As the Greece kid of 1911 were headed for the first day of school It doubtful if they were singing a popular song of the day, “School Days”. The refrain asks one to “take a trip on memory’s ship back to the bygone days” – “sail to the old village school… The chorus follow after a few more lines with “School days, school days, dear old golden rule days” -“readin’ and ‘ritin’ and ‘rithmetic – taught to the tune of a hickory stick”.
The cover for the sheet music “School Days” by Cobb & Edwards.
Already the small, sometimes cramped, one room school was seen as an object of noatollga. But the one or two room school was still thenorm for Greece. In the late 19th century Greece had almost nineteen seperate school districts, each with one school. The village of Charlotte had a two story brick grammar school built In the 1870’s and a new high school had been opened in 1908.
A four-year high school education was not what a farm child would expect. Eight grades were considered enough with perhaps two years of further education. Farm boys often went right from the eighth grade to work on the farm or employment with the ever-expanding company on Lake Avenue at Ridge Road, The Eastman Kodak Company. The extra income helped the farm family to survive The teachers, usually, women, were sometimes hard to supply for still rural sections of Greece. She taught all eight grades unless the school was a newer two-room building. Then two teachers would split the grades between them. It was expected a teacher would leave her position if she married. In addition to the three “R’s” of what was considered the basics in the 19th century, there was added Geography, English grammar, world, national and local history. Several of the early one-room schools were replaced with four or six-room schools, and they often had central heat plus electric lighting. Gone were the coal stove In the center of the room and a few wall-bracket Kerosene lamps.
Though it was evident that larger and more adequate schools were needed It took another almost twenty years before the start of consolidating school districts began in Greece. By World War Two few of the old district schools were left. The last few were gone by the early 1950s.
Our museum exhibit of a mall one room school gives a fair approximation of a school room of the early 1900’s. You brought your lunch and ate at your desk or outdoors. Drinking water was from a nearby well. The privy was well away from the well and the school. The long desks with several students In a row on a long bench had given away to the Improved individual desks by the 1900″s. Sports, were usually simple games, or a rude baseball diamond was fashioned on a plot of relatively flat ground. Each district school had textbooks and a small library. These were the property of the district. Writing on or defacing a book was not tolerated and parents were often assessed for such damage.
Some of the venerable school building were converted long ago to business or private dwellings, while others just vanished. Few Greece resident’s of today can boast that they attended a small village school of fewer than four rooms.
Photos, Data supplied by Alan Mueller, Greece Historian’s Office, Greece Historical Society. A full look at the Common School Districts of Greece New York is now available to look at in the following two Bicentennial Snapshots: