Holden one-room school students, teachers tell stories

Posted Oct. 17, 2010, at 11:18 p.m.

HOLDEN, Maine — Mildred Johnson grew up in town and remembers fondly her time at Copeland Hill School, a one-room schoolhouse where she spent her youth.

She told stories on Saturday about a storm that prevented her teacher from getting to school one day and the time when her cousins brought a gun to school and shot it off behind the schoolhouse.

Johnson and 10 others told stories on Saturday of their adventures in Holden’s many one-room schoolhouses at a panel hosted by the Holden Historical Society at Holden Elementary School.

“There were actually nine dating back to 1875,” Holden Historical Society member Francine Grant said.

People from six of the one-room schools were on hand for the presentation, which included a display of historic class photos, pictures of the schools and a map of their locations.

Schools represented were Copeland Hill School, later known as the Wiswell District; Mann Hill School; Clewleyville School; Kidder Hill, also known as the East Holden School; South Road School, also known as the South District; and Holden Center School.

“We’ve got a variety of ages here,” Grant said of the panel, adding that some were teachers, but most were students.

“In addition to the people on the stage, there are a number of people in the audience” who went to one-room schools in Holden, said resident Clare Payne, a former town councilor.

One presenter, Mary Jane Pierce, went to school at Holden Center School where her mother was the teacher.

“My mother came to Holden to teach and met my father,” she said. Her mother taught for years and then retired, but went back to teaching when she was heading off to college, Pierce said.

By a show of hands, eight people in the audience of approximately 40 said they had her mother as a teacher.

Times have changed over the years, as was apparent by some of the stories from the panel.

Louise Cox, who attended South Road School, told stories about little Ivory Soap stickers that were given to “clean” students and about a visiting teacher who used a flannel board to teach about the Bible.

“You had to show your fingernail” to get a sticker, she said.

At one point in the presentation, Grant asked a panelist about hell-raising activities.

Fred Webster, who went to Kidder Hill School, told a story about how he and half a dozen friends skipped school and spent the day in the woods.

“She’d line us up out front and take the ruler to us,” he said, a huge smile across his face.

For the most part, there were relatively few disciplinary issues, said Jane Thompson, a former teacher at South Road School.

“Children had respect then,” she said.

Johnson recalled a time when a storm flooded a stream on Copeland Hill and created a ravine that her teacher, Mrs. Phillips, attempted to cross. She had not missed a day in five years of teaching, Johnson said.

“We were all there cheering” that she wouldn’t make it, she said. “That was the only day she couldn’t get across.”

That story led to others about weather, snow days and absenteeism because of sickness and weather.

SAD 63 Superintendent Dave Anderson was at the presentation and said he thoroughly enjoyed the stories.

“I wish there were more kids here,” he said. “I’m going to try and figure out a way to bring some of these people into the schools.”

The goals of the program were to show people history is fun and to attract new members to the town’s historical society, Grant said. The Holden Historical Society meets at 6:30 p.m. the first Tuesday of the month at the town office. The meetings are open to the public, and dues are $10 a year.

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