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Wells School

Wells School was in Clay Co, IL, but, sat on the county line of Clay and Wayne Counties. It served students of both counties. The Wells cemetery is a quarter mile south of this school. Today, there is no trace of this school.

Please note that the essay, "A One Room School in Southern Illinois" (Below) is copyrighted by me. However, copy permission is given to those who are searching material about the past and their families for non-profit uses. Jim Mading

Wells School, Clay Co, IL, 1943-1944
Wells School 1943

Front row: Orpha Mading, Barbara Osborne, Ginger Osborne
Back row: Jim mading, Bob Hough, Ronnie Hough

Wells School;  1946-1947
Wells School; 1946-1947

Front row: __?__ Evans, Patsy Walker, Reveta Hosselton, Orpha Mading, Rex Bates

2nd row: Woody Rosborough, Jim Mading, Danny Walker

3rd row: Garry Rosborough, __?__, Glen Zimmerman (Teacher), Harry Rosborough.

The unknown in the 3rd row may be Dean Bates or Glen's son, Larry Zimmerman.

Date: Copyright June 30, 1997, Jim Mading
Rev. 1: Feb. 18, 2005
Rev. 2: Jan. 21, 2007
Rev. 3: Aug. 30, 2007
Rev. 4: Jan. 14, 2008

A One Room School in Southern Illinois
My memories of Wells School, District 181, Clay County, IL
by Jim Mading

I attended Wells School, a one-room school, for grades 1 through 8 beginning in September 1942 and graduated at the end of April 1950. This school remained open for 1 or 2 more years, and then was closed. The 1-acre school ground was returned to the farmer who owned the other 39 acres.

The Wells School building was in Clay County, but it sat on the county line between Clay and Wayne Counties. This school served students of both counties. The Wells Cemetery (in Wayne Co.) is located 1/4 mile south of this school. At date of 19 Feb 2005, no trace of this school remained.

One peculiar aspect about the "section" of land that contained the school is that it was oversized as defined by roads. It measures 1.25 miles E-W by 1 mile N-S. The road jogs 1/4 mile to the west of the school, then continues north. I'm assuming that the surveyors did this to move the road out of the bottomlands of the Little Wabash River, and to meet the Wilcox Bridge over this river. A flood plain of the river is 1.25 miles directly north of the Wells School.

After this school was closed and during the final days of its structure, 1 or 2 of its west facing, double hung, sash counter weighted windows were knocked out and the building was used to temporarily store corn. I was saddened when I viewed this scene, although it had been 47 years since I last occupied a wood desk in that room; The desk had an ink well, a groove for holding pencils, and a hinged top to permit access to the storage compartment underneath the desk top. The side frames were cast iron with a surplus of ogee curves simulating a wrought iron creation. These desks came in several sizes. Typically, a row of desks was made by fastening the feet to a pair of 1-inch thick strips of wood. This entire row could be scooted around as one unit for floor sweeping and rearrangements. About 3 to 6 such units were in the room.

The smaller desks were put in front with the largest one at the rear. Presumable, this was done to position the taller students at the rear so as not to impede eye contact between the teacher and students. Also, this placed the younger, and more distractible, students in front supposedly to reduce their distractions. We students saw it differently. It was more like "rank has its privileges". The first graders recognized that this arrangement put the bullies and hair pullers at their backs - Not a secure feeling. It paid if you had an older, protective sibling who was positioned to view your back. He/she could be your ally in case of dispute, or who could "even the score" after school.

The seating arrangement included a recitation bench. This bench sat in front of room and before the teacher's desk. It was used to bring forward all students in one particular class for a review and lesson, for example, 6th grade grammar. That bench met its demise when one teacher decided he didn't like the bench and threw it out (how silly). We boys took it apart. The seat and back made a dandy ramp for jumping our bicycles. Just think what an antique that would have made today. The seat and back were solid oak and shaped with curves to fit the sitter's anatomy. The end frames matched the desks, and the seat would fold up the same as the student desks. I believe that it would seat about 5 persons. (I can picture someone lugging such a bench into the Antiques Road Show. These recitation seats are more rare than students desks of that period because there were only one of these per school room, and some schools may not have had any.)

Wells School was of standard design (for this region) with large west facing windows lining most of that wall, and those were the principal source of light and ventilation. The north and east walls were lined with real slate blackboards. Each week, one of the students was assigned the chore of cleaning the erasers by taking them outside and beating them together. No thought was given to how much chalk dust one might inhale. We soon learned to stand upwind! High on the east wall was the octagon shaped Thomas school clock, a spring driven, pendulum-regulated affair. If you watched it closely, you could detect an imperceptible movement of the minute hand with each swing of the pendulum.

The east wall space was completed with the "Library". This library was a vertical steel case, dual door, cabinet that held the entire stock of resource and reading materials. Other than our text books, this cabinet held our view to the outside world. We did not travel much; there were no television, electricity; or telephone. A few families may have subscribed to a newspaper, but there were no newspapers at the school. A few families had a radio (vacuum tube, battery operated). Book selections included, "Uncle Remus", "The Yearling", "Little Men", "Little Women", Greek Mythology stories, a set of encyclopedias, and a few more fiction titles, just enough to comply with our book reading and reporting requirement.

Also stored in this cabinet was the FIRST AID KIT. For many of us, this was the first time that we had seen first aid supplies all neatly stored in one box. One item in this box stands out in my memory and that was a little bottle of Mercurochrome, and its ability to produce an indelible red-orange stain. (Later, medical advisors declared Mercurochrome as hazardous and it has been banned from first aid kits.)

Two small rooms flanked the entryway. These were the "cloak rooms", one for the boys and the other for the girls. Since we had a small student body at Wells, Teachers chose to use one of these rooms for coats, boots, and lunch boxes, and the other room for the wash room and supplies. The washroom was equipped with a pail of water, a wash pan, a bar of soap, washcloths and towels. This bar of soap could also be used to "wash out a students mouth" if he spouted too many bad words or sassed the Teacher. (It tasted awful. The taste could last 10 minutes or more!) I don't remember much about how many sets of washcloths and towels that were present - I believe there was only one set out at a time. We weren't much inclined to wash much unless we fell down got our face muddy. Water came from a well equipped with a concrete cap and hand pump. South of the well in the fencerow, tulips had been planted and these came up each spring to add some color to an otherwise bland landscape. Several mature trees dotted the school ground.

Two pit style outhouses completed the hygiene equipment. A cinder path ran to each outhouse. The source of cinder (and ash) came from the stove that stood in the northeast corner of the schoolroom. (As you may recall, this was the corner without windows.) This monster stove could burn either coal or wood. It was surrounded with a galvanized shroud spaced about 1 foot from the fire pot. This shroud saved several students from burns during rough housing that occurred during the winter time noon hours. It was the teacher's job to arrive early on winter mornings to start or revive the fire. On many occasions in mid-winter, the room would not warm to a comfortable temperature until mid-morning.

There was no insulation in the walls. The wall construction was clapboard, sheeting, stud space, and then lath and plaster, plus several coats of paint. The tongue and groove, hardwood wood floor was not insulated either. The west windows had no storm coverings and were a source of large heat losses. A woven, heavy wire, grill was over the outside of the windows (akin to a Century wire fence). These grills saved the windows several times from errant balls and storm debris.

Lightening rods sat along the roof peak and were wired to grounding rods.

Coal was stored in a shed outside the schoolhouse. In the years when the school board bought a better grade of hard coal, we students searched the coal heap for pieces of slate and an occasional fossil.

A piece of cheese dropped onto the firepot would stink up the place - all the better if it were limburger.

A school year was only 8 months beginning the first of September and closing at the end of April. Major holidays were Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, and Easter. The Christmas holiday spanned only one week. The students were dismissed for 2 other days to accommodate Teacher's conferences.

A typical school day began at 8:00 am, 15 min recess at 10:00, lunch from 12:00 to 1:00 pm, 15 min recess at 2:30 and ended at 4:30pm. If the teacher found that more time was needed, an earlier start time would be employed.

Personal hygiene was sparse. Most of the farmhouses in the school district had been built before World War 1, and these did not have bathrooms or running water. Plumbing would become an added feature after the arrival of electric service. An outhouse (privy) was standard equipment. If your home was upscale, you had two privies.

At our house, we took a bath once a week on Saturday night so we’d be fresh for church the next morning. Our bathing equipment consisted of a no. 3 washtub behind the kitchen stove. We had to be mindful not to touch the hot stove. Hot water came from kettles on the stovetop and a 5-gallon reservoir built into the end of the kitchen stove. In summer, it was a bit easier, and we bathed more frequently. When we came in from the fields all sweaty from the day’s labor, we’d grab our “cut-offs” (old jeans with legs cut off) and head for the river nearby. Our favorite swimming hole was only a quarter of a mile from our house – very convenient we thought and a wonderful way to cool down.

The condition of that stream has changed. In the 1940s, its water was clear for much of the summer and clouded only after a rain and would clear again in a couple of days. By year 2005, that stream had high turbidity for long periods of time and was not fit for swimming. The watershed runoff contained more chemicals and contaminants. Its mud content signals increased land erosion. Possibly, there is more bottom feeding fish that are stirring the settled bed mud. Also, effluent from aging upstream sewerage treatment plants may be questionable. Thick algae blooms are now common by midsummer.

I was supposed to change underwear every day, but sometimes I’d wear the same pieces for two days. In the fall with the arrival of the first frost, we switched from briefs to long johns.

Dairy feed came in cotton print sacks. Once the sack was emptied and washed, mother would turn these print sacks into articles of clothing, utility pieces, or work these into quilts. She was handy with a foot treadle powered sewing machine. It was a scramble at the feed store to get as many matching sacks as possible. From these sacks, mother made many dresses for my sister and herself, and a few shirts for me.

During the early part of World War 2, we began our school day with the 'Pledge of Allegiance', an action that would bring out the lawyers today. A US flag and a picture of George Washington were standard decorations. In Illinois, a picture of Lincoln was a popular addition as well. A hand bell sat on the teacher's desk.

The outbreak of WW 2 had an impact on Wells School. The United States entered the war full scale following the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. The community had not fully recovered from the 'Great Depression' of the 1930's. Some sharecroppers and farm renters were present. In the fall of 1941, Wells School had approximately 12 students. The next year, I entered the first grade beginning Sept. 1942. At the beginning of the following school year in 1943, there were only 2 students, my sister and myself. Farm renters had rushed to the cities to war driven jobs. It was an opportunity for them to finally shake off the shackles of the Depression. The rural population was reduced overnight. Many able bodied young men were drafted into the armed services. Sugar, coffee, spices, automobile tires, gasoline, and many other commodities were rationed. However, popcorn was not rationed.

No automobiles were manufactured for sale to the public during the war. Folks made do with what they had in 1941. The speed limit on national highways was as low as 45 miles per hour. Trains and Greyhound buses were favorite modes of travel for distances over 10 miles. In 1943, steel replaced copper in pennies. The countryside was scoured for scrap iron. After the second scrap drive, there was very little spare metal left on farms.

Because there were only two students, my sister and me, for September 1943, the school board wanted to close the school for one year. They planned to open it again a year later when there would be more students. My mother prevailed upon the board not to close the school, as it would interrupt our education and delay our graduation from high school by one year. She argued that such a price was too high for her children. (She had only a 6th grade education herself and had recognized the value of completing education through high school.) The school board found a new, young teacher to be, Miss Evelyn Holmes, who had completed her class work but was not fully certified since she needed to intern a teaching session. The County Superintendent of Schools certified our schoolwork that year and was the overseer of Miss Holmes. The graded final exams were submitted to his office with the proposed grades for the year. That year, the County Superintendent certified our grades and signed our final report cards. I think that we must have been the only students in the county that year whose report cards were signed by the County Superintendent of Schools. I have kept this unusual report card.

My second grade year (1943-1944) was the best school year that I have ever had. My sister and I had essentially a private tutor, and we enjoyed it. Near the end of the school year, the teacher took my sister, our mother, and me to town to view a popular movie. It was a Walt Disney creation mixing cartoons with live actors, a first. It was the first time that I had ever seen a movie; It was exciting and I got a headache because I could perceive the flicker between frames.

The end of the school year marked the earliest time when my sister and I might go barefoot, although it was advisable to wait another month. The weather is fickle at this time of year. There is yet one cool period before the heat of summer sets in. This period is known as "Black Berry Winter". It happens almost without fail. When the black berries bloom just before first of June, a cold wave appears with temperatures as low as 40 F for a day or two, and then the summer heat turns on for the remainder of the season.

Going barefoot requires a “break in” period. After wearing shoes since last September, the soles of our feet were too tender to endure a lengthy period of bare feet. Our first out-of-shoe experience was to walk in the new grass in our lawn and rejoice to its feel. We’d spend about one to two hours barefoot for the first day. Each day the time would be lengthened until barefoot was the norm and shoes were used only as necessary. Going barefoot is not comfortable until thick calluses develop on the soles of the feet. I marvel that we did not get more foot injuries than we did. One year, we did get a case of pinworms from walking barefoot in the chicken yard.

Over a two-year period, I caught and survived the measles, mumps, and whooping cough. Not long afterward, the county began an immunization program for school children. The measles and whooping cough were debilitating. Each required most of a summer to fully recover.

Our favorite toys (at school) were cap pistols fashioned after those that our comic book heroes wore, tops spun by a string (this required great skill else one could sling a top through a window or whap someone), paper airplanes, marbles, and a softball and bat. We played Andy Over, Fox and Goose, Dodge Ball, and Hide-and-Seek, and built snow forts. There were Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations to be made, and then home made valentines and Easter eggs to dye. In spring, we watched frog eggs hatch in a jar on the windowsill. Our heroes were Tom Mix, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Sky King, Captain Midnight, and Superman.

Recall the boy’s privy? As luck would have it, a sizeable American elm tree grew at some distance behind that convenience. One year, a branch of that tree was barely reachable from the roof of the privy. We boys climbed to the roof and leaned out to grasp the branch just before toppling over, then with a whoop and a daring grab, we’d be on our way swinging as Tarzan® of the jungle.

A favorite brand of bicycle was Schwinn if you could afford one. A bike had one speed, and a coaster brake. Other options were imaginary. The stores in Clay City began stocking new bicycles after the close of the war. I don’t recall seeing new bikes in these stores during the war.

When the roads thawed out in February, and if the roadway was only thinly covered with gravel, that southern Illinois clay would jam between the tire and fender rendering a bicycle useless. In fact, it took more effort to ride a bike on a muddy road than to walk, so on those days, the bike stayed home, plus the fact it threw mud all over your feet and legs anyway. It was no good in snow either. And if you really wanted to get hurt, try riding one after an ice storm! After the roads were adequately graveled, we had to use care to avoid spills in the loose gravel. A bicycle was a fair weather machine at best to we farm folks.

We took comic books to school, not to peek at during class, but to trade. A comic book could be traded 2 times in a week thus tripling quantity per money spent

Everyone, including the teacher, brought a lunch and snacks in a lunch box - no brown paper bags. Some were equipped with thermos bottles, which could be a problem. Take a tumble or hit someone with your lunch pail and the fragile glass thermos liner was broken with its contents leaking into the lunch pail. The contents of the box varied widely. Those whose parents had some money to spare for prepared foods had the fancier sandwiches and desserts. I remember when times were lean at our house; my sandwiches might be navy beans and/or salt pork between two slices of homemade bread. In the fall, fresh fruit from our orchard was included, but as winter approached, fresh fruit disappeared from the lunch box. Oranges at Christmas Time was a treat. There were no plastic bags, no "zip locks"; wax paper and butcher paper were the medium of the day.

Without refrigerators and deep freezers, the winter food menu was restricted to that of 1900. Meat was butchered and cured in late fall after freezes began. It was hung in an outside shed. Potatoes were stored in a “potato hill”, a conical mound of dirt in the garden. Its construction was simple, but certain features were critical for keeping potatoes all winter. (I know how to construct one.) Our potato hill might begin to fail about mid-March. A majority of our food, other than cured meat and an occasional freshly killed chicken, came from home canned jars ‘put by’ last summer and freshly baked goods. Probably, our menu was lacking in some elements. I can’t recall when taking vitamins became popular, maybe sometime during WW2. By March, my mother would get hungry for fresh food. She came from pioneer stock and practiced mushroom hunting, gathering ‘greens’, and making sassafras tea in late March. The old frontier practitioners believed that sassafras tea acted as a blood thinner and conditioner. It was supposed to help ward off colds. Here is a frontier secret. There are two types of sassafras trees that grow in southern Illinois, the red and white. Outwardly, these two are hardly distinguishable from one another, but the inner bark of the root of the red variety has red coloration and the white does not. It’s the red sassafras that makes the best tea. The other tastes like boiled wood. Most of the sassafras trees are white; the red is the minority. Steeping the inner bark from the roots makes the tea, and then sweeten to taste with honey or sugar.

Upon entering high school in 1950, the brown paper bag became the favored lunch container. It could be folded after use and slipped into your back pocket to be used again. A bag might be used for 2 to 3 days before being discarded.

Homework? What was that? All of my studies and exercises could be completed during the school day. We did read fiction after school for fun or required book reports. Some students may have found it necessary to practice math skills outside class, but for the most part, we did not carry loads of schoolwork home. In my case, there was one exception. I had to cram for history tests because a large part of the quiz would be accurate listing of dates. I hated that because it was difficult for me and I could not muster the motivation to memorize these lists. At that young age, I did not perceive any use for this exercise. I hated history class! Fortunately as the years passed by and more historical events piled up, I gained an improved appreciation for ‘history’. I came to realize that my boyhood days are now part of this country’s history, as yours will be some day.

A graveled road ran past the school. When funds were short, this section of road received the benefit of first maintenance, with other connecting roads getting whatever was left over. Thus, if you were fortunate enough to live on the "school road", you could expect to have the better road.

One year after the roads had been freshly graveled, fossilized crinoid stems (Indian beads) and small quartz geodes (sparklers) could be found. This was my first introduction to rock collecting.

On Friday or Saturday night, we'd visit with a neighbor to share a radio to hear the latest war news, and then listen to Amos and Andy, The Shadow, Green Hornet, Fibber McGee and Molly, or the Grand Ole Opera. Only one household in our community had a Fairbanks- Morse home light plant, thus they had the best sounding radio because they had enough power to run a larger radio with power hungry vacuum tubes with some tubes as large as a pear. Another friend had a Zenith wind charger set and a decent radio. Lightening ruined that installation. It blew a hole in the wall where the wires entered the house from the charger and set the house afire. It would have burned the house down had it not been for the rain pouring in through the hole, and the quick action of the owner. I don't know what happened to the batteries full of acid. I suppose those cracked. It was a mess. That radio installation was never rebuilt.

When the war closed in 1945 with the surrender of Japan, my parents and the community did not discuss the fact with we children that the end of the war with Japan had been hastened by the terrible toll of two atom bombs. We would learn about this later from other sources. When the news came declaring the war was over, we observed the looks of relief and joy on our parent’s faces.

World War 2 had been too soon after WW 1 for my father to forget the horrors of war. (He had served in France in WW 1.) His nightmares of war returned during that time. I recall him waking up our entire household one night from his groans and moans induced from such a nightmare. I was scared. I thought that he was dying.

The close of the war was a great relief to the population, although it meant that my father would loose his job. The military draft had drained many able bodied young men from the workforce. During this period, my dad went to work in the oil field operated by the Pure Oil Company. After the close of the war, the Pure Oil Company offered the returning Servicemen their old jobs back. Several accepted this offer and the older replacement workers were dismissed.

Typically, these one-room schools were placed approximately 4 to 5 miles apart. This meant that the longest walk to school from any farmstead was 2.5 miles. All students walked to school, especially during the war years. Students who lived nearer to town could enjoy the benefits of the community school in town. Students within 1 mile of that school walked, while those living more than one mile distant was bussed.

Our house was two miles from school. I would wear out one pair of shoes before the close of the school term, but made do with the remains to the end of the term. School pictures were typically taken in April, and if you examine the shoes on the boys in these photos, you’ll see badly worn, shabby footwear. In those days, shoe heels were attached with shoe nails. The nails were in recessed holes in the heels and the pointed ends bent over on a shoe last before the inner sole was inserted. As wear set in, a nail would protrude through the inner sole and poke the wearer’s foot. A shoe was considered worn out at this point, but at my house, I would get out the shoe last and reset the nail, and then continue to wear the shoe for another month.

Lighting on dull days and at night was by kerosene lamps or pressurized naphtha (white gasoline) lamps. The REA act had been scheduled to install electric power to the southern Illinois countryside when WW 2 interrupted. Copper was seized as a strategic material. After the war, copper was released and electric power came to my school (and home) in 1947. The Rural Electrification Act (REA) was nicknamed, Rest Every Afternoon, because in the first year of operation, voltage regulation was poor at our end-of-line location; it ‘rested’ in the afternoon. About 3:30 in the afternoon, the 110V supply might fall to 90V as loads increased, and sometimes it would shut down. The voltage drop was severe enough to stall refrigerator compressors causing some to burn out, or to reduce the life of their controls. Fluorescent lamps might not start. A year or so later, this situation was remedied as more power was pumped into the grid and line regulators were added.

I remember the joy of getting electricity. Our first appliances were a refrigerator and a clothes iron. Our first month's electric bill was less than what we had been paying for ice for the old icebox. This was cause for smiles in my family. It was a blessing, a cause for celebration. The icebox was thrown to the trash. I suppose this is the reason that not many of those survived.

Soon after the electrical distribution lines were powered up, vacuum cleaner salesmen canvassed the countryside. My mother bought an Electrolux ®. She was still using it in 2001, the year she died.

In high school, I met a girl who was horribly disfigured by burns to her face and upper body. She had met with accident with a "gas" (naphtha) fueled clothes iron. Electricity had come a few years too late to save her. Needless to say, housewives were quick to discard the liquid fueled clothes iron as soon as an alternative became available. Ironing at our house (before electricity) was accomplished with a set of heavy irons heated on top of a wood-burning cook stove. That wasn't so bad in the winter, but it was a sweaty job in summer. It required skill to keep the irons at the right temperature, and a practiced hand to keep an even fire. It was my job to split the wood to proper size.

One summer, in the late 1940s, a polio outbreak occurred. Fear struck the hearts of every mother. Swimming in outdoor ponds and rivers was curtailed; those outside the immediate family reduced visits to sick children. When a child was diagnosed with polio, the public stayed away by voluntary quarantine. Several years later when I entered high school, I saw 2 survivors of polio who bore lasting effects of that disease. I don't know how many died, or how many who survived with little permanent effect. It was the first time that I heard the term, "iron lung". (There were about 250 students in Clay City High School in 1950.)

In southern Illinois, one-room schools were phased out in the 1950s by consolidating 3 or more school districts and busing the students. Early versions of this bus service consisted of parents who were paid to make the run, usually a couple of Moms with station wagons. The Ford Station Wagon was a popular vehicle for this job. (They could have made use of mini-vans if those had been available.)

The school year was only 8 months ending with the last weekday in April. So, how did the quality of education compare to today schools having a much longer term and many more modern conveniences? I think that it was ok for its time. The students did as well as today's counterparts in regard to basic skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Schooling in grammar and punctuation depended on the dedication and quality of a single teacher. Mistakes in the “home grammar” were very difficult to override. These students were much better practiced in handwriting than today’s counterparts. The student of the 'old school' did well because they got more attention due to the smaller class. A typical one-room school had 6 to 15 students. There were fewer distractions. It was easier for a student to concentrate on his work. Schoolwork was the main focus in our lives because there were few outside influences: no TV, Game Boys, iPods, etc. Only a few homes had telephones and these were of the battery box, hand cranked, party line variety. When these distractions do not exist, the school becomes the primary focus of a student’s existence, and is his main source of social contact outside his immediate family and church.

The main drawback was that all classes of all grades were processed in the same room. That could be distracting, but at the same time, it prepared a student about what to expect for the next grade. There were no surprises; it removed the fear of the unknown. Discipline was handled on the spot. That issue was not left to fester over time. However, the age span of the student body sometimes made for trouble.

We lived in isolation from the rest of the country and the world, and in our near future that would become an impediment.

I digress a moment to illustrate our isolation. This event happened circa 1943 during the war when I was young child. One Saturday when we went to town to do our weekly shopping, my sister and I were standing outside Murvin’s grocery store in Clay City when a black man timidly approached us. He was dressed in several layers of worn clothing and may have come from the train that had stopped for a few minutes. I suppose that he may have been a hobo. This was the first time that we had ever seen a black person. I had heard about them, but never seen one. As I recall, his skin was brown toned, not as black as I had expected. He inquired of us in a decided accent, “Where can I buy a loaf of white bread?” I pointed to the store door and said, “Right in there.” He looked at the glass door and the people within, and then turned his gaze upon me again with a quizzical look. He hesitatingly moved to the door and paused. I was thinking, “What is the matter with him? Is he afraid to go in or maybe he doesn’t know how to work that door.” It was many years later that I began to realize what the problem was. At that time, I knew nothing about “Jim Crow” laws. We had never been exposed to that part of our society. I don’t know what he was thinking, but I can guess that he was wondering about my integrity and maybe I was trying to trick him into entering an all-white store. This was a clash of two cultures within our country and I did not recognize it. Indeed, we lead an isolated existence.

What was lacking was preparation for high school and the future. It was a shock to us when we entered high school. We found that we were lacking social skills to deal with a much larger student body and bullies, and were not trained in common sports such as basket ball, base ball, or tennis. Some homework was necessary and we had not developed a habit for it. For most, it was our first opportunity to have music as an option. We found ourselves far behind as beginners compared to those who came from a city grade school with music and sports programs. We had a lot of "catching up" to do. We also found after graduating from high school, that the one-room school had not suggested the idea of how much the world was changing, and would change. Rather, it had tried to perpetuate the education style and thought of our parents and grandparents. The impact of advances to come in communications, travel, and technology, could not have been envisioned. Who would have thought that the slide rule would be replaced by a pocket calculator at the same cost, then the calculator superceded by the Personal Computer, and that we would view a war as it happened half way around the globe, and that automotive engines would go 100,000 miles on one set of valves and rings?

Most farm boys avoided the typing class - a mistake! (That's what secretaries are for, right? Does anyone know shorthand these days?) Even back then, those who could type well, advanced faster and farther in office and other jobs. We failed to see the value of speedily, well written communications. My parents did not know this, and we didn't either. When we were in school, we did not think about the changing ratio of farm to non-farm jobs. We had no idea that over 70% of us would not be 'on the farm' in the near future. No one planted the idea that we should think about those things. Strangely enough though, most of us in high school had the dream of leaving the farm to go where 'the action is', only we did not know where ‘it’ was at.

Although the transistor had been invented in 1947 and its development quietly forged ahead in the 1950s, we did not see the end coming for vacuum tubes. Those who chose radio and television repair as a vocation were looking for a new career by 1965.

I entered high school in 1950. It was only 7 years later when the Soviets launched Sputnik. It could be viewed by naked eye as a tiny, slow moving, dot in the night sky. It was a vivid demonstration of things to come, and that was a wakeup call. No one in the entire world could be 'isolated' anymore.

In the last one-third of my career, a feature known as a 'lifetime job' was thrown to the scrap heap. This feature had been part of the fabric of some United States businesses when I was a child, but now, a considerable number of corporations themselves do not last very long. Multi-national corporations are becoming the norm. Students should think about that. Students should give much thought to their career choice. They should think about its longevity – how long will it last? Will it produce a living wage in the years to come? They should also think of how the world will behave when oil-based economies run out of petroleum.

My yesteryears, your legacy,
Jim Mading

eachers and Superintendents of Well School, District 181, Clay County, Illinois
(Partial list)

County Superintendent
School Term -- Teacher of Schools

1942 – 43 -- Miss Rosemary Pierce -- O. C. Anderson

1943 – 44 -- Miss Evelyn Holmes -- O. C. Anderson

1944 – 45 -- Mrs. Florence Rosborough -- Robert L. Brissenden

1945 – 46 -- Mrs. Florence Rosborough -- Robert L. Brissenden

1946 – 47 -- Mr. Glen Zimmerman -- Robert L. Brissenden

1947 – 48 -- Mr. Glen Zimmerman -- Robert L. Brissenden

1948 – 49 -- Mr. Glen Zimmerman -- Robert L. Brissenden

1949 – 50 -- Mr. Glen Zimmerman -- Robert L. Brissenden


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