Seven Oral Histories
These interviews provide personal memories of the country-school experiences of seven individuals, covering the twentieth century to the post-World War II period.
The first individual attended several country schools in Lehigh County, near Allentown, Pennsylvania, during the first decade of the twentieth century. Interviewed when almost ninety years old the subject demonstrated the clarity of recall about her schooling that characterized most of our interviewees. She showed how important the influence of an individual teacher was, as she even moved away from her parents' home to live with an older sibling in order to be taught by a particular teacher. She provides a detailed account of the eighth-grade exam that was required of rural students in order to qualify for admission to the high school.
Our interviewee was valedictorian of all of the students in her school district. She recalled how she memorized her valedictory speech for the graduation exercises at the end of eighth grade. Three-quarters of a century after she gave it, she still remembered the response of the audience, as she received a burst of applause for her speech. She then attended high school and normal school and became a teacher in graded schools.
The second story included is that of an individual who attended a country school in Upper Bucks County a decade later, during the period of World War I and the early 1920s. He has strong recollections of his first one-room schoolteacher, who began her teaching career directly after completing high school. He also describes some events in which there was an impact of World War I upon his rural school. Like our first interviewee, he was valedictorian of the township schools. He also went on to a town high school, and he recalls his transition from the country school to the secondary school.
The third story is that of an individual who attended a country school in Bucks County during the 1920s. He also was the valedictorian of his eighth-