The Superior Express -

Country Roads

 

February 18, 2021

Oak Creek students winter scene 1959, standing beside the Jeep bus (back row, from left) Linda Ross, Gloria Boyles, Phyllis Pettit, Ruth Ross with her head turned talking to her father the bus driver, Mike Stenzel, (front row) Dennis Stone, Kenny Roe, Jerry Blackstone, Glenna Boyles and Connie Pettit.

The cold, freezing and snowy weather we have been enduring made me think of the winter days at Oak Creek Country School where my sister and I attended years ago. Some of the students in today's schools would not understand what it was like to attend school during the winter months in that little one room schoolhouse. No, we didn't have to walk three miles to and from school each day as some had to in years before. We were blessed to have a little Jeep bus that picked us up at our homes and delivered us at home after school. That bus holds special memories for me.

The bus driver, Carl Ross, was a father of two of the students. He only lived about 1/8 mile from the schoolhouse. Most of the time he'd walk up to the little bus garage that was just north of the one room schoolhouse. He was a patient man with a big smile. Before the roads were well maintained, most of the time the Jeep would get through the snow-covered roads. However, on the dirt roads the Jeep had to travel, once in a while Carl would have to use his shovel and work at getting the bus unstuck. There were no cell phones or radios to use when help was needed. If the roads were too bad, usually school was called off for the day or days.

On cold snowy days, most of the girls who wore dresses to school put slacks or jeans under their dress skirts to keep their legs warm. Hats or scarves were worn to cover the ears in the winter. A heavy coat with a hood, came in handy. Mittens and gloves kept the hands warm and everyone had overboots to wear. When we reached school, all the coats, hats and overboots were removed and placed in a room that was divided into two sections: a cloak room and kitchen. As I remember, the rubber overboots were hard to get off, since they fitted over the shoes. Most of time the younger students had to have help from the older students.

The one room schoolhouse was heated with fuel oil. The stove wasn't turned up until the teacher got there to do so. When the students arrived on a cold day, the room hadn't had time to fully warm and so chairs were pulled close to the stove for students to get warm after they first came inside. I'm certain the one room schoolhouse wasn't insulated like the school buildings are today. There was a nice cedar tree windbreak on the north side of the schoolhouse and grounds. If there was a strong cold north wind, it could be heard and felt if students were seated close to the windows. In some years, the parents would cover the windows with plastic. That helped keep the schoolhouse warm.

Water had to be pumped outside and carried into the kitchen. Usually the teacher or an older boy student would do that duty. The water would be poured into an enamel bucket and a tin cup would be used by the students to get a drink. Yes, we all used the same cup. On the coldest days, the water in the bucket would be covered with a thin layer of ice.

There were no hot lunch programs. Lunch boxes were prepared at home and sent with the students. At the start of the school year, a new lunch box was chosen. It usually had a popular television star or a favorite subject on the front of the box. There was no refrigerator at the schoolhouse so the lunches were prepared with that in mind. There was no microwave to heat a lunch item. In the winter, Mother would often heat soup at home and pour it into an insulted jug that matched the lunch box, and it fit inside the box. I loved it when Mother would sometimes fix hot cocoa for the lunch box jug.

On the days it was snowing, students would play games indoors for recesses. If it was not snowing but there was snow on the ground, the students would run outside to build forts to have snowball fights, or make paths to play Fox and Geese. Of course, students built snowmen and snow women. It was so much fun!

Mostly the only bad part about those cold winter days at Oak Creek was having to bundle up and walk a ways outside to use the outhouses. Now that was cold! It was for sure students would run as fast as they could to get back to the schoolhouse.

Looking back on the those wintery school days at Oak Creek, I'm thankful. They created a lot of good winter memories.

 

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