Pacheo School

Pacheco School, near Redding. Photo copyright by the Shasta Historic Society, taken after the building had been abandoned for new facilities. Gratefully used by permission.

“We now have four going to school,” wrote Julia Erhardt to her friend in Iowa on March 29, 1913. “Dan, Jr. does not go any more, while Lily is not old enough. It’s nice to have some of them at home, and Lily and the baby (Clara) are so much company for each other now since the little one can talk. Their dad hauled up a pile of sand for them to play in and they enjoy it so much. The others enjoy going to school as much. They have 2 miles to walk but that does not seem to hurt them any, and they bring home good reports, so I am satisfied. They all brought home cards the other day and every one had an excellent mark the whole way down the three quarters, except in drawing, where they had ‘good.’”

The one-room school building, located on a gravelly plot of ground, donated by a local farmer, was preceded by holding school in a remodeled barn in which the hogs slept at night and which had to be cleaned every morning by the janitor who was one of the pupils. Prior to that, school was held in the homes of the parents of the pupils. The teacher then boarded with various families, one week at a time, and school would be held where she or he was boarding, moving on to the next home the next week. In our time, the teacher roomed and boarded with the same farm family throughout the school year.

Pacheco School location

Pacheco School Location

The schoolhouse was built in 1883 and it was large enough for as many as 40 students in one big room for all nine grades, which included part of the first year of high school. The pupils had individual desks with lids that opened to a compartment for books, paper, pencils, pen, and each had a sunken inkwell. Many a girl student had her long braids “accidentally” soaked in the inkwell of the boy seated behind her. The room was heated by a wood stove, the teacher designating certain boys to keep the wood supply on hand and to stoke the fire.

There were two front entrances to the building and at each entrance was a place to hang coats, to set lunch pails, and on one side a place for the bucket of drinking water. We all used the same cup. Later a teacher with “modern” ideas arranged that we each have our own tin cup from which to drink. That same teacher, a Mrs. Thatcher, introduced exercising in concert with windows wide open, once in mid-morning and once in mid-afternoon, even though many in the community believed their children had ample fresh air and exercise walking to and from school, recess play, and home chores.

Mrs. Thatcher’s successor, one Miss Logan, introduced the idea of one hot dish each day. The older girls in turn were appointed cook for a day. After the cook consulted with her mother as to what dish to make, it was determined how much of each ingredient was required and the teacher would announce what each child should bring. I made escalloped potatoes one time for which each student brought a potato and several brought an onion. The teacher said she knew I was peeling onions because she could see my ears wriggling. Another time I made a steam pudding, but I no longer recall the ingredients. The cooking was done, of course, on the potbellied heat stove. We used tin cups for plates, but I don’t remember what we did for forks or spoons.

The games we played at school were simple, as were those played at home: anteover, dare base, baseball, jump rope, marbles, mumbley peg.  By the time I reached the 8th grade, there were only eighteen children in all grades combined. Three of us were in the 8th grade. Almost always everyone played together rather than separating into age or class groups. The baseball bat more often than not was made from a tree limb or was just a board. The balls were homemade: a bit of sponge in the center, tightly wound with string or twine of some kind. At home we raveled out what was left of worn-out socks to have twine for making the ball.

The school had two holidays which were celebrated: Christmas and the Last Day of School. For Christmas we all learned appropriate poems, Christmas carols, and acted out short Christmas skits. I remember being outfitted with angel wings for one skit. The audience was the entire community. The older boys or the school trustees would provide a tall cedar tree which they had cut somewhere in the forest. The older students would decorate it with lovely decorations brought from home for the occasion, including popcorn and cranberry ropes. The tree was covered with dozens of wax candles which, when lit, were watched very carefully lest a fire occur. The trustees always had a pail or two of water handy should that happen. My early teachers always had a small gift for each of the students; I still have a little red celluloid bracelet that my first teacher gave to me.

More often than not, our parents would bring the school tree home for the family Christmas observance, which we celebrated either on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning depending upon when the older children could be at home. We younger ones believed in Santa Claus but we accepted with delight the fact that Santa Claus was make believe; now we were in on the secret! We never confused Santa Claus with the religious aspect of Christmas.

The “Last Day of School” was a day we all looked forward to. School was out by noon and then we tackled the gallons of ice cream made by the local people right there on the school porch. A trustee would make a special trip to town for the ice. The women of the district provided the eggs, milk, cream, sugar, etc., and the school boys took turns turning the paddle.  Was it ever good!

Education was basic: reading, writing, arithmetic. Memorizing the rules was important. We also studied history, geography, literature, spelling and writing. English derivatives were important because they helped us to understand words. After lunch the teacher would read a chapter from some interesting book as a means of quieting us down after the luncheon hour.

My mother wrote to her chum on June 27, 1916:

Willie (Bill) is almost a young man, but has yet 2 years of grammar school; Ed and Lily did well in their studies. Lily was ready for the 2nd grade when she started to school and after 2 years is ready for the 5th grade. Last year each one was at the head of his or her class. This year they all were, except Lily. But her average was with the best, tho’ she is 2 years ahead of her grade.”

I was ahead because my sister Lonie was planning to be a teacher and I was a likely pupil with whom to start. She taught me just as she heard the first grade taught in the one-room school house. What I remember most about that time is the night the teacher, Ethel Jackson, stayed overnight at our house. In my Canadian primer was a poem about a little fir tree. I could never remember the word “fir.” Miss Jackson would prompt me by saying the word “fir,” but since she was a Bostonian with a Boston accent, it sounded like “fuh” to me. She would say “fuh.” I would say “fuh” and she would say “no, say fuh.”

Music, too, had its place in our little school even though sometimes no one knew how to play the pedal organ sitting at the side of the room. We sang in unison many of the secular and patriotic songs of the times. One year baby Brown died and his parents requested the school children sing at the funeral. I recall this funeral because we were learning first-hand something about death.

The entire school spent most of the day before the funeral learning to sing two hymns without organ accompaniment: “Abide With He” and “God Be With You Til We Meet Again.” We gathered at the gravesite and sang as the men lowered the casket into the grave which they had dug earlier, and continued until the hole had been completely filled with dirt and the few flowers placed on top.

The family suffered from the anti-German sentiment of the neighbors, even though they had a son and uncle serving as soldiers, and did all they could to help support the soldiers, display the service flag, etc. It resulted in the family having to stay away from school for days at a time in 1917.

Sources

The above was adapted from Lily Quarnberg's Autobiography. The Erhardt children attended school at the Pachecho School from 1910-1920.