Enterprise Stories – School in Grandpa’s Day
When Enterprise turned 100 years old, in 1996, a group of teachers at Enterprise Elementary had the insight to collect school memories from ‘yesteryear’ of elementary school in Enterprise. These teachers interviewed over two dozen town residents and compiled those interviews in a booklet entitled, “School in Grandpa’s Day.” The memories gathered give us great insight to what school was like in Enterprise during the 1920s and 1930s.
Many memories were much different than school today: desks with inkwells, a dirt playground, and corporal punishment for misbehavior are a few examples. Despite the differences of school in “grandpa’s day” compared to now, the recorded memories all contain common themes that are as true today as then. No matter if you attended school in the cold basement of the Heritage Hall or if you do your math assignment on a Chrome Book, school is all about learning, getting along with others, having as much fun as possible, and building friendships that can last a lifetime.
MEMORIES OF ALMA TERRY
Alma entered school in 1919. What is now the Heritage Hall was constructed in 1913. His first and second grade classroom was the room downstairs in that building in the southwest corner. Today, the room is the voting place for our community, and the gathering place for senior citizens as they socialize each week [Now the Family History Center].
When Alma was in 4th grade, the elementary classes moved to the newly-constructed high school, which stands today at 186 South 100 East [This building has since been torn down and replaced with the current elementary school]. Alma recalls that his dad helped haul bricks for the new school from Modena. The bricks were hauled on horse-drawn wagons, and it took about a day to get to Modena, and another day for the return trip.
Teachers he remembers are Miss Slack, Miss Oldeson, and Miss Reynolds. The school bell rang at 8:00 a.m. Students lined up outside and marched into the building together.
Many spelling matches were held. Students took turns spelling words. When you missed a word, you would have to sit down. Letter grades (A, B, C, or D) were given on the report cards. Teachers assigned a lot of homework. Alma especially loved the operettas that were performed. He didn’t care for the dances.
Alma and his friends loved to shoot spitballs on the ceiling! Misbehavior was sometimes punished by having the offender face the blackboard, and hold an eraser in one hand, and hold one foot up.
For a period of time, the principal lived at Alma’s house. The principal gave Alma the job of ringing the bell in Heritage Hall. Alma did this for three years. He earned a quarter for ringing the bell.
Alma’s class made the “E” out of rocks when Mr. Bushman was the principal. It was something really special when they lit the “E” with oil.
For entertainment in the evenings, children played “Kick the Can” and “Run, My Sheep, Run.”
One school memory Alma has is when he and his buddy, Romney Woodberry, were playing around in the hallway. As boys will do, they began chasing around, in and out of a door. Romney slammed the door and broke the window, and then he blamed it on Alma! They were sent to the principal, Will Staheli. He said, “Boys, you shouldn’t be messin’ around like that. You’re supposed to be in the school room.” Although the boys had to pay for the window, they felt that they got off lightly, as the punishment could have been much worse!
One popular form of “horseplay” was when boys would hide in the bushes and wait for other boys to come by. Then they’d jump out of the bushes in pursuit. Alma recalls, “So we’d rough them up a little. We didn’t get in trouble, but we had a lot of bloody noses.”
MEMORIES OF JOSEPHINE HUNTSMAN ROPER
Josephine began school in Enterprise in 1923, and she said that she “hated everything about it.” Her mother had always dressed her in overalls, and she had no one except her brother to play with. She had to wear dresses to school, and for her, that was “the worst thing that could happen!” Being shut up in a strange room with a strange teacher and a whole room full of strange kids was pure torture.
Her first grade teacher was Minnie Crawford. Since her mother had instructed her to sit quietly in her seat and be a good girl, Josephine minded all too well. At first, she wouldn’t say a word or do anything. Then one day, a boy behind her threatened her with his pocketknife. She jumped out of her seat and yelled, “If you touch me, my Papa will wring your neck and feed you to the pigs!’ Now that the teacher discovered that she really could talk. she was expected to read aloud and participate!
She remembers that “the girl sitting in front of me ate all my crayons. I thought they were poison, and I expected her to drop over dead right in front of me. I was scared to death to even watch her.”
In fourth grade, with Mabel Terry as her teacher, she took delight in “stealing” her older brothers’ cast-off jeans and wearing them to school. Her father saw that she was determined NOT to wear dresses, so he bought her a pair of blue and white stripped overalls to wear to school. Since she was more comfortable, and better behaved, no one objected. She played hopscotch, jump rope, marbles with the boys, jacks, and ball.
Some winters, the snow would pile up deep enough to cover the fences, and the students from the west end of town walked over Uncle Joe Terry’s fence (on the lot now belonging to Vada Terry) on their way to school.
Sometimes the power went off, and the blower on the furnace would not operate. Then the children were sent home. They had to go on Saturday to make up these days. One year, the power was off for a week, and they had to go to school a week longer in the spring.
Her fifth grade teacher was Edward Hunt, and Josephine calls this her happiest year in school. Mr. Hunt had a real gift for handling people. He asked her to please wear dresses, and was always so nice to her that she would do anything for him. So she wore dresses. “He was a very good teacher, and some of the things he taught me have helped me all my life,” she reports. That was the year (1926-27) the “E” on the volcano was started. Mr. Moody, Mr. Holt, and Mr. Hunt got the land cleared, and did some of the rock work.
Mr. John Alger was custodian, and he kept us warm and clean. Five days a week, in all kinds of weather, he walked from the school to the Church to ring the bell at 8:30, so everyone knew they had half an hour to get to school.
Our summer activities were different than winter ones. In winter, we would spend Saturdays with sleds over on what was known as Winsor Hill. Later it became Pick Hill, for the Pickering boys who lived at the foot. In summer, we played baseball in the streets or the Church Square. In the evenings, the young people in the west end of town played “Run, My Sheep, Run.” Some of the streets still had tall sagebrush growing on them, so we had good hiding places.
The 24th of July was a real celebration. We usually had a parade, and everyone was ready to attend because we had been awakened by the firing of the “cannon” (giant sticks of dynamite) that went on from about 4:00 a.m. until the sun came up. There was always a good program and then children’s races and a children’s dance. Sometimes a public barbecue was held. The days following, a rodeo was held in the northwest section of the Church Square. Some of the events were bronco riding, roping, bulldogging, covered wagon races, three-legged human races, and wild-cow milking.
In 1927-28, the laying out of the “E” was completed, but not whitewashed. Vilate Webb was my teacher, and there were 106 students in the elementary grades. The first Enterprise High School graduation was held that year, and three young ladies graduated: Ila Adair (Terry), Georgia Holt (Moyle), and Meribah Terry (Holt). There were 28 high school students.
The High School and Elementary School were combined under one principal for many, many years. During the early 1930’s, everyone was beginning to feel the effects of the “Great Depression.” Of this period, Mrs. Roper shares this insight, “Our new principal, Newell R. Frei, had a missionary zeal for improving the Enterprise School. The first thing he did was enlist the help of the members of the PTA in starting a school library. The west high school room was changed from an elementary classroom to a study hall. It took two years to get shelves and books for a library. The committee that was appointed took donations of potatoes or anything saleable as well as books; and the people of the community responded as well as they could. After a real struggle, our goal was reached. We even had a full set of Encyclopedia Britannica.”
Josephine graduated with the class of 1935, and says she could shout: “No more school rooms – no more books – no more teachers’ dirty looks!”
MEMORIES OF HEBER STAHELI
Heber began elementary school in Enterprise in 1930. For tuition, parents would bring wood for the school furnace, and this was stacked on the playground. One of the favorite recess activities was playing on the woodpile. Kids also pitched horseshoes and played Tag and Hide and Go Seek.
When Heber was in third grade, he missed about three months of school because he had pneumonia. Since it was wintertime, with lots of snow and no way to get to Cedar City to a doctor, his only medical treatment was the mustard plasters his mother applied.
If students didn’t get their work done, they were expected to stay after school to finish it. The scariest thing Heber remembers is that Mr. Frei, the principal, was known to have a razor strap hanging in his office, and he used it on occasion. This was enough to keep most students in line.
In the upper grades, there was social dancing once a week. Students would go to the Heritage Hall (which was the Church at the time) and do the Fox Trot and Waltz. Boys wore levis and clean shirts, and the girls were always in dresses.
Heber remembers as teachers Dorothy Snow Truman, Camilla Holt (Robinson) and Georgia Holt (Moyle). Johnny Alger was the custodian. He swept the rooms, but he spent a large part of his time keeping the fire going to heat the building. Charlie Twitchell’s mom was the librarian.
Children had greater family responsibilities then than now. They worked hard in the summer. He remembers going to the fields at night to help his father irrigate. Heber would carry the lantern. He was 13 when his family got their first car — a ’36 Ford pickup.
He had a lot of fun partying as a young person growing up in Enterprise. Children didn’t expect as much then. For Christmas, he was perfectly happy to receive a pocket knife or a bag of candy.
A humorous incident Heber recalls is that during the wintertime, students would smuggle snowballs into the building. When no adults were around, they would chase each other around, and try to hit each other with the snowballs. They would duck into the classrooms and bathrooms for protection from other people’s snowballs. One day when they were chasing around inside the building, Heber was in hot pursuit of a fellow classmate, who ducked into a room. As soon as a head popped out of the room, Heber scored a direct hit! Instead of a classmate, it was a teacher, Rulon Pectol! Heber was taken to the principal’s office, but was let off rather easily. Karl Foster merely said, “Heber, you know better than that.”
The usual punishment for throwing snowballs, according to some students, was to have your face rubbed in the snow, sometimes until your nose bled.
Heber remembers school with fondness. He liked school, especially the plays they presented and the Junior Pentathalons.
Heber recalls that “school teachers were the rich people back then, because they had a steady income. The school teachers and the merchants — they were the rich ones.”
MEMORIES OF LOVELLA HUNT THOMAS
Lovella began school in 1937. Her first grade teacher was Bessie Snow. Each Friday, Miss Snow gave a penny to each student who got 100% on spelling. Back then, a penny was an awful lot of money, Lovella recalls.
She also remembers this about Miss Snow: “If you were good and quiet during the day, she’d lift you up and let you look in a wire hole. Those who looked into the hole weren’t allowed to tell anyone else. Later I found out that it was only a vent with nothing in it.”
On one occasion in second grade. Miss Snow promised a quarter to the student who completed the arithmetic test first, with all the problems right. Lovella relates, “I had a cousin, Elias Staheli, who was really good in math. He finished first, but happened to have one wrong. So when she checked my paper, I had them all right, and was the second to finish. I got the quarter, and I can’t remember a time I was more tickled in school than the day I got that quarter! We weren’t poor – we had food to eat and a place to live and clothes to wear. But we just didn’t have money, and so a quarter back then was a big thing.”
The children looked forward to getting their weekly little brown pill. It tasted more like candy than a pill. Children took the pills because of a deficiency in the water, Lovella remembers.
Miss Snow had older boys assist in constructing some things to enhance her classroom for the early-grade children. There was a playhouse with a bed and chairs. When it got time to get a baby doll, a stork came and delivered the doll for the playhouse! The children really enjoyed this play area because none of them had that kind of thing at home.
At recess in the younger grades, they liked to play “Band,” and have majorettes and march. In third grade, there weren’t trash bins at the school. The trash, with cans from school lunch, was just piled outside. The students formed a tin can band. They would pick out whatever they wanted to play with in the band. They’d vote on who would be the majorette.
They played with clothespins a lot. They had clothespin corrals, wagons, and horses — all made from their mothers’ clothespins. They could entertain themselves for hours with these homemade toys.
May Day was always celebrated by braiding the May Pole. Lovella remembers that in fourth grade, Enterprise students were asked to go to St. George to the Woodward School to braid the May Pole. She remembers going in the back of Than (Nathaniel)
Jones’s truck. The children were allowed to go to Judd’s store to buy something, if they had any money. Lovella remembers that she bought an eye glass to wash your eye with (she thought it was a toothpick dish), and an autograph book.
“In fifth and sixth grades, our teacher was Merlin Huntsman. He was quite strict, and he was a very good music teacher. I don’t believe there was anyone in the class that could not beat the time for music. We all learned what a bar and a note was. We took turns beating the time for the songs we sang.”
Lovella recalls the Peanut Busts and describes them this way: “Those who could afford to buy peanuts would buy them and bring them to school. Then at the end of the day when it was close to time to leave, someone would holler “PEANUT BUST!” and then we’d throw the peanuts at the teacher. The teacher, of course, would put a book up in front of his/her face. Then everyone would get down on the floor and pick up the peanuts. When all the peanuts were picked up, we’d sit at our desks and eat them.”
She remembers having ink wells in the desks. “We would wash them out really good, then someone would bring a box of Jello from home — whoever could afford to have Jello. We’d dump a little Jello in the ink well, take it to the rest room and fill it up with hot water, and take our pencils and stir it up to dissolve it. Then we’d set our ink wells up in the window after school. When we came back to school the next morning, the Jello was set. We’d eat the Jello with our pencils. I remember how much fun we thought that was.”
In the fall, they’d go out by the cemetery and pick the berries from Russian Olive trees. (Since a family named Elliker lived out there, the kids called the berries Ellikerberries.) When it froze, the berries would turn sugary. The children would collect them and put them in a regular-size match box, and take them to school. That was their treat during school.
In the springtime, teachers would sometimes dismiss school a bit early, and they would walk up to the turn to go to St. George (the hill by Shurtliffs). There was a big squawbush, and they would collect gum from that bush. They would chew this as their gum, because no one had money to buy real gum at the store very often. When dads went out and brought wood home, it always had pine gum on the stumps, and they’d save it to chew. If someone’s roof in town was tarred, the children would chew the tar for gum.
The classrooms weren’t really “decorated” with a lot of things like they are now. In first and second grade, they had the alphabet up, both small and capital letters. Other than that, there were very few things on the walls. School was always so interesting that no one got bored. Discipline didn’t seem to be a problem, and Lovella doesn’t recall ever being punished at school. The teachers spent a lot of time helping students. All the teachers were good about helping with problems.
For lunch, no one was allowed to eat school lunch unless they lived five blocks from the school. The lunch consisted of a bowl of soup and a piece of bread with butter on it. Lunch cost 2 cents then.
Lovella’s class has had lots of reunions. At one of them, the password to get into the reunion was the nickname everyone had called them when they went to school! They also had on display many of the things that reminded them of their school days — marbles, spitwad flippers made out of elastic, jacks, the pills they once took, a pair of bib overalls, and a penny. There was also a shoe with a worn-out toe (from riding on the Giant Stride). At the reunion, they had a peanut bust, just like in the old days!
If Lovella had a choice of attending school now or back then, she says she would DEFINITELY pick the school back then.
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