Looking back at Warren Township schools as alumni mark their 75th banner year
Written by Jill Darling
The Sunday Review, Towanda, Pennsylvania, July 9, 2000
|Thanks to Jim Towner, Publisher of the Daily Review of Towanda, for
permission to reprint
What do soap stones, "astronomical geography," boys on busses with guns, and bell "dinger" high jinx have in common? It’s all part of the Warren Township Schools’ history, mixed in with the memories of former students.
Warren Township was a bustling community with 13 one-room schoolhouses back in the 1800s and 1900s. The one-room schoolhouses eventually gave was to the two-story Warren Center School, which housed both elementary and high school grades located on the site of the current Warren township Fire Station. The high school portion of the building closed in 1945 and the elementary school closed when a new school was constructed in 1953. After the latter Warren Township Elementary School closed in 1970, the facility served briefly as a day care center. It was deeded to the township in 1977 and then became the Warren Township Community Building.
75th Alumni Banquet of the Warren Center School
The saying "Make new friends, but keep the old" rang true for students and teachers of the Warren Center School during their 75th annual alumni banquet recently. They met at the Warren Township Community Building. Attendees reminisced about their school days and caught up on current events while enjoying a ham dinner served by the Triple M Class of the Warren Center United Methodist Church.
Alumni President Emerson Abell conducted roll call, one class at a time. Marjorie Potter represented the class of 1927 as the oldest living student of the school – she just celebrated her 90th birthday. Members of the class of 1928 were Laura Allyn, Margaret Pitcher and Wilmah Moulthrop. The classes of 1930, 1940 and 1950 received special recognition for their milestone anniversaries, although only two members of the class of 1950 were able to attend the dinner – Ruth Dewing and Elma Wheeler represented the calss on its golden anniversary.
Two students at the banquet who later became teachers were Carol Cook and Jeanette Pendleton, both of whom taught at the elementary school before it closed in 1970, when they began teaching at Northeast Bradford. Carol taught from 1965 to 1989, Jeanette taught for 26 years: from 1943 to 1946, then again from 1961 to 1984, taking time off to raise her own children. Before she got married, she lived at Bowen’s Hotel, a rooming house, which is the current Vandervort home in the center of town. Jeanette liked teaching at the Warren Center School because "you knew all the children and their parents."
The History of Warren Township Schools
The "History of Warren Township Schools: 1807 – 1971" was compiled by a committee of Warren Center residents eager to preserve the school’s history. The researchers were principal/teacher Earle Bidlack and his wife, Marion, also a teacher; Bessie Jones, a teacher, and her husband, George, a school board director; their son Russell, and his wife, Carol, both former students at the school; student Maisie Darling, whose mother, Annetta Patton Sleeper, was a one-room schoolhouse teacher; Maisie’s husband, Bert; and Daniel Abel, a student.
The Early Years
The first school in Warren was taught by Roswell Lee in 1807 in the Parley Colburn house on the Montrose Turnpike. The area was referred to as Bowen Hollow, the embryo of Warren Center. According to the historical account, "the school was attended voluntarily by the children of a few settlers, the teacher either donating his time or paid with a free board, a few bushels of wheat, potatoes or apples." School tax was unheard of then, and maintenance was done by volunteers. Free schools under state supervision came 30 years later, in 1834, and the first superintendent was elected in 1854 – Emmanuel Guyer, whose salary was $500 per year.
Information is scarce on schools until 1893. The history booklet gives details of a school board meeting at Abell’s Hall, on Saturday, Sept. 2, 1893. (Abell’s Hall later became Howdy Jones Construction and is the red building still standing in the center of town.) The board met to decide the purchase of books and supplies in compliance with the new "free textbook law."
"It was moved and adopted that we supply our schools with `Barnes History of the United States’ in place of `Swintons. Also, that we adopt `Robinson’s Shorter Course Arithmetics’ (stet) in place of `Robinson’s Practical higher Course,’" the minutes read. Sheldon and Company Readers and Spellers were ordered for around $200 from H.W. Childs, a representative attending the meeting, from New York city’s Sheldon & Co. and the American Book Co.
Teachers received $26 a month and were selected for the fall and winter term. The board extended the school year from five to six months.
Miss Annetta Patton (later Mrs. Silas Sleeper), a teacher, came to the board meeting with a unique glove she invented for teaching "astronomical geography." According to family members, she peddled the contraptions by horse and wagon to outlying areas as far away as Wilkes-Barre. The globe had a cast-iron frame with extended arms for the sun and moon. The sun was represented by a kerosene lamp with a reflector to show the path of the earth’s rotation in accordance with the sun and moon. The board decided against the purchase, which is believed to have been over $20. Perhaps the globe seemed a bit frivolous for their budget since the sale of books and pencils had brought in only 22 cents! Other expenses listed in the budget were a 69-cents dog tax and $21 in sheep damage. Maybe the school owned a dog that got into the neighbor’s sheep.
In 1902 three school buildings were sold for $11, $18 and $20 to families who originally owned the land. In 1908 teachers’ monthly salaries went up to $40 and $50, and the principal received $75 a month. In 1909 the school term was lengthened to seven months, and one-room schools continued to close with students being moved to the larger Warren Center School. In 1911 school houses sold for $42 apiece. Truant officers were also appointed that year.
The 13 one-room schools in Warren Township had 207 students. Other schools existed for brief periods before the era of the 13 schools but little or no information is known. For instance, during the Civil War, a school existed near Runyon’s Corners and a juncture leading to the present Keith Newman farm. The Arnold Hill School was on the hill north of the Audra Allyn Farm. The Shingle Schoolhouse was on the southeast corner of Painter and Newman Roads and closed in 1896.
The 13 schools and the locations were:
School Route Drives, Toting Guns and Students’ Shenanigans
Students were picked up for school by a horse and wagon in the 1800s and early 1900s. The drivers of school routes had to abide by specific regulations enacted in 1908. They had to "furnish good wagons covered by curtains and have plenty of blankets and soap stones on hand." Soap stones are large flat stones that hold heat well. They were put in a fire to be heated then put in the wagons to warm passengers’ feet. Drivers received 86 cents to $1.50 a day for transporting students.
In the 1930s and early 1940s students recall how they were picked up by wooden busses built by C.C. Allis. Four long rows of seats lined the sides and center of the bus lengthwise, with two rows facing each other. It was normal for vehicles to get stuck in the mud or snow on dirt roads, even with chains on the tires. Whenever the bus got stuck, the kids automatically got out and pushed while drive Tom Barnes gunned the engine. Instead of pushing, the kids thought it was great sport to pull back on the bus to keep it from getting out, delaying their arrival all the more. Chains on the tires caused mud to spray 30 feet, plastering the kids, which added to the fun.
It was common practice for boys to scramble on the bus with their guns in order to go hunting during recess. Bagging a rabbit, squirrel or grouse to take home for supper was all part of the school day during hunting season.
Norman Rockefeller and Norman Darling played a Halloween prank by taking the "dinger" out of the school bell and throwing it down the girls’ outhouse toilet. The next morning Principal Earle Bidlack informed the two that a horse and wagon was waiting for them by the girls’ outhouse because they’d be shoveling out the toilet instead of doing school work that day. While they were at it, he said, they could retrieve the bell’s "dinger."
The Later Years
The high school alternated between three and two years from 1921 until 1945, when it was permanently closed and pupils were transported to Vestal, N.Y. Some students also went to LeRaysville. In 1952 the board voted to build a new elementary school rather than renovate the old one, and in the fall of 1953 the new Warren Township Elementary School was opened.
The following year, the old Warren Center School building was sold at auction to Carl Wilson and Clayton Canfield. The site is now the Warren Township Fire Station.
A state mandate was enacted to "reduce the number of school districts in order to provide better education for students." A 30-menber joint school board was formed to operate the schools of Rome, Windham and LeRaysville Borough and Pike, Orwell and Warren townships to prepare to meet the mandate. Board members like Clayton Canfield attended countless meetings to decide upon the building site and the merging of six school districts.
Northeast Bradford High School opened for the 1955-1956 school year, replacing Rome and LeRaysville high schools and serving all students in the Northeast district. The staff had been concerned about rivalries between schools, but everything went smoothly.
Fred Wheaton of Warren Center said, "It was exciting to be part of a brand-new school and be in Northeast’s first graduating class." Jake Hennip helped found the school district and was the high school’s first principal and the first district superintendent.
The Warren Township Elementary School was closed in June 1970, and the Northeast Bradford Elementary School opened that fall. Fred Dinse was Northeast’s first elementary school principal and in later years became the district superintendent.
Teacher Jeanette Pendleton remembers the transition to Northeast. "It was exciting for a while … different, but later on things changed." Lack of discipline in students became a problem and teaching wasn’t as much fun as it had been, she said.
Carol Cook attended the West Warren one-room school as a child, then was a student at the old Warren Center School. Later on she eventually became a teacher and taught at the elementary school. The move from Warren Center to Northeast "was so different going from an old school to such a big, new carpeted building. The carpeting was what everyone talked about. It was really nice."
Times certainly changed. The era of the small-town community was over, making way for consolidation. Today soapstones and outhouses are things of the past, students learn "astronomical geography" on the Interned directly from astronauts in outer space, and boys toting guns on busses will land in jail.
The memories and friendships of the Warren Center School remain strong
for the students and teachers who look forward to attending the alumni
banquet each year. They have celebrated for 75 years and hope to continue
Learning ABCs in a one-room schoolhouse
Retired Northeast Bradford Elementary teacher Carol Cook remembers her school days at the one-room schoolhouse in West Warren during the 1930s. The wooden building, which still stands, is located less than half-mile west of the four corners on the Wayne Antisdel farm.
Carol said her teacher came to school early in the morning to get the fire going in the wood stove before the 14 to 16 students arrived. The children walked to school – Carol and her three siblings walked half a mile. The wooden floor of the building was oiled to keep the dust down. There was no electricity, and natural light came in from the long windows on one side of the building. Children took their seats in individual one-piece desks and chairs, which were bolted to the floor. The school consisted of first through seventh grades with two or three children per grade. The older kids sat on one side of the room and the younger ones on the other side.
A typical day started with Bible reading, prayer and the pledge of allegiance to the flag. Students did a lot of memorization and each grade was called to the front of the class to recite lessons orally, work arithmetic problems or diagram sentences on the chalkboard. The various grades read assigned portions in their textbooks and then discussed them with the teacher. Tests were given orally as students recited or wrote down answers on their tablets with pencils. Even though the desks had inkwells, Carol said they rarely wrote with pens.
At times students listened in as other classes were having their lessons, but everyone was used to it and able to keep up on their own work. Older students occasionally helped the younger ones. Carol remembers she and her sister, Tink, helped their brothers Edie and Bud with their school work at home.
Students took the basic courses like history, geography, spelling and arithmetic. Music class was taught once or twice a week by Mr. Miller. Carol said he was distinguishably dressed and always wore a hat. He brought a portable phonograph with 78 rpm records and played classical music. Then he taught the kids songs using a pitch pipe while singing a cappella. The school didn’t have a piano, and students didn’t learn how to play instruments until they went to the Warren Center School.
There were no sports available, but all the kids played baseball together with a rubber ball in the pasture at recess. Even their teacher, Miss Genevieve Allyn, joined in and played with them. One game they loved to play was "All-ie Over the School House." Two teams were on either side of the school and a rubber ball was thrown over the roof with the cry, "All-ie, all-ie over!" The person who caught the ball hid it and ran around to the other side to try to touch or hit opponents. Whoever was tagged became part of the other side’s team. Play continued until everyone was on one side or until the bell rang.
(The game is still played by younger generations of kids today in home or church settings.)
In the winter time children would "ride down hill" by the school. One time there had been a bad storm and the road was covered thick with ice. Carol remembers how older boys skated up and down the road.
Students had a full day of school and brought their lunches in a dinner pail or bag. A typical lunch was peanut butter sandwiches, cookies or a piece of homemade cake. Everyone drank from the dipper in the water pail or made cups out of folded paper. Since the school had no running water, two children went to the neighbor’s house with a pail to get water each morning. They carried it back on a pole with the pail between them.
Restroom facilities were outhouses; one for the boys and one for the girls. Crumpled pages of catalogs served as toilet paper.
The children usually had one set of school clothes and changed into "everyday" clothes one they got home. The boys wore knickers and the girls wore skirts and blouses with sweaters. In cold weather they wore long underwear with cotton stockings over them.
Carol has fond memories of her days in a one-room schoolhouse and was able to see firsthand how schools and teaching methods evolved over the years. She taught at Warren Center School and at Northeast Bradford elementary School for 24 years from 1965 to 1989.
Caption for photograph of 14 students standing on steps at the entrance of the West Warren School: Pictured is the West Warren School photo from 1935-36. Pictured in back the front row from left are: Margaret Pendleton, Mildred Strope, Betty Antisdel, Norman Wilson and Bernard Cook. Second row are left: Christing Cook, Donna Wilson, Ruth Koch, John Koch and Ronald Cook. Back row from left: Carol Cook, Edith Strope, Willard Antisdel and Kenneth Strope.
In addition to the photo described immediately above, eight additional photographs accompany the article:
A group photo: Shown is the Warren Center School Band during the 1940-1941 school year. Seated from left right are: Rowena Jones, Elmer Pitcher, Jr., Delores Pitcher, Emerson Jones, Grace Abel, Bette Antisdel and Norman Wilson. Standing from left to right are: Ontalee Barnes, Mrs. Talada, Shirley Jones, Florence Corbin, Doris Jones, Martha Abel, Carol Cook, Betty Dewing, Jim McCoy, Emerson Abell, Stanley Catlin, Christine Cook, Dorothy Beam, Geraldine Ames and Carl Wilson.
Building. Pictured is the Aurora School in Warren Township taken about 1915.
Building. Pictured is the Shelton School in North Warren taken about 1910.
Two photos captioned: Former Warren Center School Students gathered together recently for the 75th Alumni Banquet at the Warren Township Community Building:
Photo1: In the first row are: Genevieve Nicholas, Theresa Rockwell, Laura Allyn, Margaret Pitcher, Marjorie Potter (honored as oldest student at 90 years old), Eloise Newman and Betty Darling. Second Row: Georgia Brink, Daisy Lee Ruth Rought, Jessie Sleeper, Wilmah Moulthrop (her husband, Waldo, was an assistant principal and teacher at the school from 1926 to 1934), Eleanor Canfield, Norma Coburn, Merton Powell, Dorothy Brown, Carol Jones, Carol Cook (who was also a teacher at Warren Township Elementary School from 1965 – 1970, then at Northeast from 1970 to 1989); third row: Arthur Painter, Emerson Abell, Russell Jones, Thomas Lee and Norman Darling.
Photo 2: In the first row are: Ruth Weaver, Agnes Neville, Ochlee Lee, Elma Wheeler, Ruth Dewing (Elma and Ruth were recognized for their 50th class anniversary), Grance Dewing and Norma Beam. Second row: Carl Pitcher, Elizabeth Belzick, Mary Dewing, Alice Abell, Max Dewing, Gerry Bush, Ontalee Wilson, Jeanette Pendleton (who was also a teacher at Warren Township elementary School from 1943 to 1946 and 1961 to 1970, then at Northeast from 1970 to 1984) and Russell Dewing. Third row: Doug Wheaton, Fred Wheaton, David Darling, Albert Welch and Margaret Duffy.
School House and class: Pictured is the Warrenham School in Warren Township about 1900. Pictured in the front row are: Hiram Dewing, ? Bishop, Genevive Dewing, Ward Morgan and ? Bishop. In the back row from left are: Charles Dewing, Frank Dimon, Albert Dewing, ? Bishop, Nellie Hickey, Clara Hickey, Elizabeth Dewing, Anna Dewing, Mike Kaeting and teacher Nancy Dewing.
School House: The Warren Center School housed the elementary school on the lower level and the high school on the upper level. The girls’ outhouse can barely be seen between the large tree and school on the right, and the boys’ outhouse is the smallest building to the left of the school. The high school closed in 1945 and students ere bused to Vestal, N.Y., or went to LeRaysville until the Northeast Bradford High School opened in 1955. The elementary school closed in 1953, when a new elementary school was built in Warren Center on the land behind the Grange Hall. It later became the Warren Township Community Building when the school finally closed in 1970.
School House and class: Pictured is the Old School at Cadis,
Warren Township, about 1908. Pictured from left in the fron row are: Catherine
Ring, Francis Gongdon, GeoAlwyn Prince and Glen Arnold. Back row from left
are: Elma Prince, Beatrice Babcock, Clara Shelton, Ethel Congdon and James
Transcribed by Richard J. McCracken, Towanda, PA, July 9, 2000.
From: The Sunday Review, Towanda, PA, July 9, 2000, pages 1A and 1C. Copyright ©, 2000