Welcome to a new feature from me and Erin at Still Life, With Cracker Crumbs called Hometown Views, where we share views and stories from our respective hometowns (or the towns where we currently live anyhow).
Today, Erin and I are focusing on the schools in our areas. Because Erin lives in an urban area and I live in a rural area, our schools are obviously going to be much different. While the schools in her area are large, the schools in my area are small and many of them could probably fit twice over in the school buildings in her area.In the county I grew up in, and attended school in, there are seven school districts. The majority of those districts have two or more school buildings, one for elementary, one for middle (in a couple of cases) and one for high school. The rest of them only have a junior-senior high school building for grades 7-12. This was the case for the high school I attended, which is located about 10 miles from where I live now. When I was growing up, the school district I lived in, Wyalusing School District, consisted of an elementary school in all the little communities in the district that went from kindergarten to sixth grade. That was four elementary schools.
After sixth grade everyone went to the high school, which is about 20 minutes away from where I lived (15 if you floor it).
Several years ago, after a lot of arguing, the district closed all the elementary schools and built a joint elementary school on the same campus as the high school so now there is one junior-senior high school and one elementary school for the entire district in one place.
We visited that campus with our children a couple of years ago and they enjoyed playing on the playground that did not exist when I attended school there. In fact, when I attended high school there, the space where the elementary school is now was swamp land and woods. It was located behind the high school track and football team.
This was hard for the communities where the schools were located because the schools were a central part of the community. Events were held there and the children who attended the schools became a close-knit group in many cases. I would not say that the children from my school became a close-knit group, necessarily, but that did happen in other schools. When I attended the elementary school, which was two to three miles from my house, our classes were very small. There was one classroom for each grade, and we had about 25 to 30 children, often less, in each classroom.
In the elementary school in the same town as our high school, Wyalusing, there were sometimes two or three classrooms for each grade with up to 30 children in each room. The other, outlying elementary schools, were similar to mine with only one classroom per grade.
Thinking back, I can remember almost all of my elementary school teachers, except my Kindergarten one. I don’t think she was there very long, but I’m not sure why. Next up was my first-grade teacher who made you stand in front of the classroom on your birthday so she could pull your ear the number of years you were. She also had it in for one of our classmates and treated him pretty awful, despite him having a cruddy homelife.
My second-grade teacher was considered the nicest teacher in the school, and I believed this until she yelled at me one day for asking a question and tossed a workbook at my feet for answering a question wrong. Honestly, looking back, I have a feeling she was in the middle of menopause, and we had hit just one too many raw nerves that day. She was still one of the nicest teachers, but I regarded her with a healthy dose of suspicion from then on.
My third-grade teacher was said to ride a broom to school. She had a high-pitched voice that probably made the ears of dogs’ bleed. I honestly do not remember any horror stories about her but I don’t remember her being the nicest teacher.
My fourth-grade teacher was a man who owned and bred Huskies and used to bring the puppies to class on occasion where one promptly pooped the largest, slightly green pile of poop in the middle of the floor, leaving the class in stiches for the rest of the day.
I don’t have a ton of memories of my fifth-grade teacher, other than I think she was fairly nice. I also know that she passed away of a brain tumor several years ago, which is heartbreaking.
My sixth-grade teacher developed laryngitis frequently throughout the year, which the class eventually learned to use to their advantage. She would give assignments out for something, and we would pretend we couldn’t hear her. “What? I’m sorry, Mrs. Corson. I can’t hear you. Was that math you wanted us to do?”
She’d eventually scowl at us and write the assignment on the chalkboard. This was a big issue later when it was discovered that part of the reason she developed laryngitis several times throughout the year, was that she was allergic to chalk dust. Or at least that’s what I heard from a family member after I was an adult. I’m actually not sure if that story is true, but she did lose her voice often.
In sixth grade, every sixth-grade class from the district would pile on to busses and travel to Washington, D.C. for a three-day trip. The year I went, they made us wear the ugliest neon green hats with a W written on it, but there was a method to their madness. They wanted to be sure that if the groups were separated, they could find each other from a distance. It worked very well. Once, when we were separated from our group, we looked up across the Washington Mall and there were fifty-some neon green hats dotting the horizon, alerting us to the fact we were way off base from where we were supposed to be. Of course, we had chaperones. These were either a teacher or parent, and as far as I know, they did a wonderful job.
I don’t know if it is “politically correct” or “Christian” to mention this, but there was an Asian woman selling Bart Simpson T-shirts on the streets in Washington near Ford’s Theater during our trip and you could hear her up and down the street yelling, “Who da’ hell are you? Ten dolla!” over and over again. The shirts, of course, featured one of Bart’s famous sayings. His famous sayings are some of the main reasons I was not allowed to watch the show as a child, by the way. And yes, since you asked, several children came home with Bart Simpson T-shirts with Washington, D.C. emblazoned under an image of Bart and “Who the hell are you?!” emblazoned on the top of the image.
We also enjoyed listening to people try to pronounce the name Wyalusing. I’m sure I’ll mention this in future editions of Hometown Views, but Wyalusing is actually shortened from the Native American name M’chwihilusing. There is another Wyalusing in Wisconsin and I know the two towns are connected, but I can’t remember how. I believe settlers from this Wyalusing traveled to Wisconsin and weren’t very original, so they reused the name of the town they came from. I’ll have to touch on that in a future blog post.
Anyhow, I have digressed greatly from providing information about the school district I was educated in. The Wyalusing School District educates approximately 1,350 students from K-12. Graduating classes are around 80-130 children, but usually closer to that lower number. My class of 130 was said to be among the largest when we graduated mumble, mumble years ago.
The school mascot is a ram. The school colors are green and gold and, yes, I can still sing the alma mater.
In the Wyalusing Valley, on the Susquehanna shore, stands our noble alma mater . . . okay, I won’t bore you with the whole thing.
The high school offers a variety of sports and extracurricular activities, including football, wrestling, golf, baseball, softball, cross country, track and field, volleyball, and basketball. I did not play any of these sports. I did participate in Orchestra, where I played the bells (xylophone) and chimes (oh, I could tell you some stories from that experience, but I won’t. Not today anyhow.). I also wrote the high school information column for the local weekly newspaper, where I later worked (after college) and where my husband is now the editor.
The high school was very well known for an extremely strong drama department when I was a student. I don’t know if this is the case now, but when I attended high school there, the popular kids were on the sports teams, yes (the most popular being on the wrestling and football teams. Quite a few state champions came out of the wrestling program over the years), but almost as popular, if not sometimes more popular, were the singers and actors who performed in the annual musicals. Many of those students thought their poop didn’t stink, as the saying goes, and I think a couple of them might still feel that way, even though only one of the students I knew from the program at the time, went on to have a nationally recognized career.
If you weren’t an athlete or a member of the drama department, you were pretty much a ghost at my high school and, for me, that wasn’t a bad thing. I liked being left alone to read a book, sketch, and write in my journal. I never had any interest in being popular. Let a friend of mine sing her heart out on the stage and date the star, then receive a bunch of attention for her beautiful voice (much deserved, I might add) because all I wanted to do was hide in my room and be left alone to the characters in my mind and in my books.
I’m sure the school district can boast many successful students who have graduated from its ranks, but one student who stands out to me and other alumni is Lucas Steele, who was nominated for a Tony in 2017 for his role as Anatole in Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812. Other students (even the ones I joked about above) did well for themselves in their own right, however, and I truly hope they have all had happy lives, no matter where their career paths have led.
In the county where I live now, there is one school district – the Sullivan County School District – and one high school and elementary building for the entire county.
You read that right.
The schools are the only schools for the entire county. Well, two if you count that the elementary school building is right next to the junior-senior high school but not connected. I did not drive the 12 minutes from my house to photograph the school buildings because I had too much going on this week and last. I searched for photographs online and there were zero. I mean zero photographs of the school buildings, other than a few I found on Facebook of the building after firefighters had to respond to a fire there in 2019. The building was damaged, but luckily renovated and repaired. I also found another one of the building on the first day of school, though most of it is blocked by the busses. The photograph does, however, show part of the lovely campus the school is located on.
The district educates approximately 600 children.
Yep. That’s it. Six hundred children from K-12. People who live in larger cities are reading this right now and saying, “Six hundred children?! In two schools? For the entire county?! One class in our school had 600 students!”
It should be noted, however, that there are only about 6,000 full-time residents in this county. A large part of the county is made up of state gameland and there are also a large amount of cabins that are used throughout the year, but mainly during the summer, by people who live out of the area (usually in Philadelphia and New Jersey).
Because of its small size, the Sullivan County High School does not offer football. It does offer basketball, baseball, volleyball, wrestling, track and field, cross country, and soccer It also has a band, but not usually a marching band since there are no halftime shows in soccer or the other sports. The only time the district’s band performs a halftime show is at the two-county band exposition held each year in the neighboring county. Like the school I attended, they offer chorus and various music programs.
The school mascot is a griffin.
I had to research was a griffin is because I always forget. According to Wikipedia, it is “a legendary creature with the body, tail, and back legs of a lion; the head and wings of an eagle; and sometimes an eagle’s talons as its front feet.”
You may be wondering, if you are new to this blog, if either of my children have ever attended any of the schools I have mentioned. The answer is no. My son attended a small, private Christian school until sixth grade and my daughter has been homeschooled for her entire school career so far. My son is now also homeschooled.
When I was mentioning the schools in our area, I did forget to mention the three private, Christian/ Catholic schools. The protestant school educates up to twelfth grade and the two Catholic schools educate up to eighth grade, after which students can either attend the high schools in the district they live in or they can go the Catholic high school in New York state, which is about a half an hour drive from the one private school and an hour from the other.
Now that my rambling about local schools is over, you can hop over to Erin’s blog and read about the “big city schools” outside of Detroit.