By Christy Porter, Managing Editor
A visit to an old, dilapidated, one-room schoolhouse, down a rutted pathway, in what is now an overgrown wooded area prompted many questions. This obviously was at one time an accessible populated area to provide a rural schoolhouse. Who were the students who learned here? What was their life like? What was their school day like? How did they feel about school and how would they go on to use what they learned? When did classes take place in this old forgotten building?
The schoolhouse was known by two different names during its history. Initially it was known as Liberty; later it became Whitlock. At this time no one seems to recall why the schoolhouse had two different names.
Records indicate that a 1910 – 1911 school year was in session and 1943 – 1944 would be its last school year. It is located in the Boiling Springs area off of BB Highway. Before they built the highway, there was a road that came out by the school. Ada Wallace Ingram, older brother Carl, and younger siblings Dean, Glenna, Wesley and LouAnn grew up on the gravel road now known locally as Whitlock Road.
Ada attended school there when it was known by both names. She began her school career at Liberty at the age of five. She and her older brother, Carl, started school at the same time, Ada’s mother, Mary (Smith) Wallace, wanted them to attend together. The school term was from August through mid-May and the school day was from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
“My teacher was Elouise Campbell and she picked us up in her car. One time going home she forgot she had us and drove on, then realizing it, turned around and took us back,” laughed Ada.
“I attended Brown Hill School for second grade, which was a 2-1/2-mile walk for me. My little short legs would get tired,” says Ada. Her memory of Brown Hill School consists of “a mean boy who would tease and throw rocks at the other students. The teacher would keep him in after school to allow the other children to get home.”
The students were disciplined at school and punishment for misbehavior was meted out as appropriate, usually by having to stay in at recess. She remembers no corporal punishment of any kind ever taking place.
For unknown reasons, Liberty was not in session for Ada’s third grade year so she attended Mt. Vernon School.
When Ada returned for her fourth through eighth grade years, Liberty was known as Whitlock. Being older, she was better able to handle the almost two-mile walk to school. Ms. Carrie Williams was her teacher for fourth and fifth grades. Ada recalls, “I remember her taking us into Licking in her car for track meets.”
Younger brother Dean also went a year or so, at the teachers’ request. “I’m not sure why. He wasn’t very old, not yet old enough to attend school, or very big, and the teacher let him lay on the front porch and play,” says Ada. Mary Lou Courtney was also a remembered neighbor and friend who went to Liberty/Whitlock.
At the schoolhouse there was a table with a dishpan of water the students used to clean their hands. The children lined up and water was poured over their hands from a tin can. They wiped them with a shared feed sack towel. Everyone shared the same dishpan of water.
Ada and the other students took their lunch, usually biscuits and what leftovers there were from supper the night before. At Whitlock, the students took their own cups, and water was from a deep well with one bucket and a dipper to pour the water into their cups. There was no sharing the dipper.
“My sixth grade teacher was Bonnie Lou Frederick from Raymondville,” shares Ada. Ms. Frederick was the only younger teacher Ada had in the rural schools, it being Frederick’s first year out of high school and her first year of teaching. Ada continues, “She boarded or rented with my Uncle John Rogers while teaching.” This showed the consistency of the country schools as neighborhood schools with classmates and teachers being friends, family and neighbors.
Like many of her students, Ms. Frederick also walked to school. In the morning Ada walked to school with Carl and in the afternoon she would walk with her friends. It was fun to stop along the way home and play in the creek. In wet weather, her dad, Ed Wallace would take them across the creek on the mule, and in the afternoon met them to go home.
There was no definite dress code but all the girls wore dresses, long brown stockings, and some girls wore long underwear. When it was cold, Ada’s father would wrap their feet in gunnysacks for extra warmth.
Each grade had their own books from which to study. The teacher would give each grade their assignments for the day and the students would work from one assignment to the next; the teacher would move from one grade to another. Students would be passed based on the work they completed.
For seventh and eighth grade, Mary Stone, from Licking, was the teacher. There wasn’t much money so Carl and Ada were janitors for the school as well; in the winter months they went in early and built a fire in the woodstove. They were the only eighth graders of a total 10 – 12 students their last year.
According to Ada’s recollections, there was a yearly average of 15 students for each of the rural schools she attended. Unlike in earlier times, there was no segregation between the sexes in the classroom or during recess. The county superintendent would usually visit the schoolroom once a month. He oversaw all the Texas County country schools from his office in Houston.
There was a morning and afternoon recess with a large play area. The kids would play ball or Fox and Geese in the snow. There were two tree swings on different trees made from rope and a board, and a teeter-totter.
“I remember once my brother fell, bumped his head and it knocked him out for a while,” said Ada.
Restroom facilities consisted of a two-seater outhouse for the females, and a one-seater outhouse for the males. Thankfully they never found a snake in the outhouses.
Ada remembers no parties or pie suppers, but does remember the Christmas programs each year. She memorized not only her part, but also everyone else’s. They put sheets up in the front of the school as curtains and the parents would all come in for the program. The last day of school the parents would bring a carry-in dinner.
After completing first through eighth grades in rural schoolhouses, Ingram continued her education at Licking High School. Her freshman year, she would leave home at 4:30 a.m. with her brother, he carrying the lantern.
“I couldn’t walk as fast as he could and sometimes he would leave me walking in the dark through the woods,” she says.
They would catch a ride with the local mail carrier on Hwy. BB at 6:30 a.m. She and seven or eight students would ride in the back of his pickup to school. The following year, transportation was in the bed of a redesigned truck, made by Vernon Ramsey. He took the younger children to Cantrell School and the older ones into Licking to the high school. Her last two years, there was a school bus to transport the kids. Her father drove the bus then and for a year or so afterwards.
She remembers liking all her teachers, and would have liked to have become a teacher, but recognized she was too bashful to leave home and attend college.
Ada graduated when 17-years-old. During the summer, at the recommendation of her high school bookkeeping teacher, she went to work as bookkeeper for Albert Ray at Ray’s Chevrolet, where she was employed for three and one-half to four years. She also worked part-time as needed the telephone office.
She married Vernon Ingram in 1952, resigned the bookkeeping job but continued working part-time at the telephone office, and raised five kids, Donald, Beth, Steven, Randy and Rick, who all attended Licking R-VIII school district.