Bourne 3rd Graders Get A Taste Of School Life In The Old Days
Docent Nancy P. Eldridge, dressed in attire suitable for a late 19th-century schoolteacher, waited by the front door for the 3rd graders to arrive. The bus arrived, the schoolhouse’s bell was rung loudly, and the children were instructed to line up by gender—boys near one entrance and girls at the other, as was done originally.
Inside the building the 3rd graders sat in rows of antique desks facing the teacher’s desk at the front of the room, and the American flag. It took students a few minutes to realize what was different about the flag: it had only 44 stars on it. This flag was used before Utah, Oklahoma, Arizona, New Mexico, Alaska and Hawaii were states. At the back of the room was a 19th-century US map hanging on the wall, and portraits of Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln hang above the school’s original blackboards.
Throughout the morning traditional studies and activities of the day were presented by members of the preservation group, many of whom are retired grade-school-teachers.
Students learned that female teachers in the late 1800s and early 1900s were not allowed to marry. That without electricity, there were no ice cream shops in town. The Wing family of Bourne owned an ice cream maker that could make eight quarts of ice cream at a time. One day a week, they would make ice cream and share it with the schoolchildren.
Small bottles of ink were placed in their designated holes on the desks, and the children took turns with quill pens, learning to dip and write on a piece of paper.
Outside, John E. York, a founding member of the preservation group, talked about outdoor aspects of the school day in the late 1800s and early 1900s, such as recess, lunch time, and use of the outhouses, no matter the weather. Again, the boys used one and the girls used another.
And so the morning went, all with the intention of kindling a fascination with history in the hearts and minds of young students.
Such visits to the schoolhouse are worth more than a thousand words in helping kids understand the thread of history in which they are the next chapter,” the Cataumet Schoolhouse Preservation Group’s website states.
Former president of the Cataumet Schoolhouse Preservation Group and current member of the Buildings and Grounds Committee Benjamin S. Joyce pointed out a line of mature catalpa trees along the side of the schoolhouse property.
In 1911, Mr. Joyce said, a company donated thousands of catalpa seedlings to schoolchildren throughout Massachusetts (the wood is rot-resistant and could be used for railroad ties). When you see catalpa trees on old roads, he said, chances are there was once a one-room schoolhouse nearby.
The Bourne Board of Selectmen recently signed a letter of support to accompany an application to the Massachusetts Historic Commission for recognition of the 123-year-old Cataumet Schoolhouse. Recognition by the state commission is the first step in having the building placed on the National Register of Historic Places.