Sunday, August 28, 2016


I have always loved going to school. Even now, when I walk into WalMart or Target and the school supplies are displayed (in JULY!) I have to stop and look at them. My husband laughs at me, but I just keep on picking up post-it notes and pencils, thinking “I will need these at some point…”

Growing up in the 60’s, our school supply lists were not long at all in elementary school. A “Big Chief” tablet, one of those HUGE pencils, paste in a jar (with a brush built into the lid!), a box of crayons, and a pair of “school scissors” and a wooden ruler. That was it. By the time my kids started school in the 90’s—all that had changed. After shopping for school supplies for only two children, I wondered how families with several kids could afford for them to even go to school—and that wasn’t counting back-to-school clothing.

My mom spoke of her school days just shortly after Indian Territory became the state of Oklahoma. That happened in 1907. She was born in 1922, and started school when she was only 5. She attended a one-room school house in a very small southeastern Oklahoma town. With the Depression on the way, and the Dust Bowl days looming, she spoke of the poverty of everyone she knew. She was the eldest of eleven children. Food was scarce. School supplies were almost nonexistent. I imagine that was why she took such pleasure in buying Big Chief tablets and crayons for me.



Here is the exam given to students to pass 8th grade in 1895. Students could take this at the end of 7th grade, and then again at the end of 8th grade. I don't think I could pass this exam NOW!
April 13, 1895
J.W. Armstrong, County Superintendent.
Examinations at Salina, New Cambria, Gypsum City, Assaria, Falun, Bavaria, and District No. 74 (in Glendale Twp.)
Reading and Penmanship. - The Examination will be oral, and the Penmanship of Applicants will be graded from the manuscripts
Grammar (Time, one hour)
1. Give nine rules for the use of Capital Letters.
2. Name the Parts of Speech and define those that have no modifications.
3. Define Verse, Stanza and Paragraph.
4. What are the Principal Parts of a verb? Give Principal Parts of do, lie, lay and run.
5. Define Case, Illustrate each Case.
6. What is Punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of Punctuation.
7-10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.
Arithmetic (Time, 1.25 hours)
1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
2. A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
3. If a load of wheat weighs 3942 lbs., what is it worth at 50 cts. per bu, deducting 1050 lbs. for tare?
4. District No. 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
5. Find cost of 6720 lbs. coal at $6.00 per ton.
6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. long at $.20 per inch?
8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance around which is 640 rods?
10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt.
U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)
1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided.
2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus.
3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
4. Show the territorial growth of the United States.
5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas.
6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn, and Howe?
8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, and 1865?
Orthography (Time, one hour)
1. What is meant by the following: Alphabet, phonetic orthography, etymology, syllabication?
2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
3. What are the following, and give examples of each: Trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals?
4. Give four substitutes for caret 'u'.
5. Give two rules for spelling words with final 'e'. Name two exceptions under each rule.
6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: Bi, dis, mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, super.
8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: Card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.
9. Use the following correctly in sentences, Cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane, vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.
Geography (Time, one hour)
1. What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of N.A.
5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver, Manitoba, Hecla, Yukon, St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco.
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S.
7. Name all the republics of Europe and give capital of each.
8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give inclination of the earth.
Health (Time, 45 minutes)
1. Where are the saliva, gastric juice, and bile secreted? What is the use of each in digestion?
2. How does nutrition reach the circulation?
3. What is the function of the liver? Of the kidneys?
4. How would you stop the flow of blood from an artery in the case of laceration?
5. Give some general directions that you think would be beneficial to preserve the human body in a state of health.
The following document was transcribed from the original document in the collection of the Smoky Valley Genealogy Society, Salina, Kansas. This test is the original eighth-grade final exam for 1895 from Salina, Kansas. An interesting note is the fact that the county students taking this test were allowed to take the test in the 7th grade, and if they did not pass the test at that time, they were allowed to re-take it again in the 8th grade. Also of note, the school year was but 7 months, beginning October 1 and ending April 1. allowing 5 months for planting, farming and harvest.

Education is so important. Thinking back, I’ve included it in many of the stories I’ve written, and I always love to see it included in the stories I read, as well.

What about your “school days” memories? Were you a student who looked forward to school or hated it? Do you have a favorite story of those by-gone times to share?


  1. I have failed, failed, failed,...and I was a teacher! I did make all good grades during school, and lordy how I loved school. I never, never wanted to miss a day even when I was sick as a little puppy. Mother always told me, "You're just afraid you'll miss something." Oh, so true--I did not want to "miss out" on anything at school.
    My husband is one of 12 children, all born at home in a four room house in the middle of a cotton field. By the time they moved "into town", Jim, being the next to youngest, only had six brothers and sisters to contend with. He does not remember one thing about Big Chief Tablets, etc. But he does remember school out in the country where no one had anything.????
    Did your teacher ever warn the class at the beginning--"now, don't eat your paste." That sticks in my head to this day--why would anyone with any sense whatsoever eat paste?
    My opinion is that students these days are so messed up with so many changes to learning Math and all else, I don't know how these kids make it. But they do, and thank God for that.
    Great post, Cheryl...the kind I love. (I can smell that Big Chief Tablet.)

    1. Celia, there is no way I could pass this test, even now. But, in our defense, I will say that our schooling didn't cover a lot of these questions, either!

      I have a confession to make...some times...I just wanted to stay home and play with my paper dolls. I was the "girl" version of Robert Louis Stevenson's little boy in The Land of Counterpane, where the boy is sick and plays with his soldiers making valleys and hills with his covers of the bed. On those days, I would tell my mom I didn't feel very good and I thought I needed to stay home. LOL She usually let me. She would never have dreamed of sending me off to school sick, but I was soooo lucky to have a stay-at-home mom (which most were in the 60's in the small town where I grew up) and she was able to allow me that.

      YES to the "eating paste" warning! But, do you remember, there was that white paste (the one they warned against eating) and then later there was the kind of amber-colored stuff with a rubber top and slit cut in it? It was called "MUCILAGE"--which I just hated to even say. LOL

      I loved school so much. I looked forward to going back in the fall and seeing all my friends again, and really-- I looked forward to LEARNING. I still do. There are times I think about going back to college AGAIN at my age! LOL

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Celia!

    2. I had to laugh at the "Mucilage." Yes, I actually do recall using that glue. I thought nothing of the name then..but now? EWWWW!

    3. Oh, I know it. EWWWW is right. Who would name a product that, anyhow? Must have been named that in French or something...

  2. I was doing fairly well until I got to math. Wasn't exactly great in geography either. Just call me flunky.
    I loved those Big Chief tablets. The smell of pencils and white glue still brings a smile to my heart.
    My mother was only 2 years older than yours, Cheryl. She and my dad talked often about how things were during the Great Depression and how everybody was poor. They lived in a small town in PA and everyone in the town worked to help each other. I feel for your family since they were at ground zero there in the Dust Bowl.
    My paternal grandparents lived in a little red school house they bought next to the church graveyard way back in 1900. No mortgage. They bought it cash on the barrel. No running water; no indoor plumbing.
    I did not love school. I never skipped a class or missed a day unless I was about to die though. But I did love learning, especially English and science.
    Great post, Cheryl.

    1. Sarah, our parents were born into a time period that surely was one of the most difficult ones ever. They were a generation made of strong stuff!

      I did fine in math until I got to 7th grade. There, we had a teacher with a very heavy German accent, and she was one of those unsmiling, unfriendly people that really was tough. In 8th grade we were all scared to death because we went into the highschool--and our math teacher there was one who had been there forever--she literally was "grandfathered" in and had never been to college. I stopped loving school after 6th grade. That was when our elementary school days were over.

      I absolutely loved English, though, even through jr. high and highschool years. So much depended on having a good teacher--one who made learning something we WANTED to do, and not a chore.

      Thanks for stopping by, Sarah!

  3. I always loved school, too. In fact, I got an award when I graduated high school for not missing a day the last six years I was in school.

    I know I'd not pass the tests. Those were hard questions and I bet they don't even begin to teach this information in school these days. Loved your post, Cheryl.

    1. Paisley, I always admired those kids who managed to attend school every single day, not only for achieving that but for being healthy as a horse! LOL I was really prone to colds a lot when I was little. Oh, how well I remember being so sick when we had a deep snowfall, which was not all that usual in Oklahoma. Every other kid was outside playing but me. I didn't even feel well enough to beg to go out at first, but the snow was deep and lasted on the ground for 2-3 days, at least, and by then I was bored and wanting to go outside, but my mom wouldn't let me (of course!) and I just was brokenhearted. LOL

      I bet they don't teach most of this info in school anymore. Just looking at it, I know a lot of it I never did come into contact with at all. Thanks for stopping by! I'm so glad you enjoyed it.


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