B. G. Sherman Memoir–Part 2: Rural school, high school & college

Editor’s note: This is the second installment of the memoir of his life, written by Edgewood native, Bryan G. Sherman, in 1974 at age 82.  The first installment is down page. Until the series is complete, installments will be found here in reverse order with the most recent at the top, so readers can easily find new posts. When the series is complete, the posts will be archived here in sequence. Installments will be posted each Sunday until the memoir is complete. (4-1-2018)

Rural School:

When it came time for me to go to school, I had about 3/4 mile to walk. I attended Lodomillo Township #1, a one room school house located 1/4 mile south of the then Henry Smith farm house, which is now occupied by one of Elmer Sherman’s grandsons (and later by the Chris Ries family). We had a variety of teachers as they were only hired by the term which lasted only about 2 1/2 months. Sometimes we had a new teacher nearly every term. In school we had pupils of all ages, which included kindergarten through 8th grade. Sometimes the teacher would have quite a lot of trouble with some of the older ones who came to school only in the winter as they were needed at home the rest of the year to help with field work.

We always put in long days. Early mornings were spent doing chores which included milking (which was done by hand), feeding and caring for the horses which at times was 10 to 12 head as all the farm work was done by horse power. This was all done before breakfast. After breakfast it was always a hurry to get off to school.

We carried our dinners in pails or lunch boxes. During these early days in school the water pail sat on a stool in the corner and everyone used the same dipper to drink out of. Later on we had a stone jar with a spigot at the bottom edge to draw off water. The water was brought by pail from one of the neighboring farms, and a couple of the larger children were allowed to go after the water. Many times when they brought the pail in after noon or recess, they were allowed to pass the pail around to each pupil. We had generally 3 breaks in our school work, a 15 minute recess in the middle of the a.m., an hour at noon and another recess in the p.m.

During recess and at noon we generally played outside, but the two recess periods were more to give each scholar a chance to go to the toilet. Our toilets were small square buildings, one in each of two corners back of the school house, one for boys and one for girls. The games we played were mostly baseball, and once in awhile hide and seek. During bad weather we were allowed to play some party games inside. During the winter months some of the kids would bring their sleds and the long hill in the road going to the North was used to ride on. That hill used to get so slippery that a team of horses could hardly come up it unless sharp shod.

There was a woodshed at the school that held several cords of wood which was used to heat the schoolhouse. The wood was furnished by one of the farmers who contracted a number of cords of hard wood and about 2 cords of soft wood for kindling. Except when the teacher hired a janitor, the larger kids had to keep the wood box full. School let out at 4 o’clock.

I always had chores to do after school. If I didn’t have to go after the cows, I had eggs to gather and in those days we found eggs everywhere, except in the wintertime when the hens were generally shut in the coop.  On real nice days when it began to warm up, they were let out awhile everyday.  Until later years, we never had many eggs in the winter but now anyone raising chickens gets eggs the year round. One of my boyhood friends, George Dempster, used to stop in and help me hunt the eggs, and some of the old biddies didn’t like to have us take eggs from under them, especially if they were wanting to sit. When the hens were allowed to run at large they used to nest out and then fetch in a brood of 12 to 15 chicks. Nowadays we have that only in a few cases.   Today the hens are confined to a roost or put in cages where the eggs roll out in a trough and can be picked up without touching a hen.

The chickens that we raised were hatched under hens and brooded in small coops out in the yard. In the fall the pullets were put in the roost, which sometimes was quite a job. The roosters, except the ones we wanted to keep, were sold or used for food. Later on we used to can quite a number of them until the locker came into use, and then we would freeze them for later use.

I well remember when this picture was taken. I was given a quarter and I walked all the way to town alone and had my picture taken. I have forgotten whether they cost one cent each or if they were twenty five cents per dozen, but I think the former.

Bryan G. Sherman age 10-12

(The original photo is the size of a postage stamp)


School Days – High School:

During the summer of 1906 the superintendent of the Edgewood High School came out to the farm, and after talking to me awhile told the folks I was ready to go to high school. I was just past 14 at that time. That meant I had to dress a little better, so instead of overalls I must wear a suit. It happened at that time that H.F. Beyer had just sold his store to R.C. Cocking and they were doing their inventories. They told Mom to come to the side door and they would let her in to buy me a suit. It so happened that we were one of the first customers of Mr. Cocking.

That fall I entered high school as a freshman. If I remember right, there were 33 in the class that fall but when we came to graduate in 1910 there were only 11 in the class, and some of these were not in the class at the start. My first year in high school, sister Verna and I drove a horse and buggy and when winter with snow came, we hitched the horse to a sleigh called a cutter. The shafts of this were set to one side so the horse had a track to walk in and not in the middle of road as with the buggy. Verna graduated in 1907, so the next year and until younger sister Letha was ready to start in 1908, I went alone. I often walked the two miles to the school in town, especially when the roads were rough or muddy. When they were, I would avoid the road and walk directly across the fields.

At school our playground was across the street and about 1/2 block West of the present schoolhouse. That is where the baseball games were played. There was also a place to play basketball, but when there was a game it was played in the old Hesner Opera House downtown. It was on the second floor above what is now Moser’s Market. We also had contests in debates and declaratory contests with other schools. In my second year of high school we had a course in botany. Our textbook was “How Plants Grow”. During the spring we had to collect flower specimens and press them and mount them in a loose-leaf book called a herbarium, and still at this date my book is in good shape. We had 3 years of Latin in high school in those days, as it was required for college entrance. There was one year of Latin grammar, 1 year of Caesar, and 1 year of Cicero. Now it is a thing of the past. In my senior year our class got a chance to study German grammar with a Miss Fritz who is now Mrs. Densmore.  She was teaching in the grade school and she came upstairs for a lesson in the p.m. This helped me out later on in college and also while in the Armed Forces.

College Days:

I graduated in 1910, and in the fall of 1911, I attended Upper Iowa University at Fayette. We had plenty of train service at that time so I got to come home quite often for weekends. We didn’t have classes on Monday so I could come home Saturday night and go back Monday morning. (*Fayette was about a two hour train ride from Edgewood on the Milwaukee Road line.)

This was my first experience of being away from home any length of time. I stayed at the home of Myron Mellon who was a friend of the family. There were also a couple of boys from Garber and part of the time they also stayed there, so I never got lonesome. The Mellon’s also had two children about my age only a little younger and also a daughter who was a few years older. While in school there I became a member of the Philomation Literary Society, and along with our sister society, the Avonia, we used to have some very good times and programs.

During the spring term I had appendicitis and had to leave school for the rest of the school year. The following fall Verna, Letha, and I all three went to Upper Iowa University. We rented a house and did our own cooking for one school year. I used to go out in the country and work on Monday when I didn’t have school work to get ready. On these jobs I got 30 cents per hour and my dinner and supper if I worked late enough. The man who owned the house we lived in was a horse buyer and I used to help him with his horses. We had to take them clear across town to put them on the train. The horses were not shipped by freight but were hauled by the passenger train. This year ended my schooling, but I still kept on learning from experience and much reading.

I could elaborate more on the time spent at U.I.U. but it would be only about trips taken out in the countryside or Sundays. We used to visit a place called Big Rock where there was a foot bridge across the Volga River which at times we didn’t consider too safe. Other times we would go through the big cut where the Milwaukee Railroad went through. It was about 40 foot high and I would judge perhaps 200 feet long. We also used to look along the rocks for specimens for Geology class. There seemed to be lots of rock formations in the limestone along the river.

When we crossed the bridge in the town of Fayette we went into a part of town called “Canada”. I never did know why except it was to the north. In this part of town was a large spring of very nice cold water where everyone visited to get a good drink. At that time the main road through town went across this bridge and through this pretty part of Fayette on it’s way to West Union, the Fayette county seat. Now the highway goes through west of the town where there is a new paved highway to the north so one now misses the beauty of the scenery along the part of Fayette called Canada. One can still go the old route but the road isn’t so good.

Next installment–Uncle Sam calls to service in WW I