The Burlington school during the thirties and fourties was a two story brick structure of a standard design still seen around ND. Two basement rooms and two rooms on the first floor and two rooms and the dreaded principals office on the second floor. The center was taken by a two tier staircase and cloak rooms. The first floor left was grades 1, 2, and 3; right was grades 4, 5 and 6. Upstairs left was grades 7 and 8 and right was the high school which also used rooms in the basement. There were roughly 15 students per grade. The high school was discontinued in the forties and students were given a choice of high schools to attend. There were no rest rooms in the school building and the facilites were in seperate outbuildings. These "outhouses" were unheated so that in winter one didn't raise their hand unless absolutely necessary. All rooms had large windows on two sides and in the lower grades these were always filled with seasonal artwork. The quality of education must have been adequate as I don't remember anyone who had much difficulty upon transfer to high school
The girls generally got better grades as I remember since the boys mostly concentrated on recess (I believe LaDonna McAfee was usually top of our class). My cousin Ken and I were always in the same grade and the alphabetical seating which put us together usually only lasted one day in each new grade. Recess was once in morning and afternoon and included a lot of softball in spring and fall, and sledding in winter. There was a large hill right behind the school and if snow conditions were right you could go clear to the highway. There were also endless snowball fights and sled races and other pandemonium which resulted in some injuries.
When I started school the principal was a Mr Ross who also taught the high school. He ruled with an iron hand and the fact that his family and mine were friends, my father being on the school board most of the time and teachers living in our home (see home) my chances of having mischief unpunished were minimal. Once the high school was closed there was no longer a principal. In spring and fall I would walk or ride bike to school. In winter I would walk or on coldest days my father would drive me. Those of us not living in town would carry lunch in various lunch buckets which also might contain a thermos bottle.
The main floor of the potato warehouse (a project facility) was hardwood and served as a basketball court. Our evening boy scout and 4H meetings were held there. My sister Carol's 8th grade graduation was held there also. Back then there wasn't a concern about the separation of church and state and the Christmas programs for the school were held in the church. We would do the Christmas story in costume with accompaning music by piano and all the parents were there. We would each receive a Christmas gift from the school--usually some hard candy , peanuts and an orange. The only attempt I recall at a school lunch program was when we received some huge rounds of a very hard cheese and cans of incredibly sour grapefruit juice, no doubt the result of some ill concieved farm program. Getting rid of it must have been of some priority and I don't believe we were given the option of not consuming a large serving of each.
Upon graduation we could enroll in any nearby high school with tuition paid. Some of the students did not go on to high school of course. We were given 75 cents per week allowance toward transportation which we had to arrange for ourselves. In 9th grade my cousin Ken drove into Minot and I rode with him as I didn't have a drivers license at that time. From 10th grade on I drove to Minot High and carried other students who I picked up at the rec hall each morning. For the most part this was done in my Model A with no heater. I was quite macho about making it despite the weather much to the consternation of my passengers and I remember driving to Minot High on at least one occasion and finding school had been cancelled due to bad weather. Riders included Marge Stromme, Joan and Bev Remington, Joline and Don Fisher and others. I am happy to say we never had an accident even though the roads were quite different from today. There was one especially tricky S curve near Gassman coulee named "dead man's curve" by accident so to speak with many X marks the spot signs. Of course there were Burma Shave signs too.
Along with separation of church and state the current child labor laws would have been ignored. In fall when the potato harvest started school was let out for at least a week and volunteers were able to work at picking potatos. My first year I was very small having started school at age 5 and so I was paired with a larger boy, Willie Duhamel (probably not his choice partner) who then had to lift the potato sacks on the wagons or trucks. We got little slips of paper with our number on which we placed in the sacks and were paid by how many sacks we picked. I remember it as a great adventure crawling through the dirt and unearthing partly exposed potatos and making money besides. Of course today we spare our children this abuse, and I'm sure no school district would dare expose students to possible injury with lawyers standing at the edge of the field. We boys were also often excused to fight prairie fires. These were started primarily by steam train engines or slack piles at abandoned mines due to spontaneous combustion. After several fires these slack piles were covered with dirt. We fought the fires with barrels of water for soaking gunny sacks with which to beat out the flames. Also farmers would come with tractors and plows to make a fire break. Though not too dangerous it was exhausting and dirty work as it seemed the fire always headed for the steepest hills. Later Leo Stemen would mount a tank and pump on a 48 Chev truck and backpack water containers--the beginning of the Burlington Fire Department
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