It is now 1997 and on last nights news
was a story about the terrible physical condition the nations schools
are in. As a student in the 30's I can only recall one school in
the city of Newark that was not old, run down, in need of repair
and did not have what seemed like tons of asbestos showing. Asbestos
is now a thing of the past. It was determined that it was a cancer
causing agent. How many of the millions of students that attended
these schools contracted cancer? I wonder.
The grade school that I attended was Hawthorne Avenue School.
It had what we called a new and an old part. The old part seemed
to be mostly wood including the floor. The floor was uneven and
in places squeaked. The desks and seats were wood. Each desk had
a hole in the upper right hand side for the glass ink well. It was
the job of someone with steady hands to keep the ink wells filled.
This person had the title of "Ink Well Monitor."
The ink came in large bottles so a certain degree of skill was
needed to do the job. There were of course, accidents and large
blue stains on the wood floors showed where the occurred.
The new part of the school was mostly concrete, and had all sorts
of modern conveniences such as drinking fountains and restrooms
large enough to accommodate more than two people at a time.
The really big drawback to the school was that during an electrical
storm it was frequently hit by lightning. If whatever attracts lightning
the first time is not removed, it will happen again. There was one
spot in particular that seemed to get it most of the time. Following
a bad storm there would be pieces of brick on the ground and the
bare spot on the wall got bigger.
Every so often certain students using certain hallways in the
old section had to walk around pails that were placed to collect
water leaking from the roof. If there were any protests about unsafe
conditions at the school I am unaware of it.
Students of today would be amused to know of some of the subjects
that were taught in the "30's
The girls classes always included "Home Economics",
which was a fancy way of saying cooking and sewing. Each girl was
required to make her graduation dress. As the term end would draw
near those girls that were behind in the work were permitted to
take the dress home to be worked on. Everyone, including the teacher
knew that this meant the girls mother was going to finish the dress.
Boys classes included "Manual Training." This meant
working in a shop to make a term project. A term project was a tile
top table, a magazine rack, a sail boat., or some other item.
Both boys and girls had to attend music class and art class. I
don't believe either of these subjects are included in today's curricular.
If anyone graduated from Hawthorne Avenue School in the "30's
that could not read, write, and do simple arithmetic (without a
calculator) it was a well kept secret. Students doing below average
work were required to attend summer school. Does anything like that
take place today?