WOOLEY CREEK SCHOOL
By Robin Biddle
(Photos of Wooley Creek School)
The old Wooley Creek School is located on hiway
76 west of Cape Fair. The turn off is approximately three miles outside
of Cape Fair as you head toward Cassville. Make a left turn and then take
the left fork and follow the road about one and a half miles.
The old school is dear to my heart for
it is the place where my Mama, Margaret Costlow and her siblings, Leon,
Mable, Norisene, Nelson and Rosalee were firmly sent off each morning with
lunch buckets in hand to learn Readin’, Ritin’, and Rithmatic.
It was a one-room schoolhouse
made of natural stone. A huge old potbelly stove stood in the middle of
the room to keep the children warm in the winter. The older boys were responsible
for getting the fire started before the younger children arrived in the
mornings. On warm days, the windows were flung open for fresh air and a
Desks were lined up on each side
of the stove for the children to sit at. Older boys and girls sat in the
back and younger children in the front. Old bookshelves holding an assortment
of books lined the walls and the teacher stood at a tall desk in the center
of the room at the front. Grades 1-8 were taught there.
Now, my Uncle Leon was one of
the older boys who helped get the fire started on those chilly mornings
and made sure his brothers and sisters stayed in the school house! Each
morning, he pulled his younger brother Nelson up the old dirt wagon trail
to the school. Nelson was not able to walk until he was past 6 years old.
No one knew exactly why he couldn’t walk and they were too poor to take
him to a doctor to find out! At any rate, while he was in that little wagon,
he was at the mercy of his older brother whose job was to make sure he
went to school! Once he had them deposited safely, Leon could go back home
and help his papa with the chores. At that time, once the children had
reached the eight grade, they were old enough to help out on the farm.
Older brothers Uhl and Clarice were already working in the fields by now.
Uncle Nelson told how awful it
felt to be pulled in that little wagon while all the kids made fun of him
for being a baby. After a few months of tolerating the teasing, he was
determined that he would make his legs work. After several falls and much
practice he gradually learned to walk. No longer did he have to suffer
the indignity of being escorted by big brother Leon! He would be able to
walk to school with Mama, and the others girls!
Things went rather well
for a short time until Nelson decided that school was just not the thing
for him! One day at recess time, he slipped quietly into the cornfield,
slipped out of the field and joined his sister to go home. This went on
for several days and he was feeling quite proud of himself. No one mentioned
his absence from school so he felt fairly safe that he was not missed.
Early one morning, the girls
and Nelson headed for school, took their seats and when recess time came,
Nelson once more quietly slipped into the cornfield. He lay there breathlessly,
watching the children go back inside, waiting to see if he would be missed.
After a few minutes, he stuck his head up, peeked through the corn stalks
and let out a sigh of relief. He was safe! Just as he turned around, there
stood big brother Leon with a switch in his hand. Poor Uncle Nelson got
that switch on the back of his legs all the way home. He said he never
played hooky again!
The old school still stands. The potbelly
stove sits silently waiting for wood. The old desk bear witness to the
children who sat in them by the hand carved names scratched into their
surface. They wait patiently for the children to return and reclaim their
places. Bookshelves sit empty after the books with children’s names on
them silently crept out the door as keepsakes. The playground is silent
and the old cornfield no longer hides little boys who play hooky. Great
Uncle George Porter, on of the teachers at Wooley Creek School, now rest
peacefully at Cape Fair Cemetery.
Wooley Creek School still stands
waiting as a reminder of bygone times and ghostly remembrances.
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© 1996, 1997, 1998 Jo Dunne
& Susan Potts