Items of Genealogical Interest
Volume 22 Number 4
LaVonne I. Bennett
LaVonne has received permission from Grayden Slowins to edit and submit Sebewa Recollector items of genealogical interest, from the beginning year of 1965 through current editions.
THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR Bulletin of The Sebewa Center
Association, FEBRUARY 1988, Volume 23, Number 4. Editor Robert W. Gierman.
Submitted with written permission of current Editor Grayden D. Slowins:
SURNAMES: LUSCHER, McNEIL, WENGER, SLOWINS, LAKIN, SMITH, JARVIS, GRISWOLD,
BENEDICT, ROACH, ALLEN, PATTERSON, LOVELL, WELCH
EDNA (McNeil) Wenger – Date of Birth May 4, 1887 – Date of Death October 16,
1981 – Place and Time of Service – Sebewa Center Methodist Church, Monday,
October 19, 1981, 1:00 p.m. – Clergyman Rev. John Morse – Organist Mrs. Edgar
Perkins, James Spencer Soloist. Bearers Thomas Sandborn, Allen Sandborn, Jr.,
John Sandborn, Riley Sandborn, Jr., Luke Sandborn, Charles Wilson. Final Resting
Place East Sebewa Cemetery. Arrangements by Pickens-Koops Funeral Chapel – Lake
One hundred years ago last year, Edna Luscher was born to Mr. and Mrs. Jacob
Luscher in the house long since vacant across the road from where Mr. and Mrs.
George Carr now live. She attended Sebewa Center School. Around 1910, she
married Bert McNeil. Above (photo) is the log house they bought on the forty
acres then owned by Luke Cook, then Postmaster at West Sebewa. The house was
located ¾ mile south from the West Sebewa Store where Clay McNeil now lives.
From an earlier Recollector we have the quote of George Dow “for bed bugs we
used hot water but I defy any woman to get rid of them in a log house”. Edna
told me that was the case with her log house and they promptly replaced it with
the Clay McNeil dwelling. After many years raising sheep, chickens and a big
garden Edna married Robert Wenger, who survived her a few years.
DEATHS for the period have been those of Bernice Gunn, Ernest Frantz, Evelyn
Thompson and Clayton Goodrich.
M*A*S*H By Graden Slowins:
Mobile Army Surgical Hospital 4007. Most people are familiar with the long
running and rerunning TV sit-com-drama about the Korean War, starring Alan Alda.
I happened to catch the full hour on New Year’s eve and once again saw Cpl.
Walter (Radar) O’Reilly get to go home to the farm at Ottomwa, Iowa and marry
the pretty, shy blonde nurse from Lancaster, Missouri. She reminds me of Karen
Well, I was that shy shepard boy who became Radar’s equivalent in the 45th MASH.
It all began in March, 1955 when we were assembled 400-strong in the Battalion
Street after Infantry Basic and Medical Basic Training. We had our duffle bags
packed and were prepared to board the troop trains for California and ship out
to the Korean War. Four names were called out: Alexander, Goberlesch, Slowins
and Steffas. “You men aren’t going”. You take the other train to Detroit,
We were assigned to a little known unit at Fort Wayne, Detroit, separate from
the familiar Army Induction Center. Our manpower strength was supposed to be
fourteen Privates, two Corporals and one Sergeant besides the doctors, dentists
and nurses, all of whom were officers. At first that was the case. But as the
Korean War dragged on and wound down, the other privates and corporals were
rotated to Korea dragged on and wound down, the other privates and corporals
were rotated to Korea and we got old Master Sergeants, who came back with a few
months to serve before retirement. We reached a strength of seventeen Master
Sergeants and PFC Slowins, later Corporal Slowins.
Now that might not sound like the best of arrangements, but it was, because the
Company Commander was Colonel George Thompson, a draftee Medical Doctor and a
dead ringer for Col. Henry Blake, the first commander of M*A*S*H 4077. He had
the same tall, thin, stoop shouldered build, the same disheveled
half-out-of-uniform manner of dress and the same disdain for Army S. O. P. All
the rest were regular Army, so it was he and I against the system, and he looked
out for Private Slowins!
My title was not Company Clerk like Radar, but Medical Supply Sergeant though I
was only a P. F. C. I gradually acquired all the privileges of the sergeants
except pay. The Colonel kept me off guard duty because of night ambulance call.
About every four to six months some desk jockey in Headquarters would notice
that there was a private in the Medics who never pulled K.P. Duty. So I would be
assigned a day of K.P. Usually part way through the day the Colonel would send a
Master Sergeant to relieve me. “We need Slowins in Supply! On the double!” The
old German Mess Sergeant (seen by most as Sergeant Shultz on Hogan’s Hero’s)
would pull K. P. I might pull K.P. Get to Hell out of here, both of you!” Which,
of course was what the Colonel had in mind all the time. The Mess Sergeant knew
our scam because the cooks and medics shared the same barracks. But he knew that
the draftee Doctor Colonel outranked him.
Another favorite of the high brass was Morning Muster. In theory, all armies
from time immemorial have had everyone line up at the beginning of each day to
count noses and account for casualties. But in the practice that seldom works
completely, since many are manning their posts and the sergeants are usually
exempt anyhow. So when they call for Morning Muster, Sgt. Leavenworth would
stand out front in the street and I would stand facing him. He would call out to
the Battalion Commander, Medical Company all present or accounted for, “SIR!”
Since this looked ridiculous, we usually would not hear about Morning Muster
again for several months. Editors note—You are used to seeing M*A*S*H
serialized, so too you must wait until next issue for Grayden’s second page---RMG
THIS IS A RECORDING OF A VCR THAT HAROLD LAKIN MADE ABOUT THE HORSE IN LOCAL
MARGE SMITH---The Portland Historical Society was formed following our 1969
centennial. When those of us who worked on the Centennial realized that there
were certain voids in the history of our town that could be researched. So in
1970 our historical society was formed. This presentation today is from the
historical society and our presenter is Harold Lakin. He is a lifelong resident
of the Portland area and today he is going to talk to us about some of the
history of early Portland especially as it relates to our use of horses in work
HAROLD--- We have talked about the history of the Portland area, about people,
places and the means by which people made history and one of those means was by
the horses we had. Up until the automobile and the farm tractor, horses were
high in the economy and social life of people in Portland. I would like very
much to review the part that horses played. I was raised in Portland. I fell in
love with a beautiful team of Percheron horses and it led eventually to life on
From that time on I’ve had a lot of love for horses even if not too much
connection. It led me all through the grades, all through high school and
college career where I became connected with the cavalry. It seemed like I was
in some way connected with horses all the way through. Later on as we moved back
on the farm we had horses around.
To start with we had several different breeds of horses. The main horses we had
were the draft horses. They did the plowing, the fitting of the ground and the
draying into time. Later on we had the Belgians come in and the Shires. They all
had a place in the history of Portland. The Percherons sometimes weighed as much
as a ton. Then there were the medium sized horses, the Morgans and Hamiltonians.
They were principally used for driving and riding.
Wit World War I there was a scarcity of horses with the army coming in and
buying whatever they could get. Some of the people in order to satisfy the
demand, began to bring in Western horses. Henry Kenyon of Sebewa brought in a
whole carload of Western horses and sold them around. Farmers didn’t really like
the Westerns but they had to have them because they needed the horsepower.
Another figure in the horse history of Portland was Fred Jarvis. He was a horse
buyer and seller, associated with most of the horses in Portland. He was a man
about town, a humanitarian, quite instrumental in things about town. People who
could not borrow money from the banks often could borrow from Fred. I had the
privilege of looking at some of his journals and seeing where people borrowed
$50 to 100 dollars. He did a real service to those people. Later on Fred became
mayor of the town.
A lot of people were employed because of horses. Horses were used to haul the
drays, we had veterinarians, horse stables, feed barns, buggy makers,
blacksmiths who shod the horses and put irons on the wagons and sleighs. The
economy was dependent on horses. I like to think of the time when we had horse
doctors. The term veterarian came after the horse doctor.
Not until Dr. Griswold came to town did we call the veterinarian for a sick
horse. Our horses had different kinds of ailments from spavin, things that
happened when the horse collar did not fit, the ring bone, the scratches and
fistula. Horse box and the heaves were very common. If you bought a horse back
in those days you had to be very careful it did not have the heaves. A horse was
not much good if he had the heaves. It was a good deal like a man today having
emphysema in the lungs.
Dr. Benedict was another veterinarian. He was coach of the football team. Dr.
Harper came over from Sunfield occasionally. We had harness makers who made very
beautiful harnesses. It was very common to see farmers gather at the Wilhelm
harness shop on Saturday nights to catch up on the news around. Many years ago
we had a buggy making industry in Portland where they made buggies and wagons.
It was run by a family by the name of Bowers & Lehman. Leo Lehman’s father was
instrumental in wagon making.
Part of the business of having horses around to help propagate the horse race.
We had to have stallions supervised by a man who often drove them around the
country-side. Ben Benjamin had a Shire stallion that he tended. He also had a
Hamiltonian for raising good driving horses. We did have a few ponies around
town but I don’t remember a stallion of that breed. The Emerys had a pony. The
Pryers east of town had a pony as did some others.
A Mr. Roach had a good team of Morgans. When he finished farming, rather than
having anybody else keep them and perhaps abuse them, he had a man in town take
them out, shoot them and bury them. I’ve always thought Mr. Roach’s love of
horses in having that done. I often think of the love and attachment we had for
our horses. Marge will tell of the good times and sporting events that came from
the riding club that she and her husband, Labe, organized.
MARGE SMITH- - -I think the riding club began about 1940 and was a very informal
type of organization. The horses for most kids were mostly just grade horses. It
started out with people getting together on Sundays for the pleasure of riding
or maybe a picnic. As time went on through the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s people
became interested in upgrading the horses they had, so they moved to registered
Arabians, registered quarter horses and Morgans. It was this group that started
the rodeo, building an arena, which was in that valley area back of TRW. For
four or five years, we had quite outstanding rodeos where people came from all
over the Midwest to attend the rodeo. It is a shame that the arena is no longer
there. Now the emphasis is on horse shows and the Portland Riding Club has built
a very fine arena on Bogue’s flats and once a year on Labor Day they have a
large horse show and people come from all around including Ohio and Indiana, and
Illinois with their horses. They come, not only to get points but there is a
monetary gain also.
HAROLD LAKIN- - - That just goes to show that we haven’t forgotten horses
entirely. They say that there are more horses in Michigan than there were in
1910 but I think it is a different kind of horses, horses for recreation mainly.
I’d like to speak about the Morgan horse. It was developed in the Boston area by
a man by the name of Morgan. By selection and breeding of horses he developed
what we call a chunk, a medium sized horse that was a dual purpose. It was a
good riding horse and it could work. It could plow and it could drag though not
to the entent that the big draft horses did.
It became my pleasure as a kid to have a long time experience with a Morgan. I
was introduced to farming when I was about twelve years old. We had to drive
cattle from the Portland area to Sunfield for better shipping facilities. We
took our team of horses along. One of the mares had a colt, just a year old and
just ready to be ridden. I got permission to mount the colt and that was the
start of my relationship of a mare cold called Bird. She finally became my
family’s chief form of recreation. Bird was given to the family and we kept her
around for several years. Bird never broke out and never got away from my place.
We worked her, cultivated with her, the kids rode her. She sort of took over our
heard of cattle and bossed them. One time she did break out. She went back to
her old stable two miles away at the Rowe farm, got into the barn, into her old
stable and was found dead in the morning by Mr. Rowe. They say that elephants
return to their home base to die and that is the very thing she did when she was
thirty-one years old, a good old age for a horse.
Horses in Portland did die and you might well wonder what happened then. I
remember when a horse died and a man loaded it onto a stoneboat, a very low
planked sled, and coming through town down through Main street across the upper
bridge and on out Market Street. I can remember of a dozen times of seeing this
little trip repeated with dead horses, a funeral for a horse and usually a bunch
of kids following along behind, very curious about the whole thing. The kids
followed along behind in the dusty track of the stone boat on down Market Street
to about where the sand pit is there now. There was a horse “cemetery” there. We
used to watch the interment. If you lived in Portland, ultimately you had the
experience of seeing a horse funeral.
MARGE SMITH - - - Do you remember the race track? In the old maps of Portland I
think it was on the east side of the Grand River.
HAROLD LAKIN - - - No, but where the city complex is now, where the filtration
plant is there was a street down through a set of buildings, a sort of a little
Western town. In this set of buildings was what I would call the judges stand.
There was an opening at the second story, a sort of a veranda up there, a place
where judges would stand for horse races. It was said there was a race track
I remember there were occasional races between young fellows. One would
challenge the other and off they would go to see who had the better horse. In
high school I rode a horse from the Rowe farm to town and I used to get
challenged. Lucinda Monroe rode a horse to town. One of the Carpenter boys rode
My father’s business required that he have three teams of horses. They were used
to go around to all the country stores hereabouts, Berlin Center, Tremayne’s
Corners, Sunfield, Mulliken, Collins, Sebewa Corners and Eagle to pick up the
butter and eggs that merchants from those places had collected in trade. He was
in the commission business. In the winter time we had two drivers, one named
Peake and the other was Stringham. One couldn’t bear to be out without being all
bundled up. He had socks and boots of all kinds—I sometimes wondered how the man
could walk—and just canvas gloves. The other man, Mr. Peake, was just the
reverse. He would drive all day with big mittens on. I always chuckled at the
contrast in those two men, the one wearing slippers and heavy mittens while the
other bundled his feet and wore canvas gloves.
In the era before our refrigeration needs were taken over by electric power, the
horse was at the center of preparation and distribution of the known block of
cooling—ice. Something like a cultivator with teeth on it was taken on to the
pond in the winter and when pulled by horses would cut long strips of ice that
could then be conveniently cut into blocks of ice. The blocks would then be
floated to the chute that would then lift them to the ice house out back of the
Portland Library. When making deliveries around town in warmer weather, the ice
man always had a bunch of kids trailing along, hoping for a chip to suck on.
Often the ice man would cooperate with wome extra chips.
Another job for the horse was delivering groceries. When you wanted groceries
you would make a phone call to the store, they filled your order in a basket and
soon a delivery man was ready to stack the orders into his dray and start making
deliveries. Horses got so well trained at this job they could take their cues
from the driver without use of the lines. Fred Jarvis or “Curly” supplied the
teams and his men made the daily deliveries. Often the school kids scurried
around to make deliveries while the horses moved the load that had been picked
up at Robinsons or Stones stores.
I remember Alph Allen as a dead ringer for President Taft, wearing a moustache,
and driving a truck. He always met all the trains that stopped in town. When
people left the train, Alph would call out that he had transportation to the
Divine Hotel. He always had beautiful horses. The depot was right across from
the present Village Lumber and Supply on Water Street. Alph’s services were used
by the drummers, salesmen who came to town with a good supply of sample goods to
be offered to the local merchants at the sample room of the hotel. While the
drayman was delivering the samples at the hotel the salesman would be calling on
the merchants, asking them to visit his display at the hotel. When orders were
made and later shipped in on the train, local draymen would make the deliveries
at the stores. Leo Treiweiler was one of the draymen. Leo’s team also served on
the fire wagon. The minute the fire whistle blew, Leo would run his horses to
the fire barn across from city hall, hook on to the fire wagon and race to the
Horses were in Portland in the early pioneer days. My great-great-grandfather
Green settled near Collins. When he wanted something special, he would saddle up
his horse and start out for Detroit taking a pack horse. Once or twice a year he
would go down there to take whatever he had such as maple sugar and barter for
whatever he needed that he could not produce at home. My grandmother said, one
time, the first time she ever saw white sugar was when Granddad Green packed his
returning goods in a wooden barrel and when they unloaded it they found a few of
the white grains of sugar in the bottom of the barrel.
MARGE SMITH - - - Do you remember the horse barn that was cooperatively owned
between the Congregational Church and the Baptist Church on Warren Avenue?
HAROLD LAKIN - - - It was a shed. When you came to church you drove your horses
in the shed. I think some were on Mrs. Bywater’s property. When autos replaced
the horses the sheds were torn down. Vel Packard did some of that work.
We used to have bob sleds. Farmers in the winter time changed from wagons to
sleighs. It was a common thing for the kids around town to “jump bobs”. We would
jump bobs and ride out in the country for maybe quite a ways, not really knowing
if we would ever get back again. But eventually we would find somebody going the
other way, coming to town. Once in a while we would find a farmer who didn’t
like that kind of goings on and he would horse whip us until we got off.
Generaly they were quite congenial and did not mind.
The coming of the automobile created strong feelings among the men with sleighs.
The autos had their wheels spaced a little wider apart than were the runners on
the sleighs and left ruts that couldn’t be satisfactorily followed with sleighs.
Eventually the blacksmith got the job of widening the sleigh runners to make
them conform to the auto tracks. I remember an old peddler who had a kind of old
cart that he carried his goods on. His wheels would not track in the ruts the
autos left. He fussed around and swore a bit before spending two or three days
at the Russman Blacksmith Shop widening the frame of his conveyance. He left
town and I did not see him again.
Another thing the horses help operate was the country grocery wagon. Patterson
at Collins operated such a route. The Havens family ran a grocery route through
the country. The first Rural Free Delivery of the mail was carried by horses. We
have a picture of a mail carrier’s buggy, fully enclosed with a sliding door and
window. A lighted lantern inside gave off enough heat to make it comfortable
inside. Sometimes a baked soapstone served the same purpose. They were much like
the buggies you see the Amish people using now.
One of the thrills we had with horses was to have a runaway. In a runaway, the
team of horses would break into a run and they were almost impossible to stop
until they had broken their harnesses and vehicles. Once a team had run away it
was always risky to give them any chance to start up again. Quite often the
occupants of such vehicles were seriously hurt or even killed. Sometimes a horse
would have a mean streak and kick with fury. I remember one man who was kicked
in the stomach who a short time later died. There was a fellow who bought a
stallion at a very reasonable price but the stallion had a reputation as a man
killer. Wright said he cured the man-killing instinct by throwing the stallion
down on his side and then climbing on and walking over him while shooting a shot
gun. He did that several times until, as he said, the horse was cured. Sometimes
a horse would break from his shelter and be free around town. You might awaken
in morning and find a horse peeking in your window.
I haven’t mentioned mules. We had but few of them in Portland. We had a span of
mules on the farm. I did not drive them because we had a Kentuckian who wanted
to use them as a team. I drove the Percherons. The mules were flighty. You could
not get them near the threshing machine. If they heard a gun go off they would
Old Joe was the mule who was the exception. I used to cultivate with him and he
would plod along nicely. But at noon, whether a whistle blew or not, Joe would
stop, turn around and head for the barn and his noon time meal. With the stop
came a good loud braying before the start to the barn. One thing I learned about
mules was that you could work them hard all day long, turn them out to the
barnyard for a good roll, they would be ready to go back to work again.
REMINISCENCES Continued by Myrtie Candance Lovell Welch
JUST ODD THOUGHTS.
There used to be lots of big bullfrogs at the pond. I can remember one Sunday
afternoon Pa went down by the pond, caught some of them, killing them, dressing
them out and bringing them to the house. Ma cooked the frog legs for our supper.
They were very delicious. That is the only time I can remember having them.
Ma always raised ducks. She would set the ducks like you did hens. After the
eggs hatched, she would put the mothers in her tiny hen houses in the dooryard.
Little ducklings were more fragile than little chickens and took more care, too.
We had to watch out for them and see that they were inside their little houses
when it rained. A duckling would easily drown in a storm.
When they were a little bigger, Ma would let the old ducks out of their pens.
They would parade their babies around the yard for a few days and then head down
the lane to the pond, their ducklings following, single file. The old duck would
wade into the water, then start swimming around and her babies would follow her
right in and begin to swim. They didn’t have to be taught, it was a perfectly
natural thing to do. It was such a cute sight. Sometimes Ma put the duck eggs
under a hen to hatch and mother. When the ducklings were about half grown, they
would wander off to the pond of their own accord.
I didn’t really mind the crowded conditions or the uncomfortable seats at our
school. It was just a thing to be accepted with no complaints. Our school was no
different than any other around. I just wanted to tell you there were no
luxuries in those days. Our children’s children take so much for granted. Their
schoolhouses with all the modern conveniences make them no happier than I, at
least. I just plain loved going to school.
I liked to get all my work finished, so I could maybe have a book from the
library to read, or maybe look at assignments on the blackboard for other grades
than mine. Maybe I would solve an arithmetic problem or two or see how many
words I could find in that motto “Kindness Makes Friends”. I liked to listen to
the other classes, reciting their lessons. One could learn a lot by just
listening. I even enjoyed the long 1 ¾ mile walk back and forth from home each
Bismark had quite a large enrollment of students. It looked like a small army
when we all came out to go home at night. The schoolhouse, being on a corner,
some went north, some south, some east but the majority went west with us. Some
of them lived in homes along that first mile, but I can think of fifteen who
parted company at Delwood Corners, a mile to the west.
We always went into the Post Office there, everybody checking for their mail.
The Postmaster, Wesley Wright, a bachelor, lived there with his sister, Mary,
who was also unmarried. Mr. Wright was a cripple, using crutches excepting when
just walking around the office. Then he could walk quite well by just crossing
his legs. Now you try crossing your legs and then step first with one foot and
then the other. It was quite an accomplishment. It took me a while to learn it
but I finally made it. It was lots of fun. My mother told me not to be making
fun of a cripple. She said “Supposing something happened to your legs some day
and you had to walk that way, it certainly would not be funny”.
Something has happened to my legs, all right. I can’t even walk like Wes
anymore. A judgement, maybe. Oh, no, the good Lord knows I wasn’t making fun of
Wes, just making fun for me. Of the tales that stretch of road could tell, this
would be one of them.
One morning in early May we awoke to find the ground covered with snow. The
weather had been so nice and warm Grace and I had been going barefoot to school.
This morning Mother said we must wear our shoes, so we put them on. Before we
got to Delwood, Grace came up with this clever idea. “When we get to the Corners
let’s take our shoes and stockings off, hide them in the scraper shed and go to
school barefooted. Then when we grow up, we can tell our grandchildren how we
had to go to school barefooted in the snow”. We did just that but, of course,
the snow was already starting to melt. It was just a “sugar snow”, gone entirely
by the time we arrived at school. I don’t know if she ever did tell her
grandchildren but I have told it to several of mine.
SNOW ON THE WEST ROAD.
One winter we had so many bad storms day after day, the snow was drifted over
the fences. In front of one farm there was a board fence. Snow was really piled
on this one. After a few days of thawing and cold nights the top of that fence
was just as solid as a rock. It looked like a narrow sidewalk. We used it as one
anyway. We’d walk single file along this stretch, up in the air four or five
feet higher than the road and didn’t mind the cold at all. Sometimes, looking
out the schoolhouse windows, we could see the snow coming down hard, blowing and
drifting. We sort of dreaded starting out on our long walk home.
Outside the schoolhouse, what a welcome sight greets us. Mr. Garinger has come
for his family in a big sleigh pulled by his team of pretty horses. Of course
everyone going west received a ride as far as Delwood Corners. Mr. Garinger
lived about ¾ mile on west. What a break for us! One whole mile we didn’t have
to walk! Gliding along over the snowy roads, sleighbells jingling, we soon
reached the corners where we hopped out, Lovells and Frantzs going south,
Walshes, Wrights and VanBlarcoms head north. “Thank you, Mr. Garinger, Good
Night and See you tomorrow” and on we trudge to our respective houses. Lifelong
friendships were formed on that mile west and now they are all gone out but I
shall never forget them.
Back in the earliest days of school, very few boys ever attended high school.
They were supposed to be farmers when they grew up and didn’t need anything
beyond the 8th grade. They had a hard time getting through that. In the
September starting of school, the boys were kept home to help harvest the corn
and drill the wheat and in the spring they were kept home to get the spring
crops in. After the fall work was over, the 8th grade boys would come back to
school, taking up their studies where they had left off. Boys might do this
every year for several years. It was boring. School or anything was better than
sitting around the house.
I don’t remember that Arby ever came only once. He was quick to learn and
probably finished in the one time. Three other boys, probably more but these I
recall were Ernie Benedict, Ralph Walsh and Allie Denel, all Arby’s pals.
WE USED TO HAVE SPELL DOWNS.
Quite often Arby and Ernie would choose up sides. If it was Arby’s turn first,
he’d choose me and if Ernie’s turn came first he too would choose me. I learned
to spell before I ever went to school. That was one of our evening sports at
home. Someone would pronounce the words and the rest of us would spell.
I can hear some of you say “And you called that fun?” We did, no T.V., no radio,
no nothing, we had to get our fun out of little things and make up games
sometimes. This spelling at home made good spellers of every one of us. We loved
To get back to the school contest, everyone, no matter what grade you were in,
was chosen, the entire school divided into two sides opposite the other. Arby
chose me first because he wanted to be close by. If a hard word came up that he
thought I might not be able to spell, he would say “now Rufus, you stop and
think” or maybe it would be “divide it into syllables”, etc. I sometimes
disappointed him but not always. If I couldn’t spell the word, he’d keep at me
at home until I learned how. Ernie would always encourage me, too.
Quite often on Fridays we would end the week with singing. Most of our songs
came from a book called a “knapsack”, filled with ballads, hymns, patriotic
songs and humorous ones. There was no music written, just the words, everyone
seemed to know the tunes. Someone would hum the keynote and we were off on a fun
ending for the week. Here is a humorous one the boys especially loved to sing:
Twenty froggies went to school, Down beside a rushy pool.
Twenty little coats of green. Twenty vests all white and clean.
We must be in time said they. First we study, then we play.
That is how we kept the rule. When we froggies went to school.
Master froggy grave and stern. Calls the lessons in their turn.
Sitting there upon a log. Taught us how to say “Ker Chawg”.
That ending was what the boys liked so much, coming out with the loudest “Ker
Chug”, they sounded very much like the bull frogs on Lovell’s pond. We had no
organ, no piano, just the book with words. I had a knapsack but I don’t know
whatever became of it.
I had a book with the music written for the songs, also. Everyone knew the tunes
anyway, so it didn’t matter. Right now I think I’ll say goodbye to good old
Bismark school. I’ve finished the 8th grade by passing the County Examination
and am now ready for 9th grade. So, look out Vermontville High School, I’m on my
way. It will probably never be the same again.
November 15, 2013