New Teacher for 1912-13 School Year

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, May 7, 1912: Went uptown to have my dress fitted this afternoon. The future teacher of the M.H.S. was elected last evening. He was up in the high school yesterday at noon. He is rather stubby, inclined to be stout and has yellow hair. Such I took in at a glance. I wonder what he will be like. Ahem.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Whew, McEwensville High School sure went through the teachers.  In February, 1912 a teacher resigned and was replaced by another teacher, Forest Dunkle.  In the previous day’s diary entry about the last day of school, Grandma mentioned Mr. Dunkle; but hadn’t indicated that he was quitting.According to The History of the McEwensville Schools by Thomas Kramm:

The high teacher turnover rate, especially at the High School prior to 1916 resulted in a new teacher almost every year. At least one teacher, and perhaps more, would not return to teach the following year because the school board refused to increase the teacher’s salary.

The book also indicated that the new teacher’s name was Bruce Bloom—and that he taught at McEwensville High School for just one year, 1912-1913. Hopefully Grandma will like Mr. Bloom and have a good senior year.

School Year Was Shorter in 1912

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Wednesday, April 17, 1912: At last I have managed to get a subject that I think will suit me. I read it over this evening. It was very interesting to read.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

The previous day Grandma wrote that she was trying to find a topic for a presentation on the upcoming last day of school. What was the interesting subject that Grandma came up with?  I wonder what types of topics were considered appropriate back then.

The school year was shorter a hundred years ago—and length varied a lot between one school and the next.  For example, the school year at the one-room school-house where Grandma’s sister Ruth taught ended on March 27.



Schools in the rural districts of Northumberland county are closing for the vacation of several months, and will not resume until the fall. In the rural districts many of these schools closed this week, and the various teachers will be seeking employment elsewhere until time shall travel over a course of perhaps several months, when they will be found behind the teacher’s desk, instructing young minds and in some cases wielding the rod, urging some tardy loiterer along the paths of knowledge.

Seven months is the average school term in the rural districts, and at the close of March and the beginning of April the school boy looks for the close of the school, and incidentally helps his father in the preparation of the soil for the planting of the crops.

Milton Evening Standard (April 6, 1912)

A Dry Book About the Doings of the Greeks

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Friday, April 12, 1912:  It rained this afternoon. I got rather wet coming home from school this evening. I’ve started to digest a dry book about the doings of the Greeks.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

What book was Grandma reading? This diary entry sent me searching for an old book on the Greeks.

I found a dry –I want to call it mind-numbing–book called Greek and Roman Civilization by Fred Morrow Fling, Ph.D. that was published in 1902.

Amazingly on the inside cover there was a stamp which indicated that it once had been in a public school library (though the library was in the wrong state). But  it provides an indication of the types of books that were in high school libraries years ago.

No. 1800           Price _____

Public School Library

Dawson, Minn.

Library Rules– No person shall have more than one book at a time, nor keep that more than two week, and if kept longer a fine of five cents shall be imposed.

If a book is lost or injured, the price of the book or set shall be charged.

Here’s how Chapter 1 begins:


Homer probably never lived, and the Iliad is evidently a national product, not composed by one man at one time, but by many men at different times. As a record of the Trojan War, the poem has practically no value. Its real value to the student of history is due to the fact that it unconsciously reveals to us the manners and customs of the age in which it was composed. While the imagination may construct wholes that are not really, the real elements with which the poet or novelist works are drawn from experience. It is possible, then, for the historian to sift out these elements and make use of them. . .

Read Evangeline

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Wednesday, March 27, 1912: I read Evangeline today and found it very interesting. This was the last day of Ruth’s school term. She has so many things mapped out to do, but whether they will ever be accomplished I cannot tell.

Statue of Evangeline, Nova Scotia, Canada (Source: Wikipedia)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Evangeline is an epic poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow that tells the story of an Acadian girl named Evangeline who was separated from her beloved Gabriel by circumstances beyond their control. Evangeline traveled throughout America in search of him. After years of searching she finally found him when he was gravely ill and he died in her arms.

You can find the entire poem on the University of Virginia Library’s website.


Grandma’s sister Ruth was a teacher at one of the one-room schoolhouses near McEwensville. It sounds like this was the last day of the school year for that school. I suppose that the children were needed at home to help with the spring planning. It’s amazing how short the school year once was at some schools.

Hilarious Old Song: Never Make Love in a Buggy

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Friday, March 22, 1912:We had some of those recitations repeated this afternoon, but fortunately I wasn’t called upon to say mine. After this was over, we wound up by singing a laughable song.

Potatoes with eyes (sprouts). Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

What was the hilarious song? An old-time silly song we used to sing when I was a child was Never Make Love in a Buggy. It seems like the sort of song that teens might have enjoyed.

Never Make Love in a Buggy

Never make love in a buggy,

While riding along in the moonlight.

You better be wise,

Potatoes have eyes,

You’re watched from the orchard

By great Northern Spies.

The corn having ears

It might hear you.

While riding o’er hills and dales,

So never make love in a buggy,

For horses carry tails.

Northern Spies refers to an old apple variety.


I’ve previously written about the role of recitations in schools (see Pros and Cons of Recitation as a Teaching Method). But, this entry provided another bit of information. Apparently all students were required to memorize a recitation, but only some actually had to recite.

Improved “Deportment”

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, March 19, 1912:  We got our report cards to day. It seems to me he marks rather hard in some things. I got my marks raised by two points in deportment, but I don’t see as I’ve improved any in that direction since last month. He was up to visit our school today. 

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

I’m surprised that high school students received grades in “deportment” a hundred years ago.

According to The Free Dictionary, deportment means “the manner in which a person behaves.”  At least the teacher apparently was pleased with Grandma’s behavior.

A few days before Grandma received her February report card she’d gotten a new teacher. The old one had quit mid-year. He caught her cheating shortly before he quit. I wonder if her February deportment grade had been affected by that incident—and if her grade had gone up in March because there were no more cheating incidents.

Shift From Classical High Schools to Modern 4-Year Ones

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Thursday, March 14, 1912: I wrote out the meaning of that wonderful poem today. I hope I have it as it should be. Am coming to some terrible hard propositions in geometry. The one we have for tomorrow seems so hard for me.

Recent photo of building that once housed McEwensville High School.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Did Grandma’s high school courses prepare her for the life she lived?

Grandma attended McEwensville High School—a small classical 3- year high school.  She studied geometry (and Latin)—and literature. Grandma did not go to college—and never had a career.

In the early 1900’s there was a lot of discussion about whether a classical high school education met the needs of some students.

About five miles from McEwensville a modern high was being built in Milton. There was a movement towards larger 4-year general high schools that offered a wider range of courses and different tracks (commercial, home economics, etc.).

Over the next few years, more students from McEwensville attended the more modern high school in Milton (as well as the high school in Watsontown). And, in 1921, McEwensville high school closed because of lack of students.

(The building continued to house an elementary school until 1958.)


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