"Countless volumes could be written telling of the many and varied occurrences of interest, sometimes laughable, often pathetic, happening in the numerous little red school houses scattered over our hills and dales . . . a highly organized and determined effort is under way to absolutely abolish these cherished, and on the whole efficient, institutions of our rural communities; an effort, however, vigorously and ably opposed, it would seem fitting if more of these odd happenings might be recorded before they pass into oblivion."
- Glenville historian Percy Van Epps (1859-1950), as part of reminiscence entitled "Our Little Red School House."
School days are upon us once again, so it's a good time to take a look back at schools of days gone by. In the rural schoolhouse, one teacher taught children from first grade through eighth grade. The group of pupils taught by the teacher might be as small as 7 or 8 or as many as 25 or 30. In the years of the nineteenth century, the class sizes would ebb and flow with the seasons; more children could attend during the winter months, as many had to work helping their families on local farms during the spring and fall. Schools had no central heating, electricity, or running water. Students had to go outdoors to use a privy if nature called during the day. A wood-burning stove, which was often tended by one or two of the older boys in the school, heated the room. In cold winter months, the students might cluster around the wood stove, trying to get warm, during the first hour of the school day. Along with "reading and 'riting and 'rithmetic," students learned history, geography, spelling, and English, and many teachers also made the time to squeeze in music, nature study, and art. The school was also a site for exhibitions, where students showed off to their parents and their community what they had learned through recitations, spelling bees, and singing.
These little schoolhouses were ubiquitous in rural parts of Schenectady County for over a century; here are images of just a few, from the town of Glenville.
|A group of girls from the Hill School in 1926. Pictured are Sadie Buzinski, Helen Wronkowski, Clementina Farrone, Jennie Wronkowski, and Mabel Leffler. Photo from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection.|
|A horse-drawn sleigh outside of the Greens Corners School in 1908. Photo from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection.|
|Photograph of the School District #5 (Greens Corners) schoolhouse, taken in 1996. The school closed in 1946. Historian and caretaker Adrienne Karis has led the effort to restore and preserve this classic one-room schoolhouse, which is open to the public for tours. More information about the schoolhouse and about arranging a visit can be found at www.townofglenville.org/Public_Documents/GlenvilleNY_Historian/index. Photo from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection.|