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 school 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.)

Geometry: Definition of a Point

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

Monday, March 11, 1912:  I heave a sigh of relief when I think examinations are past for this month. I have my doubts about what I will get in geometry.


Assumption I. If point A, B, C are in the order {ABD} they are distinct.

Assumption II. If points A, B, C are in the order {ABC} they are not in order {BCA}.

Modern Mathematics (1911), Edited by J.W.A. Young

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

I suppose that Grandma had to do some proofs in geometry. Do students do proofs any more in high school? I get a head-ache just thinking about them.

Here’s the definition of a point in a hundred –year-old mathematics book. It was the first term defined in the book. (I assume that Grandma’s examination was on something more complicated—but I enjoyed reading this definition.)

In geometry a great many technical terms are defined, and each is defined in terms of others. Hence at the beginning of a book on geometry at least one term must be undefined; otherwise the book would have no beginning. We have to leave the undefined term point.

This implies that the reader is free to carry in his mind any image of a point which he can reconcile with what is said about it. We may try to import a notion of our image of a point by saying it has no length, breadth, or thickness, or by like phrases, but these are no part of our book on geometry; they have nothing to do with the logical steps by which the theorems are derived.

Modern Mathematics (1911), Edited by J.W.A. Young

Teachers’ Institute

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

Saturday, March 2, 1912:  Well I really think I worked pretty good today. I put things in order and washed up and a lot more that comes under Saturday duties .Ruth was up to Turbotville attending Teachers’ Institute so you see I had to be busy. Tweet is here this evening.

Recent photo of Turbotville Community Hall. The building was once a high school and the Teachers' Institute probably was held here.

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

Grandma’s 20-year-old sister Ruth was a teacher at one of the one-room schoolhouses near McEwensville. Ruth had graduated the previous spring from high school and immediately got a teaching position.

A hundred years ago teachers weren’t required to attend college, though they had to pass tests in various content areas.  The Saturday teachers’ institute would have provided training and professional development.  And, it would have been a wonderful opportunity for the teachers in scattered isolated schools to gather, compare notes, and provide support for one another.

Tweet refers to Helen Wesner. She was a friend of Grandma and Ruth.

1912: Also a Leap Year

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

Thursday, February 29, 1912:  I was quite conscious of the fact that this comes only once in four years. This day I mean. We had a visitor at school today. Two I may say. One was the county superintendent. By good luck he wasn’t there, when we had a hard study to go through.

A hundred years ago the country superintendent probably came down this road with a horse and buggy as he entered the McEwensville. The road wasn't paved back then.

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

It’s interesting that it was also a leap year a hundred years ago. (If I had thought about it, I would have been able to easily figure out that both years were leap years, but somehow I was surprised.)

I wish that I had a better understanding of how school systems were organized in 1912. Then, as now, the state was responsible for public education.

Counties were the intermediary unit between the state and the schools a hundred years ago in Pennsylvania. There were not large school districts back then. Many of the consolidated districts—including the Warrior Run School District that now includes McEwensville— were formed in the 1950s.

The superintendent of schools for the county probably visited McEwensville High School because of the mid-year change in teachers.  McEwensville High School got a new teacher just ten days prior to the writing of this entry. The superintendent probably came to see how the new teacher was doing. I hope that he passed with flying colors!

School Had Financial Problems

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

Sunday, February 18, 1912:  Went to Sunday School this afternoon. The roads are rather muddy. Went over to see Carrie this afternoon. I mean I went to Sunday School this morning. I wonder what will happen tomorrow at school I just wonder if Mr. Forest Dunkel (that’s his name) is going to be stern and terrible.

Grandma would have walked down this road to church--EXCEPT in those days it wasn't paved.

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

Forest Dunkel was going to be the new teacher at McEwensville High School. The previous teacher had quit mid-year.

As I told you several days ago, McEwensville School had a difficult time keeping teachers because of the low teacher salary. Here’s a little more information about the school’s financial problems:

Sometimes the school board was unable to pay the teachers at the appropriate time and could do so only when there was again enough money in the treasury. The McEwensville school board had difficulty collecting tuitions due from the directors for pupils attending from Delaware Township. At one time McEwensville even considered going to court to collect these monies, but concluded that it would not be worth the legal expense involved.

The History of the McEwensville Schools (2000)  by Thomas Kramm

Grandma’s family lived in Delaware Township, so she would have been one of the students that the school was having difficulty getting the township to pay for in a timely manner.

Carrie Stout was a friend of Grandma’s who lived on a nearby farm.