Grace, she wouldn‟t budge for him once he got her close to the door. She was a bit toosmart for that boy.” 
 
 “That‟s funny Great
-
ma,” Grace replied with a slight grin.
 
 “Mom, do you know any facts you could tell the girls? They need a few things they
can
research when we get home,” asked Lucy, who was standing by the stove. She turned and
smiled at me as she continued to cook. I was so proud that my daughter was listening andoffering suggestions for the girls.
 “The school was built in 1882 and it‟s
the same exact building that is there today. Do you
remember when your mom and dad took you girls there last month?” 
 
 “Yes!” the girls said at the exact same time.
 
 “I remember the pictures you took for me. The schoolhouse surrounded by trees, their
leaves, an orchestra of orange and yellow against a clear blue sky, seemed unchanging. The
mountains stood tall and mighty, capped with the season‟s first snow, even though the
landscape below them was much different. When I lived near Greenbrier as a child, the landwas cleared for farmland. Now trees cover the area; evidence of us living there has slowlybeen replaced. When I was born, the Little River Railroad and Lumber Company ownedmuch of the area that makes up the Smoky Mountains Park. When I was about 10 yearsold, we left and moved to Knoxville. Life was quite different from that point on, but thegovernment wanted to make the mountains into a park that everyone could enjoy. 
 
 “In that time, little went to waste, even our buildings, so the school was used
as a church,like most other schoolhouses. During the week, the children would meet for classes, andthen on Sunday, everyone would come for services, and some days we would have a giantpicnic afterwards and the kids would head over to the creek and play
.” 
 
 “Did you like going to school there? I saw the desks, and they didn‟t look like the ones we
have, Great-
ma, and you didn‟t have a playground either. I‟m not sure that would be fun atall.” Brooke‟s face scrunched up distastefully.
 
 “Brooke, we didn‟t n
eed a playground like you have today. We played outside every day.Sometimes we would try to catch minnows that swam in the brook near the school. Weused our imaginations and made up a lot of games to play. Although, we did play severalgames that you also play today, such as tag and jump rope. We were never bored atschool; there was just too much going on. We also made a lot of our own toys out of anything we could find. All of our games had to include all the children at the school. I wasone of the you
ngest, and the older kids had to come up with ideas to include me.” 
 
 “Did you ever get into trouble at school?” Grace asked with a slight giggle.
 
 “Oh, a few times, but nothing serious. Once I pulled Sissy‟s pigtails, and when the teacher
asked me to stop,
I didn‟t. I had to write sentences for the rest of the day. But, for the mostpart, children were well behaved. When I finished my lessons, I‟d listen to what the teacher
would teach the other children, usually those who were ahead of me. We were always busy
and eager to learn; the opportunity to attend school wasn‟t always available to kids in thisarea of the country. We felt blessed to have our school and took pride in its upkeep.” I
paused to take a drink of my tea. Grace took advantage of the pause.
 “What do you mean by „its upkeep‟?” 
 
A smile spread across my face. “Well, we didn‟t have janitors like you do; we had to make
sure our school was kept clean ourselves. We took pride in the appearance of theschoolhouse. We planted flowers around the building one summer after I first started
attending.” 
 
The look of surprise simultaneously consumed their beautiful faces and I continued: “My
grandfather helped build the school, and my momma went there, and then I also attended.I heard Papa often say how heavy those logs were and that two yoke of oxen were needed
to haul them.” 
 
 “Did you have a TV in your classroom? We have a TV that we get to watch, and we alsohave computers.” 
 
 “No, we didn‟t have TVs in the classroom or even at home. We didn‟t have compute
rs
either; those weren‟t around back then. In fact, we didn‟t even have electricity in the
schoolhouse. The teacher would come in and light the fire before we arrived in themornings. Then, during the day, she would pick a child, usually one of the oldest, to tend tothe fire on the cold days. He or she would bring in firewood that the parents would donateto the school. On Sundays the school was used for our church service, so a fire would also
be built on those days.” 
 The girls sat silent, looking at each other as if completely lost on their next line of questions
for me. Lucy jumped in again, saying, “Girls, make sure you are writing notes and checking

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