Pella Chronicle

May 9, 2011

Looking back at the one room school

By Helen Boertje
The Chronicle

Pella — Mt. Vernon School was located on the east side of 150th Ave. near the area of the South Shore Heights development.  

From a 1895 entry in the Knoxville Journal, we learn that  Miss Jennie Johnson gave a good program on Flag Day Feb. 22.  The exercise opened by saluting the flag.  After several exercises, they marched around the room carrying flags and singing “three cheers for the red, white, and blue.  House was decorated with flags and the picture of George Washington hung on the wall.

The late Jerry Graham started school at Mt. Vernon in the fall of 1942.  The school, he writes, was on a grassy hillside on land donated years earlier by the Holmes family.  He and his brother Larry, who was in 7th grade, walked a mile and a quarter to school.  Along the way they were joined by others, including playmates Donna and Glenna Anderson.

Like most of his schoolmates he carried his lunch in an old lard or tobacco pail.  “Lunch would be  a sandwich made with thick slices of homemade bread, sometimes with home-canned chicken, pork, or beef or maybe a slice of cheese or a fried egg.  More often the sandwich would be just butter--we didn’t have sliced lunch meat and peanut butter was too expensive.”  There would also be a sweet treat such as a cookie, cake or pie.  Also fresh fruit in season and a jar of milk if the weather was cool enough.    

His first teacher, Grace Toom, drove a Model A Ford from her home near Elk Rock.  Grace was a strict disciplinarian and maintained order by punishing naughty students in front of the entire school.  They bent over hanging onto the desk while she paddled them on the butt with a two foot long paddle.  Jerry’s greatest fear was a whack across the fingers with a lead pencil if caught whispering or not paying attention. There was no nap or resting period for five year olds who continued studying like the older students.

In November there was a school program and as the youngest, he was the first to perform.  He recited perfectly:  “Turkey, turkey, gobbling up your corn, turkey, turkey, soon will be Thanksgiving morn.”  After he was finished he got to sit with his parents to watch the rest of the program.

In his story Jerry gives a  detailed account of the school building, the grounds, and a couple of memorable accidents. Although the family moved in February of 1943 and he then attended the Pleasant Grove school, he concludes with the words “Mount Vernon will always have a special place with me.”  His five page account of his first year is included in one of the binders in the schoolhouse at the Marion County Historical Village.

Teachers were Mary Elliot, T. L. Conny 1886, Robert McCollum, Lettie Keefer 1891, Miss Cooper 1892, Rev. J. E . Van Winkle 1893, Miss Marsh, Miss Johnson 1894, Eunice Fornerod, Miss Jennie Johnson 1895, Jennie Johnson 1896, Nora Hegwood, Lillian Bernette, Myrtle Spencer 1898, Nora Hegwood, Lulu Crosby 1899, Martha Reynolds, Mable Reynolds 1900, Mable Reynolds, Nora Hegwood 1901, Bernice Rolfe, Nora Hegwood 1902, Nora Hegwood  1903, Lela Banifield 1906, Izah Collins, Anna Brouse 1907, Beatrice Smith, Jen Gardner 1908, Mary Greenaway 1909,  Pearl Swayne 1910, Ferne Stittsworth, Maude Caswell 1911, Jessie Warner, Beryl O’Dell 1912, Velta M. Jones, Grace Patterson 1913, Grace Patterson  1914, Lois Wright  1915-16, Lois Wright, Marie Tucker 1917, Ruby Garnett 1918,  Marie Tucker 1919, Opal Morgan 1920, Dorothy Clark 1921, Anistacia Ridlen 1922, Carroll N. Hollingshead 1925, Grace Toom 1928, Grace E. Toom 1930, Elreta Smith 1931, Velma Brubaker 1932, Grace Toom 1933-35, Grace E. Toom  1937-42, Nadine Reed 1943, Jessie Hunter 1944-45, Jessie Hunter 1947-49,  Helen Adair 1949.

Please contact me soon with your information so it can be included in the country schools of Marion County book.  641-628-4716 or at