Like most of the houses built before the turn of the century the house my father had built at the south end of Williams Street in Paulding had no basement. The parlor and my parent's bedroom were at the front and the sitting room behind them was the width of the house. The south end of the sitting room had a big bay window with window seats below the window sills in the form of upholstered boxes whose lids could be raised for storage. That was where we children kept our toys. At Christmas the Christmas tree was set up just in front of the window seats and cotton batting spread around it to simulate snow, a very hazardous procedure considering that the lights were colored candles. A stairway between the parlor and the front bedroom led to two rooms above them. Raymond and I slept in the one to the south, Aunt Irene and Grandma and later Evalyn, in the one on the north. A dormer window lighted the stairs in the daytime which led down to the middle of the west wall of the sitting room next to the door to the parlor. After the house was moved to Cherry Street and rebuilt the lower entrance to the stairway was from a short hall between the sitting room and the front bedroom and there was a landing halfway up. There was no separate dining area; we ate in the part of the sitting room next to the kitchen which was at the rear. In spite of the screened-in porch next to the dinning area houseflies buzzing around the table at mealtime were a problem in the early days because of the many animals. Nearly everyone kept chickens and they were usually allowed to run loose around the yard and garden. The common defense against flies in the house was sticky flypaper which was sold in groceries and hardware stores in sheets about the size of the Saturday Evening Post, two sheets with the sticky sides together. The sticky surface was attractive to both flies and infants as well as little boys.
The bedroom where Raymond and I slept was a cozy place in the summertime. We could hear the frogs in the pond in Straws Bottom and crickets chirping in the grass below our window, screech owls in the woods by the sawmill. Screech owls don't screech but emit a lovely tremulous call, as mysterious as the dark woods. An occasional dog would howl in the distance but there were no motor noises or rumbling of machines to disturb the quiet. In the winter, however, with no heat in the room we would warm our nightgowns by the stove in the sitting room then rush up stairs and snuggle up together to conserve the heat. On very cold nights my mother would heat a couple of bricks in the oven, wrap them in an old blanket and put them between the sheets before we got into bed.
Except for grandma Bashore's small, one-story house and the Taylor's house at the end of the street, there were no houses on the west side of Williams Street in our block until 1903 or 04. The rest of the land, originally a farm, belonged to Uncle Will Straw. We called it Straw's Field. Uncle Will and Aunt Marthy and their daughter Rose (their son Charlie was already married and lived in town) inhabited a big house at the south end of the field, opposite the Frog pond and the bottom lands of Flatrock Creek. The west side of the field was bounded by the CN RR tracks and the water tank for the locomotives was at the northwest corner of the bottom lands, a favorite place for tramps to gather to hitch a ride on a freight. Toward the north end of the field, closer to Cherry street, there was a depression which filled with water which contained all kinds of interesting bugs, frogs, snakes and, in the spring was full of polliwogs. We scooped them up in glass fruit jars, took them home and watched them develop legs and their tails disappear.
The water supply for Uncle Will and Aunt Marthy's house and farm came from a well between the house and the barn pumped by a windmill, the only windmill in town that I remember. I can still hear in my imagination the squeaking of the pump when there was enough wind to turn the wheel at the top of the high tower and the water running out of the pipe into a large wooden tub where the animals came to drink.
Straw's field was the setting of most of the circuses and tent shows that came to to town every summer. The first show of any kind I remember seeing was Pawnee Bill's Wild West Show. I didn't enjoy it. I WaS scared at all of the shooting and the sham battles between the Indians and the cowboys.
Aunt Marthy's house was filled with the trophies of Uncle Wills hunting expeditions in the west. Mounted deer and buffalo heads hung on the walls, buffalo robes covered the sofas and chairs and on the floor in front of the fireplace was a mountain lion skin with the head on it. The mouth was open and the long white teeth made me very uneasy when I was small. Everyone owned buffalo robes in those days.
There were two school buildings in Paulding, both built of brick, the smaller one on the west side of the tracks of the CN RR, an area known as "Dixie", perhaps because the three or four negro families in town lived there, the larger one with a steeple housing the school bell at the extreme eastern edge of town. The Dixie school had only six grades and many of the students, many of whom were from poor families, dropped out of school and went to work after finishing their studies there. The east side school contained all grades from one to twelve; there was no kindergarten, divided into the eight elementary grades and the four years of high school. The first six grades were on the first floor the others on the second along with the superintendent and principal's office - they shared the same room - at the front of the building under the bell tower. The basement was the domain of Ben Riopelle, the school janitor, who kept the wood burning furnace going in the winter, did the cleaning and sweeping and repaired the school furniture. When I was in the sixth grade he had time to help us boys build a book case for the club we had organized at the Church of Christ. There were no manual arts courses in high school. The only work on the project we boys did was to sand the boards after Ben (we called him Ben) cut them out. Ben lived with his wife and two daughters, about my age, or a little younger, in a small house next the the school grounds.
Corydon Neeley was six months older than I and when I learned that he was to start school in the fall of 1903 I begged to be allowed to go too. We had a telephone by that time and my mother called the superintendent's office to find out if I would be allowed to start. She was told that I would have to wait another year. I wasn't really heartbroken about the decision, in fact when 1904 rolled around in due course I was having so much fun that I didn't want to go to school. My objections were overruled, however, by superior authority. Having reached the ripe old age of six years I had to go to school whether I wanted to or not. Arthur and I went off together with our red felt bounded slates and became pupils in Mrs. Mustard's first grade class. We were dressed about the same, roud caps on our heads, shirts with wide collars tied at the waist with drawstrings, straight pants ending at the knees and long black stockings held above the knee with wide elastic bands. They were the dickens to get on over long underwear in the winter and generally looked as tho the part above our shoetops - we wore high, black shoes - was full of marbles. We had trouble too keeping our underwear from showing where our pants met our stockings.
The very first day of school I fell in love with a cute little freckled girl with reddish-brown hair. There were no girls my age in the south end of town. I thought she was the prettiest thing I had ever seen and at the end of the school day, instead of going home with Arthur, I just sort of fell into step with Frances. We went to her home way in the north end of town where I had never been before. I was probably scolded for getting home late; I don't remember.
Mrs. Mustard's classes always started the school day by reciting the Lord's, Prayer and the 23rd psalm, a procedure which might not be allowed today because of decisions of the Supreme Court.
The only time I was spanked in school, it was only a slap on the behind, was in Mrs. Mustards's first grade class. It was undoubtedly due to a misunderstanding as I don't think I deserved it. We were making chains of paper by pasting the ends of short strips together to make the links when I ran out of paste. I informed Mrs. Mustard and she told me to take some of Wayne's, -Wiayne Boce sat two seats in front of me - so, as quietly aS I possible I was trying to stay in my seat and stretch up to Wayne's desk with my toothpick to get paste out of his paper cup. It was a long stretch and I left my rear exposed. I was engrossed in engrossed in my when suddenly I felt a sharp slap on my behind and looked around to see Mrs. Mustard. I was humiliated and indignant but too timid to protest. Mrs. Mustard didn't say anything either, she didn't have to. I sat back in my seat and never got my chain finished.
School children still used slates to learn to write and cipher in 1904. They were always the same, black slate set in a wooden frame with red felt around the edges. To write on them you needed a slate pencil, also made of slate which had to be held at just the right angle or it would make a horrible screeching sound, a fact that the bad boys in the class (I wasn't one) were not long in discovering. Teaching a class of first graders to write, to add and to subtract must have driven Mrs. Mustard nearly batty.
Last modified on 21 June 2009 @ 13:02