By Christy Porter, Managing Editor
The one-room and two-room schoolhouses were more than a place of learning; they were also a central part of the community, a place where relationships were built and where many of the community events took place. Oftentimes they served a dual purpose, both equally important, and that was as a place of worship.
One special family has shared memories of their years at Craddock School. Alma Skaggs Mooney, Betty Skaggs Bates and Delbert Skaggs attended Craddock School in the 1940s, along with their brothers, Raymond and Jim.
Craddock School property was deeded to A.W. Sliger, Nathan Young and Zebedee Saylors on May 19, 1889, from J.R. Craddock and his wife. According to Delores Hadley Rauscher’s “Memories of Gold from the Hazleton Hills,” the original school burned and was rebuilt in the summer of 1916, and this is the building that still stands, with renovations for its later use as a church and community center.
After graduating from Licking High School in 1942, and attending a summer term of college at SMSU, the 16-year-old Delores Hadley became the teacher at Craddock School. Predecessors in the Hadley family had attended school and also taught at Craddock.
Older Skaggs siblings Raymond, Jim and Alma would begin their attendance at Craddock School that same year after a recent move to the area from Michigan. Betty and Delbert were still too young to attend. Hadley, who lived with her Grandmother Hadley while teaching, would usually walk to school with the Skaggs children, sometimes staying with them as she didn’t want to walk down the dark lane alone. Their father, Bert Skaggs, would occasionally drive them to school. Alma, Betty, Delbert and Hadley recall her spending a lot of time in the Skaggs home.
Jim Skaggs would be Hadley’s only eighth grade graduate that year. (In her memoirs, she shared a graduation photo of Jim and herself from that year, as well as a class photo that included Alma.)
Hadley would move and marry after her first year at Craddock; the Skaggs children would continue for a time at Craddock School. They also recall that the school began as a one-room, but became a two-room schoolhouse while they attended there.
I joined Alma, Betty and Delbert on a trip down memory lane to Craddock School, and we also drove the 2-1/2-miles they once walked to and from school as children, to their old homestead. They showed me where, in a time of open or free range for animals, Alma and Betty were once detained by hogs. They had to climb a tree for safety; their mother Lucille would then take them on horseback to prevent a recurrence. Later, Wilbur Smith, who used a carryall vehicle, added a bus route. The Skaggs still walked to the bus stop, a distance of one-quarter mile.
The trio said, “It didn’t matter what the weather, rain or snow, we went to school.”
A school day, depending on the grade, was from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., or 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and was in session from the first of August to the end of April or first of May.
Craddock School had all windows on one side, with no windows on the other sides; the blackboards were located along the right side and back of the building. The students shared a double desk that seated two students, and did their lessons from primer books.
While in class the students learned Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic and geography. Their supplies consisted of Chief tablets, a box of crayons and #2 lead pencils.
They had flutes for music class. They would perform at evening programs attended by parents and family. Delbert had gotten sick prior to an evening program and didn’t get to practice. His teacher, Shirley Ramsey, didn’t want him to be excluded, so he was placed in the back and pretended to play.
The children brought their lunch to school, as there was no cafeteria. The Skaggs children took PB & J sandwiches on store-bought bread. Alma would also cook potatoes the night before, and sometimes they would take fruit or cookies. Betty recalls that the Sullins’ family brought homemade biscuit sandwiches with a cold fried egg, which she would frequently trade for her PB & J sandwich. The store-bought bread was a special treat to the other kids, the biscuits a treat for the Skaggs kids, as their mother baked good bread, but did not make biscuits.
Sometimes beans were cooked on the wood stove at school for a lunchtime meal, but Alma, Betty and Delbert always brought their lunch, except for special occasions.
At recess the students played basketball with two hoops that were located on the right side of the building, baseball, or yard games that included marbles, jacks, jump rope, Annie Over, Duck, Duck, Goose, and in the winter, snow games. Basketball and baseball competitions between schools would also take place.
There were lots of pie suppers held to raise money for school expenses, or for community assistance when a fire or other calamity happened. The women brought the pies.
“You would discreetly show your chosen your pie box,” said Alma and Betty. “The pies were auctioned off and if you were lucky, you ate your pie with your beau.”
Students also benefited from jobs at the school. Alma was hired to clean two rooms in the evening and to build fires when needed in the morning.
On one occasion the teacher told the boys to find cedar limbs for the fire, as the wood was wet and Alma couldn’t start the fire. A boy put a bullet in the wood stove that started a fire and blew holes in the stove. Several trips were made to get corrective switches with no results and the teacher finally gave up.
They shared stories of their experiences as well as a few stories on each other while reminiscing.
Alma shared how there once was a bench that sat beneath a schoolyard tree, Betty sat down for a rest, shortly exclaiming, “I’ve got ants in my pants!” The ants literally had joined her. Poor Betty!
However, she also told on herself, as she pointed toward a window, “This side window towards the front of the building is the one I jumped out of on a dare, after specifically being told not to by our teacher, Delores Hadley. I got detention.”
All three agreed it was better to get detention than a whipping, “If you got a whipping at school you also got a whipping at home.”
Family and friends were always defended in the schoolyard skirmishes that take place wherever you have a group of children.
The school had a cistern with a well pump that supplied the water drained from the roof; when it would go dry, harbor mosquito larvae, or something would go wrong, water was brought from a nearby spring.
“We used a metal bucket to get the water and we all shared the same dipper to drink from,” said Betty. “The metal buckets were only half filled, which meant more students had to visit the spring for water.”
During Delbert’s last year at Craddock, a drilled well was built for the water supply.
“I remember sticking my tongue on the water pump when it was cold and there was frost,” said Betty. “But I only did it once, after my tongue stuck to the pump!”
Betty recalled a trip to Gun Barrel Spring to get water. “Those with me and I detoured to the cave, also located nearby,” she shared. “They had to send out a hunting party. Our punishment was a choice of a whipping or staying in for recess for several weeks. Everyone else chose the whipping, I chose staying in for recess.”
Delbert stood under the big tree that still grows in the yard. “It was big in 1946, bigger in 1978, and still stands,” he said, as he invited me to put my hand in a hollow space at the base. It being hollow at the base surprised me, and I accepted the challenge, after he had done so first. It indeed would have made a good hiding place for animals and human treasures.
The outhouses (restrooms) used by the students of long ago still stand. Delbert showed me the rock pit near the boys’ facilities, which was used as a backup for the many boys attending school. Alma showed me the peephole in the girls’ facilities; the board covering it still remains.
After a move to Plato, all three graduated from Plato High School, Alma in 1954, Betty in 1959, and Delbert in 1961.
“We thought we were poor, but looking back we were the richest kids,” said Alma.
Photos by Christy Porter