Getting to School

Original Airdate: January 15 (2013)

This is Living Stories, featuring voices from the collections of the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. I'm Louis Mazé.

Most of us have heard someone say, "When I was young, I had to walk uphill both ways in the snow to get to school." The statement illustrates how easy they think the younger generations have it, but it also points to how much Americans value education and the many ways students have made it to and from schools over the years.

Margaret McLean grew up on the Stoner Ranch in Uvalde County and describes how she and her two brothers got an education in the 1920s and 30s:

"It was five miles from our house to Laguna where the school was that we would go to. But it was so far and so hard for Dad to take us every morning, come get us in the afternoon, that he got a tent, built a frame for it with a floor to sit on, and moved us down so that we were just right next door to the school. And Mama would stay down with us during the week from Monday through Friday. Daddy would take us down on Monday morning and come get us Friday afternoon. So that was the way we went to school for four years.

"And when I was twelve years old, Daddy decided I was old enough to drive the car, so I began driving the old Model T Ford from the ranch to school. And I would pick up the neighbor children across the river from us, and they would ride with us to school. So it helped them too. It was quite a chore for me because they were all boys―my brothers and the others were all boys too—and they just tormented me to death. (laughs)"

Interviewer: "I can imagine."

Argie Medearis walked to A. J. Moore High School in Waco in the 20s and 30s, when the campus taught grades one through twelve. She remembers that some students took a dangerous route, to the dismay of the principal:

"One of the bridges that cross the river, what, the train bridge: they called it the trestle. Well, some of the boys would—for a shortcut to get to Moore High, they would get on that trestle. And we—we're—no one's supposed [to] do that. And Mr. Wilson had these spyglasses. He could stand in his office, and he could see them come across there, you know, on that bridge. And when everybody get to school, after a while the intercom would come on. And he'd call, ‘So-and-so, come to the office, please. James, come to the office, please.' And we knew what was happening. He'd seen them crossing that trestle. (laughs) And he had a paddle, and he'd paddle them good."

Marcus Maurer recalls attending a country school, which was about five miles from his home, in Gillespie County in the 30s and 40s:

"My sister and I rode a donkey. My brother and the older sister, they rode a horse. But then on Thanksgiving Day, which really was thankful, in a way, the donkey died, so we had to walk to the Y and catch a ride with the teacher. Later on in years he had a girlfriend on the north side [of] the school, and he wasn't going that way on a Friday sometimes. Not every Friday, but sometimes he went to his girlfriend['s], and he said, ‘Well, you kids, you have to walk the whole way now.'"

Maybe one day in the future, going to school will look like something out of The Jetsons. But for now, we have a variety of contraptions on wheels and also good old-fashioned walking to do the job.

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