Approximately 50 people turned out to hear and share tales of attending some of Ledyard’s one-room schoolhouses that were scattered around town until 1948 when all the districts were consolidated.
Attendees shared memories of going to school extra early to start the fire and fetch drinking water and people remembered how teachers separated the girls from boys on the playground.
Dale Treadway remembers his school teacher, Miss. Capone, who had students divide the playground in half with a line of rocks. He said if a girl was caught on the boys’ side, she had to wear a tie but if a boy was caught on the girls’ side he had to carry around a doll.
“It was really embarrassing for us,” he said remembering that he did have to carry a doll at least once. “It was the third degree.”
The forum was held by the Historical Society with the intention of capturing an oral history of the bygone era of one-room schoolhouses. But, some things strike a strong resemblance to the way things are done today.
Each school had a school society that would hold fundraisers for school supplies like globes, rulers, etc.
“The PTO is not a new invention,” said Kit Foster, the town historian and president of the Historical Society. “The concept has been around as long as we’ve had schools.”
Students went to school from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and “we never ever had snow days,” said Betty Perkins Lattin.
“We all kind of taught each other and I think that’s why we had such a good education because we had everything down pat by the time we got to our grade,” she said. “Everybody would either do their own work or help each other.”
Dave Holdridge, who went to the first grade at the Geer Hill schoolhouse for one year before the districts consolidated, said the one-room learning environment exemplified what is being taught in teaching schools today such as collaborative learning and individualized programming. .
Lester Frye graduated in 1932 from the Cider Hill school. He was one of the students who had to fetch a five-gallon bucket of water before school. He said everyone drank from the same bucket of water with the same dipper and, “we all survived.”
Former mayor Fred Allyn attended the Morgan Gallup school for a couple years before the schools consolidated and said his first year there were “11 boys and no girls, and boys ruled.”
Allyn also brought his mother’s graduation card from 1928, which stated that 12 students graduated on June 6.
People in the room seemed to agree that female teachers were paid $15.00 to $20.00 a month plus room and board, which was about two-thirds that of a male teacher’s salary.
The 14 schoolhouses were located in the following districts:
- District 1 was the Long Cove school and it is a business office now.
- District 2 was in Gales Ferry on Hurlbutt Road. It was replaced by a two-room schoolhouse, which still stands next to the Gales Ferry library.
- District 3 was the Avery school and it is gone.
- District 4 is the Geer Hill school located at the bottom of Geer Hill and is still there.
- District 5 is on Meetinghouse Hill and still stands next the Ledyard Fairgrounds.
- District 6 is on Church Hill Road still and stands as a private residence.
- District 7 is on Cider Hill and still stands as a private residence.
- District 8 was called the Morgan-Gallup and was located on what is now an athletic field at the high school. The building still exists, it was moved to Groton a\
- District 9 is called Unionville and stands as a private residence
- District 10, was the Lester school and is gone.
- District 11, was the Lamb school and it is gone.
- District 12, was the Gallup Hill school and it is gone.
- District 13, was the Stoddard school and it is a private residence.District 14, was Lantern Hill and it is a private residence.
The town voted to form a school committee in 1910, which eventually became the current-day Board of Education and in the late 1940s, Ledyard consolidated all the districts and all students went to Ledyard Center School for some time before the high school and elementary schools were built.
Three of the old schoolhouses are preserved and can be toured by the public. The Historical Society will grant tours upon request and the Geer Hill school offers an open house each fall, complete with a reenactment of school day activities and lessons.
It’s like a mini-Sturbridge Village in our own town, which I think is pretty special, said Mary Holdridge Foltz, an alum of the Geer Hill school.