Rural students often experienced difficult family situations or
extreme poverty, particularly during the Depression. Ms. Tennis recalls
one student who was being raised by her older sisters, both her mother
and father having died. Another student came to school one day excited
by the "good dinner" he had eaten the previous night. Thinking that the
meal might have consisted of perhaps a baked chicken, potatoes, a
vegetable, and perhaps a pie or ice cream, she was surprised to discover
that the hearty, home-cooked meal in question had consisted of cheese,
crackers, bologna, and beer. A third student's family was too poor to
buy bread and the student was too proud to attend school with only
home-baked, powder biscuits for lunch. To ease the student's acute
discomfort, Ms. Tennis made it a point to include powder biscuits in her
own lunchtime meal, thus making it acceptable for the student to eat
her own powder biscuits.
the sometimes difficult circumstances faced by students, many realized
that their one- room school was a ladder of opportunity to what they saw
as a better life. The opportunities afforded students could be measured
both in terms of future job prospects and their future lifestyle. In
1931 Hazel Jorgensen Smith captured the essence of both these
opportunities in an address she delivered, entitled, "Why I Want an
One who is educated can appreciate and have a better
understanding of art, music, nature, poetry and the finer things of
life. You are better able to meet difficult situations. You can appear
before a crowd and associate with the better class of people. You are
happier in yourself and are more serviceable to others.
The young man or woman who is well-prepared to do a
certain ind of work will find more demand for his work than the one
poorly prepared. .... The one who is well prepared may command a larger
income than one who is poorly prepared. Boys and girls of the grammar
grade age often become uninterested in school because they think it is a
waste of time. They are beginning to feel grown an they want to earn
money. Facts prove that every day spent in school means more money when
they finally go into the business and professional world. In the U.S.
the average pupil who had finished the eighth grade earns $500 a year.
The average high school graduate earns $1000 a year and the average
college graduate earns $2000 a year.
For these reasons I am desirous of an education...
Students who attended one-room schools often developed both a
sense of family as well as a keen realization of the opportunities made
possible to them through education.