A picture of a little girl swinging in the wind on a storm door prompted this memory of the one-room Sanford Country School in the early 1940s.
When the weather turned cold, we started school with an additional ritual. Mrs. Parsons, our teacher, would ask if any of us had soup or something to be heated for lunch. A chorus of “I do” would respond. We’d open our lunch boxes to take out jars and hand them to Mrs. Parsons who put them on the top of the brown monster (a coal stove) in the back corner of the room. By lunch time the jars provided a hot lunch for us.
To make sure everyone had a hot lunch in the winter, Mrs. Parsons brought a sandwich toaster to school. At lunch time she sat in the back corner near the windows where there was one of the few place electric outlets in the room. All of us took our sandwiches to her. She cut them into quarters and laid them out on the shelf. She toasted a few quarters at a time and called us to collect them as each one was ready. They smelled so good whether they were peanut butter, tuna, bologna, along with steaming tomato or chicken soup. Now I know my thicker homemade bread was much better, but then I considered the kids who had square white store-bought bread for sandwiches and Campbell’s soup to be more fortunate.
On one particular winter day stands out in my memory. The snow started in the morning and built quickly into a blizzard. Snow piled up on the highway and was surely very slippery. I’m sure Mrs. Parsons must have been very concerned about getting all of us home. She had no way to call parents and close the school early. By the time school was finished, the unplowed roads were impassable.
Dad came to get me with our team of horses and a bobsled. A farmer’s bobsled was made with the body of a wagon on two sets of large sled runners. Dad waited with the horses just outside the fence that surrounded the school yard. The fierce wind scared me. It felt like it could pick me up and blow me away. I grabbed onto the fence to pull myself along. Finally, Dad had to leave the horses and to come and carry me to the wagon where he tucked me, Eleanor, Ruthie, Doris, and Betty and Bobby, all who lived on our road, under heavy black wool horse blankets to keep us warm while he faced the driving snow and wind to guide the team of horses back home.
I don’t remember, but I don’t think Mr. Parsons was able to get to Sanford with his school bus. I know there was one night the bus got stuck in the snow and all the students and Mr. Parsons stayed the night in someone’s home. I think Mrs. Parsons stayed with the family next door to the school overnight.