Living in the Schoolhouse

While I was teaching during World War 111 lived in two different rural schoolhouses.

In 1942-43, I lived in the main schoolroom.  A space in the southeast corner was curtained off to serve as my bedroom and for storage space.  The southwest corner of the building was called my kitchen.  There was a kerosene stove, but I often used the top of the oil burning heater or the coal floor furnace to bake potatoes and heat foods, which were prepared while I was at home on the weekend.  I kept food in a container in the entry hall, which was not heated.

Water was not wasted.  The amount I brought along Sunday for my use had to last until Friday.  Water for the pupils to drink was brought by parents and poured into the stoneware fountain.  Water for washing hands was in a pail with a dipper beside the washbasin on a bench.  Kerosene lamps were used for lighting.  I usually went to bed early so that people wouldn't know anyone was living in the schoolhouse, which was beside the highway.  It was comforting to know that there were farm homes only about a quarter of a mile away in two directions.

The schoolhouse had a large fenced yard.  The gates could be closed so that animals could not enter the yard.  There was no telephone at the school, and the oil burner was not connected to an outside tank.  I carried eight gallons of fuel oil from the shed.  It was attached to the schoolhouse, but there was no connecting door so it was necessary to put on coat and overshoes and go outside to the shed.  There were no indoor toilets, and the outhouses were some distance from the schoolhouse.

A few rabbits lived under the schoolhouse floor and I could tell the time of day by their departure.

The other schoolhouse, on the prairie, had no fence around the yard.  That was 1945-46.  I lived in an unfinished room that had been used for storage.  I had to cover the window with dark material as it was during the "black-out" period during the war.

To heat this room I used a portable kerosene stove, now on display in the Griggs County Museum.  At midnight I would fill the tank and it would last until morning.  Mice joined me and I caught them in traps.  The lighting system was kerosene lamps and flashlights.

I had a skunk under the floor for a while and when men of the neighborhood trapped it they killed it directly outside my living quarters.  We had a smelly building for a month or so but we lived through it.

There was a telephone at this school, but there was a time during a snowstorm when there was trouble with the telephone line so they cut my phone and I had no means of communication.  The worst part was that the trouble was in another phone on the line.

Teachers carried fuel oil or coal to heat the building, shoveled snow and ditched water in the spring besides the teaching and janitor work in the building.  I wouldn't care to do it again, but it could have been worse.

Borghild C. Bue

Source: Cooperstown, North Dakota 1882-1982 Centennial page 59

News & Events