by McRae Limerick
Another time was 1925-26 school term in Kemper County, MS. Another place was a one-room school house, just another phase in the long ago plan for the education of the children of Kemper County. It was in this hallowed place that I began my school career, which ended with a diploma from DeKalb High School in 1942. You might wonder that it was sixteen years later that I received my diploma, but that is another story.
I will try to relate some of the facts and some of my thoughts of the one-room school house. For a fact you did not have a registration day to attend the one-room school house. You just showed up! As far as I know there was no age requirement, except the general rule that you had to be out of diapers on the low side, and not quite old enough to shave on the upper side. I am of the opinion that the individual student has not changed one whit. We had them hen, and you have them now. The student with a burning desire to learn. One that will not be denied if given a chance. Then there is the one with a passionate determination not to be bothered with any degree of education. This latter described pupil achieves his goal by disruption. In the one-room school house, this was an easy task. There was an abundance of frogs, lizards, and non-poisonous snakes to be gathered along the way to the school. Most of us passed through the woods by pathways. It was a rare day that at least one of these creatures did not make an appearance by the way of some mischievous boy's pocket. The result was always the same. Screaming girls on top of the desk. The boys scrambling to be the hero that caught the harmless critter. Most of the time the perpetrator was not identified, but woe unto him that got caught. It was double jeopardy for him. One well administrated paddling at school, and another one at home. I speak with authority, having experience same.
The building was rectangular in shape, with an estimated inside dimensions of about forty feet wide and fifty feet long. One entrance door, four windows about two feet wide and five feet high. The bottom half of the window could be raised for ventilation on hot days. The windows were placed on either side of the building. Then about the center of the inside was the ever-famous potbellied stove, and along side of that was a wood box always with an ample supply of pine knots. This was the state-of-the-art heating system. Our air conditioner depended on the direction the wind was blowing at any given time. In the back was a raised platform or stage, depending on whom was describing it. This is where the action was. There was a teacher's desk, a blackboard, and several chairs. This was where you recited your lessons when your grade was called. Grade one, or the primer as it was called at that time, through grade eight. We did have store bought desk in this school. They are hard to describe, because the desk that you did your work on had a folding seat in front where another pupil sat and the pupil behind you used the desk top that had the folding seat that you sat on. They were fastened to the floor in rows. It was essential that they be will anchored to the floor, because in this age group, sitting was still impossible.
Whispering and passing notes was taboo. I think that was part of the teacher's qualification in those days. They could detect the slightest whisper. Whispering was not a capitol crime, but would get you some time standing in the corner, and a second offence would be standing on one foot. Passing notes rated about the same offence as whispering.
Some things you remember no matter how much time goes by, and one of those things was how prod I was of my new slate. Some of the other children in the primer had hand-me-down slates used by their brothers or sisters. My dad had bought me a new one, being an only child. It was about size eight by ten inches, and had a wood frame around the edges. You could draw on both sides, then erase it all to start over. We did all our work on the slate in the lower grades. First come your ABC's, but I was ahead because my grandmother had taught me. some of the children had to start at the beginning.
You would think it impossible to teach eight grades in one room with all the activity of twenty or thirty children all different ages, along with the disciplinary action, but most of the time it ran very smoothly with all the tasks getting done on time. The reason the system worked a tall can be attributed to the teacher and her love for the children, her work as a teacher that she loved so much, and her desire to contribute to the well being of the community.
This was one of the estimated seventy such schools in Kemper County at this time. Not that it matters much, but the school was known as "Neeta". As I remember, I attended two or three terms at Neeta. Then for reasons that I do not know, we changed schools. The name of the new school, or a least new to us was "Concord". It was in the opposite direction, about the same distance as the other one. The only difference was that we would be walking along the public road. As I remember it was an exact duplicate of the other school. Both schools were about two and a half miles from home. I have learned later of at least two more schools that would have been in walking distance, even though they were some distance further.
Just last week I was talking to a lady that had been a one-room school teacher in Kemper County. She was relating to me some of her thoughts. The statement she made, I think, typifies the teachers of that era. The statement was: "When I finally received my teacher's certificate and got a job teaching, I thought to myself this is what I have always wanted to do. I love my job, and to think they are paying me to teach." Later I inquired just what the salary was. She replied with some pride - Thirty dollars a month.
I have had the pleasure of being taught by some of the most dedicated teachers in the sixteen years that it required for me to get a high school diploma, but that will be in the book that I am writing about my life....
We remember with great fondness, McRae Limerick - Historian/ Genealogist. For those of you that had the pleasure of working with McRae, he was just a joy and such a dedicated historian of Kemper County. He passed away early 2008 and is buried in Blackwater Cemetery. You will find many of the cemetery records with McRae's name on them. He worked very hard for researchers. He will be missed.
Jeff Kemp - State Coordinator
If you have questions or problems with this site, email the County Coordinator. Please to not ask for specfic research on your family. I am unable to do your personal research. I do not live in MS and do not have access to additional records.