Peabody Singing Tower

 North Manchester, Indiana

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Volume V, Number 1 (February 1988); see also August 2007 issue of the Newsletter.

Early Education and Family History
by Orrel Little

At the request of Historical Society friends, I have been reviewing my public school experiences in the first quarter of the 20th century. Though I was born in North Manchester, our family had moved to a farm in Whitley County before I was of school age. My father, H. B. Little, was a rural elementary teacher for over 30 years. My mother, Stella, bore him four sons: Thurle, Ivan, founder of the Ivan Little Ace Hardware, Wayne, Hubert and then me.

In September of 1906 Wayne and Hubert introduced me to the Harris School on Road 800S in Whitley County,  probably less than a mile from our home and six miles northeast of North Manchester. This one-room, red brick schoolhouse had been built on a small clearing of a woods and had ample space on the west for playground and two outdoor toilets. Except for a few balls and bats, no play equipment was needed for the games we played. To the east of the center front entrance was a well where we pumped the water we drank from a common cup, or used to wash dirty hands and blackboards. At 8:00 o'clock, five days a week, September through April, the teacher used a handbell to call us into the building.

When the weather permitted we enjoyed our mid-morning and mid-afternoon recess of 10 or 15 minutes, as well as an hour lunch period outdoors. The yelling and laughter quieted down as we lined up to enter the building. Girls hung their wraps on hooks on the front wall, left of the entrance, and placed lunch boxes on the shelf above. The boys did likewise on the other side of the door. A large desk sat in the middle front of the room, facing five or six rows of combination desks and seats for the pupils. These varied in size for children in the eight grades, probably 15 or 20 of us. Also, at the front of the room, west of the teacher's desk, was a wood-burning stove and a wood box tended by the teacher or one of the older boys.

The walls held blackboards and erasers which were often used for lessons and for play. My brothers and I joined neighbor children walking to school in all kinds of weather. I especially enjoyed wading deep drifts of snow in the fence corners along the road. Occasionally, instead of following the road, we found our way through the woods on the east side of our farm. If the weather was really bad, somebody would hitch up old Fuzzy and drive us to school; we had only heard of kid hacks or school buses.

That year I was the only first grader. My subjects were reading, writing and very simple arithmetic - addition and subtraction. My only texts were a primer and first grade reader. As my brothers had already taught me to read, I went through both books quickly, then repeated them as many times as the seven months permitted. We had no library books to borrow. After I had recited and prepared my lessons for the next day, I listened to the older people recite. My teacher that first year was Clara Miller, who later married Bill Baker of North Manchester. They became parents of Margaret Baker Leonhard (Mrs. George) and Richard Baker, who married Sally Nichols, and opened an upholstery shop later.

I understand that Miss Miller's salary that year was $20 a month for seven months. My second teacher at the school was Carl Bollinger. I think he must have grown tired of hearing me read the second reader for I also completed the third reader and in April was promoted to the fourth grade. I don't remember that I had an arithmetic text, but I was learning my first two or three multiplication tables and the spelling of simple words. Phonics were never mentioned. On holidays, and the last day of school, parents were invited to bring basket dinners and then listen to spelling and ciphering matches, along with recitations of poems and stories.

In the summer of 1908 my family moved back to the big brick house on the southwest corner of Fifth and Buffalo Streets, where I was born. So, that fall I attended West Ward School, located on Buffalo Street, just south of Main Street. Later, this school was renamed the Martha Winesburg School in recognition of one of the superior primary teachers. Still later when the Laketon and Pleasant Township children were bused to town, a new one-story building was constructed and the name was changed to Maple Park School. Back in 1908, West Ward was a two-story brick building which had four rooms, each serving two classes, and a fifth room that was variously used as a class room, the principal’s office or as a library

We had drinking fountains in the halls and toilets in the basement. Inside each classroom, to the right or left of the entrance, was a cloak room. From the front, the teacher’s desk faced rows of smaller desks for two classes. Ethel Shafer, later Mrs. John Snyder, of Maple and South Streets, was the third and fourth grade teacher. She and my mother decided I should try the fourth grade and I must have progressed satisfactorily because at the end of the school year I was promoted to the fifth grade. However, in later years I sometimes wondered whether missing a year of arithmetic might account for some difficulties I had with math. Here, as in the country school, there was no physical education, but when the weather permitted, we played running and jumping games outdoors. Otherwise, we played quieter games inside.

In the first four grades, at least one period a week was devoted to music and one to art. Trained supervisors taught these special classes. Mrs. Meda Sexton taught music and she may have taught the art, too, I don’t remember. I lived five blocks from the school and had to cross the Vandalia Railroad tracks when going home. Sometimes problems developed. Freight cars were standing across Buffalo Street at the noon hour. Daring boys often crawled under the cars but I had been cautioned never to try that for fear the train would suddenly start to move again.

Students Hear Governor Marshall

Probably the most memorable event of my third year in school was seeing and hearing Governor Thomas R. Marshall deliver a political speech. Because Mr. Marshall had been born in North Manchester in 1854, and in 1909 had become governor of the state, local schools were dismissed so we could attend this afternoon gathering. It was held on Haney’s lot, the vacant block bordered by Main Street on the south and Elm Street on the east, often used as a ball park, playground or good place to pitch a tent for traveling circus or dog show. Here a platform had been erected for the speaker and some boards provided seats for the audience. I regret to say that this fourth grader did not remember a word Governor Marshall said, but he was elected Vice President in 1913 and again in 1917.

In the fall of 1909 our family moved to N. Sycamore Street where my grandparents from Larwill, Indiana, joined us; Alva and Orrel McBride, their names. Wayne, Hubert and I then attended the original Central School, built in 1874 at a cost of between fifteen and twenty thousand dollars. It was a two and one-half story brick building for both elementary and high school classes. It was located in the center of the block bordered by Market, Fourth and Walnut Streets. On the northwest corner the standpipe still stands; the alley for the north boundary has been opened for street traffic. Most of the land surround the school was well sodded and shaded by beautiful maple trees. Yet, there was plenty of space north of the building for outdoor games. The front entrance, facing Fourth Street, was used only by teachers, high school and eighth grade pupils and visitors. As the elementary classrooms were on the middle floor of the building, we entered by high outside steps at the center of the north end. A wide hall separated the four classrooms. The first and second grades, taught by Bertha Shoemaker, daughter of Dr. George Shoemaker, Sr., occupied the northeast classroom. The third and fourth graders under Edna Dawson used the northwest room.

Deane Kitterman Swank taught me in both the fifth and sixth grades in the southwest room. Hazel Miller Hewitt taught our seventh grade in the southeast room. Also on the sides of the hall, between the east and west classrooms, were stairs leading down to the basement classrooms for science, manual training and domestic science as well as the wash rooms. Above those stairs were others leading to the third floor. A large assembly hall used the north half of the floor, classrooms covered the east and west rooms below. Railings and a narrow hall shielded the wide open space between these halls and led to the office. Rows of seats and desks facing the south end, that is the front of the assembly hall, were assigned by classes. The eighth graders sat at the far east and seniors at the extreme west. At the center back (that is the north) was an elevated platform holding the desk for the teacher who was monitoring attendance and discipline.

As an eighth grader, I sat on the far east side in complete awe of the teachers and upper classmen. Concentration was difficult. I too often spent study time just watching activities. Some days Meda (Mrs. Charles) Sexton taught music or Russell Hippensteel taught penmanship to a small group while the rest of us studies. Friday mornings a period was often cleared for a program by a local minister or a visiting entertainer. I still remember President Otho Winter of Manchester College as he cautioned us not to waste time. He quoted Horace Mann’s famous line,” Lost yesterday, somewhere between sunrise and sunset, two golden hours each set with sixty diamond minutes. No reward offered for they are gone forever.”

Physical education was not part of the curriculum in those days. Boys were supposed to get their exercise during chores with their fathers and girls with their mothers doing housework. Some did, others formed teams and found outsiders or volunteer teachers to coach them in ball or tennis games. We had no gymnasium, but the old Opera House on the south side of the Main Street was a fair substitute. We had other extracurricular activities we enjoyed, for example, boys and girls glee clubs, Latin and German clubs, debate clubs and a program committee. I belonged to the Latin and debate clubs and the program committee.

I enjoyed school and most of my teachers. Among them were the following: Grace Martin, the principal and my teacher of algebra and plane geometry. I avoided solid geometry. Ellen Dwyer and Mattie Empson taught me Latin, four years, and German, two. Ermina Moore and Fay Fisher stimulated my interest in language and literature so that I chose to teach English many years. Teachers of history, Dan Reahard and Ralph Batton, who later practice law in Marion, Indiana, interested me so that history became my minor in college.

Grace Martin was also the first person to introduce a social organization to teenage girls of the community. During our sophomore or junior year she invited fifteen or more of us to become Campfire Girls. We learned not only some camping techniques but also some handcrafts and the ability to plan and carry out youth activities which required responsibility and creativity. One spring after school had ended, Miss Martin took us to Lake Tippecanoe for a thrilling week of experiences which most of us had never had. Years later Boy Scout troops developed here and eventually Girl Scouts replaced Campfire Girls in this community.

Lloyd C. Douglas Was Graduation Speaker

In my senior year, World War I was raging in Europe and worrying families here. After the United States entered the war, April 6, 1917, boys began to wonder whether they should leave school and enlist in the armed services. As we were to graduate May 17, most in our class decided to wait, but Conrad Hare enlisted, served during the war and was still living the last time I heard of him.

Our Baccalaureate sermon was delivered at the old Methodist Church on the corner of Second and Front Streets, now the Masonic Temple. From that service we all went to 204 E. Third Street where Foster Sheller’s mother, Mrs. Dan Sheller, prepared a tasty meal for the teachers and our class of twenty-one.

Then on May 17, 1917 we sat on the platform of the Zion Lutheran Church on Main Street to hear an address by the well-known Hoosier author, Reverend Lloyd Douglas. He wrote “The Magnificent Obsession,” “The Robe” and several other novels. Superintendent Alvin Ulrey gave us our diploma.

In 1925, when I returned to North Manchester to teach English, the old Central School building was gone, having been replaced in the same location by a modern, two-story junior and senior high school by a modern, two-story junior and senior high school in 1922. As late as the nineteen twenties no married women could teach here and we never used teachers’ first names. Hence, I have included eventual husbands’ names for identification. Of course, Mrs. Sexton was an exception as part-time teachers of music and art were hard to find.

In 1968 I retired from teaching English at Manchester College. Then in 1981 I moved to the Timbercrest Retirement Home, North Manchester.

I believe five other members of the class are still living. They are: Lorraine Bollinger Ranger of Hisperia, California; Conrad Hare; Lyman Knecht, who retired from the Bippus Grain Elevator to Huntington, Indiana; Mae Lefforge, Palm Harbor, Florida; and Bonnie Shock Paulus, Altadena, California.

Deceased members were Vera Barnhart Stoner, June Beck, Marion Bonewitz, Lester Coe, Iva Cripe, Harold Grossnickle, Marjorie Gump Jackson, Clure McPherson (a dentist), Blanche Nichols Smith, Arthur Ober, Charles Sheller of the Sheller Hotel, Foster Sheller (another dentist), Robert Smith, Madaline Wolfe, and Dorothy Young Shubert. I regret that I do not have the married names of some of the girls.