Essay for John W. Hickert's
8th Grade Commencement, 1907
The following was transcribed from John W. Hickert's handwritten essay regarding his experiences in the New Almelo School.
My first schooldays began in the fall of 1897. It was a four months term with N. T. Cooney to give me the first idea of what goes on at school, and what a busy place school is and how we must slightly change our ways.
For a few days, I thought it was an ideal place for fun and play. But when the teacher said, "Johnie, you must try to learn these words and letters so you can name them without me repeating them for you.", That's when my troubles began, learning those big words and dreadful A, B, C's.
The next winter we had a five months term beginning October 3rd 1898, I was then six years of age, a whole year older and much smarter, So I thought, than when I started school the previous fall, and I felt very proud to tell my new teacher, J. W. Frazier, that I had been all through my new First Reader last winter.
My next winter at school was about the same as the year before with the same teacher who also taught it the following winter. Making it three terms in which Mr. Frazier shared with us his great patience. But I will relate a few incidents in which I thought surely it gave way. I was having some innocent fun one day pinning a paper tail on the boy ahead of me, when all of a sudden some one from behind me took hold of my coat collar and soon my feet were sweeping the cobwebs from the ceiling. Don't you think he stretched me out giving me part of my six feet that I am today? Another morning he looked as though he wasn't in the jolliest of moods for he had corrected me several times. So at recess I put on two coats and sure before noon those willow switches were taken down. They didn't feel very hot but they spoilt my appetite for dinner that day.
At the schoolmeeting the next summer it was decided that a new schoolhouse should be built at New Almelo and an eight months term of school be held the next winter.
The old schoolhouse was sold and converted into a store, and a new one built as decided. Miss Anna Nickles a St. Louis lady was hired to teach the term.
She was my first lady teacher and one good point about her was that she didn't have any willow switches in the corner. When the term was half over she was called home on account of the illness and death of her brother. We regretted her going very much for she was always good to us little folks.
The rest of the term was taught by a Mr. Moody from Almena whom we all liked very much. One noon he got gay and blackened the girls faces with soot but they proved to much for him and when they got through he looked just as black as you see them. I just looked on but after they finished washing their faces I heard him say "I have had my blackman this winter," How I did laugh! It did me good to see the teacher get a little dose of his own medicine.
My next teacher was Frank Gleason he was quite small but mighty. Say, he was swift he just snapped me up on the floor before I could draw breath, he also had a big hickory ruler which almost drove a persons knuckles through his hand, it looked like bad medicine to me but I had the ill fortune to give him a chance to try it on mine.
On Xmas eve we had a Xmas tree. as he went home to spend Xmas vacation he wasn't present. but we had a good time and received lots of presents.
We boys fixed up a present for the teacher and left it where he could find it when he returned. It consisted of a rubber dolly, a pigs foot, pepper and salt and a dirty schoolhouse floor.
The next Monday when we came to school our teacher was just furious, he gave us a stump speech and then gradually cooled off. And we made up our minds that it wasn't a good practise to give Xmas presents to a teacher. For it seemed that he did not appreciate our kindness, though small.
My next term was taught by H. C. Stewart he was an elderly teacher with a sedate and serious disposition under him. I took up three new studies Grammar, U. S. History and Geography all of which I liked. Geography and history because they were natural for me and grammar because it gave me a chance to write comical sentences and such as would annoy the teacher and attract the attention of my schoolmates and gave me a chance to make some corrections necessary to make the study easy for myself.
My next teacher was E. C. Palmer who was just as anxious to see us study hard and succeed as our previous teachers had been. One Monday morning when we came to school our teacher was not there. At noon a letter came stating there would be no school that week. But as it was warmer in the schoolhouse than out in the snow we stayed ate our dinner and instead of going home spent the afternoon in decorating the blackboard with everything a mischevious school group could think of. After the schoolroom was topsy turvy and aprong and broom hung to the stovepipe we all went home feeling quite heroic.
When the schoolbell rang the next Monday I began to get nervous so when we came in teacher called on two other boys and I to erase the board which we did and that evening all the boys were told to remain after school. We had to sweep the floor and after that a serious time followed. When we went home that night we had our minds made up that it wasn't best to spend a day at school when the teacher was absent.
The following fall school began early with Mr. Gleason as teacher for a second term. As I got older I began to realize that school was a place for study instead of mischief so I didn't get into any serious trouble all winter and as I was persuaded to take up two more branches of study. I found it not very difficult to keep out of mischief during school hours.
My last teacher was Miss Arnoldy. She taught a fine school. I didn't get started until the beginning of the second month, so the term seemed quite short.
She had a piece of rubber hose about three feet long which she used on special occasions. I felt quite fortunate that she didn't handle it for me because it looked like a dangerous weapon for a guilty boy.
I went to school about an average of four months each term. Some terms were longer and some shorter, and have had eight different teachers to whom I feel very thankful and much indebted for thier great difficulty in giving a mischievous boy the small start that I have attained in education.
Who my future teachers will be or where I will continue to learn, I do not know, But learning does not cease as long as life lasts. for one is never too old to learn. And I now realize that the boy who imagines he knows it all is yet too ignorant to know that he is a fool.