COBWEB CORNERS: Inside the one-room schoolhouse

By Mel McFarland

       December reminds me of the past in our educational system. There was something about this time of year inside a one-room school. With January not far away, and winter putting ice on the lakes, how about taking a look at one? We do not know much about the first Colorado City school in the 1860s, nor even for certain where it was. So let's do a bit of imagining.
       On a cold winter morning, the teacher would arrive well ahead of the children to get the stove going. In this area there was coal for the fire, but up in the mountains wood was used. A good supply of fuel, whichever it was needed. The stove had to be kept tended. In any case, once the fuel supply was low, someone had to refill the bucket, or wood pile. In many cases, there was a little building nearby where the main supply was kept. In addition, there was also the task of taking care of the ashes.
       At the entrance of the school there was sometimes an area to keep coats, boots and such. I suspect this first one in Colorado City just had space at the back of the room. We really do not know how many children went to this school, but it was probably mainly girls. The boys were needed for jobs. Once the town settled a bit more, the younger boys joined the group. The teacher may have been an older girl, probably not trained in the ways we expect today. In a one-room school, most of the teaching was from older to younger. The front of the room was often raised a foot or so above the level of the desks. This helped the teacher address the entire class, and it was also the platform for "recitations," perhaps even a school play. In the case of a play, the room might be filled with the students' parents and family members. Temporary benches might be made from lumber borrowed from throughout the area. One of the highlights of the year would happen about this time of year and still happens in some schools. I myself fondly remember the Christmas programs at school. The amount of time spent preparing for some of these presentations might be seen differently today, as a possible detraction from CSAPs. Then there were the Christmas Carols. Some December days, after the Pledge of Allegiance, the class might sing a carol or two.