Section 17

Berwick
Its People and Institutions as I knew them about Sixty Years ago.

D. O. PARKER.

Wednesday, June 30, 1897


SCHOOL HOUSES.

The school house here of pioneering days,
Though humble, merits much of honest praise,
It antedates the years of buzzing mills,
And painted houses reared with posts and sills;
‘Twas built of logs with corners roughly matched,
With moss and clay its chinks were warmly patched.
Five years before my summer advent here;
‘Twas eighteen hundred twenty-five the year;
In this our parents met in faith and prayer,
And organized and nursed with fostering care,
The Sabbath School that lives and thrives today,
To guide our children on the heavenly way.
But later in the onward march of years,
A larger, framed and shingled house appears;
Its architectural grace I need not praise,
Enough, it suited well those early days;
In style, ‘twas paintless, plain and chaste,
And in one end a monster fire-place,
Where four-feet logs of maple, birch and beech,
In length from jamb to jamb would barely reach,
And in one jamb was left a little chink,
In winter used to thaw the frozen ink.
When ardent summer heat had banished fires,
‘Twas lined with alder bushes, ferns and briars,
And served as place of penance in the school,
Where idle boys were mounted on a stool,
And paper fool cap crowned the culprit’s head,
While drops of penitential tears were shed.
Its writing desks were boards against the wall,
Close carved with hieroglyphics great and small,
And sprawling letters spelling out some name,
Ambitious dreaming of immortal fame.
Its backless seats were slabs with auger holes,
In which were legs from fencing poles.
On these the children in their A, B, C’s,
Obedient to the master’s stern decrees,
With unsupported backs and hanging feet,
Were fixed like martyrs to their merciless seat.
A wooden latch upon a batten door,
With leather string to pull and nothing more,
Did ope and close the restless place by day,
And served at night to keep the ghosts away.

No bell was there for morning call,
No hanging maps adorned the wall,
No clock announced the time of day,
When boys should go or come from play;
No blackboards painted round the walls,
Nor were there hooks for hats and shawls;
And yet it was esteemed complete,
With furniture unique and neat;
Behind the door an old brush broom,
Used once a week to sweep the room,
A row of stones for fire dogs,
On which were piled the blazing logs;
A leaky pail and rusty cup,
From which the children loved to sup;
And teacher’s desk that held the stick,
Good Doctor Birch, for boys when sick,
And here devout on holy Sabbath days,
The people met for hallowed prayer and praise;
And some without the fold, and same within,
Who then, as now, indulged a little sin,
Here paid the rent with odorating gems,
Fresh plucked from Bacchanalian diadems;
And all unguarded, left them ‘neath each bench,
Afloat in loathsome pools of filth and stench,
These cherished germs, so filthy and so black,
Were christened "Sogers," "Quids," and "Old Tobac."
And when the teacher came on Monday morn,
He viewed the scene with object scorn.
Before the school was called to join in prayer,
To get the "sogers" out was his great care,

"Go out my lads, bring in a pole,
These ‘sogers’ out of doors we’ll roll;
And don’t forget the stick of wood;
Without a bight the pole’s no good."

And then the teacher labored half an hour,
With great pretending, struggling, force and power,
With what he called his "handspike and his bight,"
To get the naughty "sogers" out of sight.

His Herculean task is o’er,
The "sogers" all are out of door;
Elate with grave and sober face,
He gently bows and takes his place,
And all the children in their seat,
With him, our Saviour’s prayer repeat.

"Twas here my education first began;
Its mission filled till I became a man,
With birch and maple bushes in the rear,
And to the west a brooklet running near,
Where barefoot boys and girls did romp and play,
Close by the bridge that crossed the marshy way.
But now the thirsty years in passing by,
Have heartless, drunk the little brooklet dry,
The house and bridge are gone, the trees have fled,
And all the dear, familiar scenes are dead,

P. S. The Notes to this section will be given next week.

D. O. P.


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