The stories below were told to Glenda Chamberlin by former students. Vada Wilson and Earl Jones are two of Wooley Creek's oldest living students who attended there all eight grades and graduated in the class of 1933. Vada and Earl are pictured in the group photos of the students who attended Wooley Creek School.
Vada (Stone) Wilson
(Interviewed by Glenda Chamberlin)
Vada Stone started first grade at Wooley Creek School when she was five years old along with her twin sister, Vera. They rode on horseback from their house about a mile and a half with their older brother Clarence and had to cross Wooley Creek to get to the school. When the girls were little all three rode the same horse but when they got bigger the girls had a horse of their own. Vada remembers they would tie the horses to a tree on the far side of the school ground. The girls brought their lunch to school and after they finished eating the teacher allowed the children to go outside and feed the horses. Their father (Ernest Stone) made a feed box which he fastened to a tree. So each morning the children had to carry their books, lunch pails and a bag of feed for the horse when they came to school. Back then school was never called off because of bad weather. The teacher always lived nearby (usually with the family of one of the school directors). The children all lived close enough to walk or ride horseback to school. If enough rain fell to allow the creek to rise, there was a place further upstream where it would always be a good place to cross and led to a trail that came out close to the school. Vada recalls that she and Vera always attended school regularly and she proudly displays many perfect attendance awards that vouch for that fact.
In cold weather their mother (Blanche) always made sure they were dressed in warm clothing. Besides their outer garments they always wore underwear with long stockings and a warm coat. Vada said they were embarrassed to wear the long socks so when they got to school they would roll the socks up under their dresses. Their mother also made them a covering for their legs so they stayed warm on their ride to school. She said, “We always went outside to play at recess because children dressed differently back then. They were prepared to be out in the cold weather, even when it snowed.”
Vada remembers that Iva Garrison taught at Wooley Creek when Clarence was in eighth grade. Gale Cope was Vada’s first grade teacher. He taught at Wooley Creek for two years. (1925-26 and 1926-27). She also remembers the teacher Grace Wheeler whom Vada says was a sweet little woman who drove a one seated Ford from Wheelerville and boarded with the family during the week. She also remembers a Mrs. Haddock and her two daughters, Marjorie and Martha. But Vada clearly remembers that her favorite teacher was Irene Ware who stayed with their family. She said that when teachers stayed at the Stone family home during the week, the teacher would sleep in the same bedroom with the two girls. She said that sometimes the other children would say that Vada and Vera were “teacher’s pets”. But it was more likely that the teacher just knew the girls better because she spent more time with them. Vada really wasn’t aware if teachers were paying for room and board since finances were never discussed by their father in front of the children. Most teachers at that time would be just graduated from high school. Anyone who wanted to teach went to the County Superintendent’s office and took a test. If the teacher’s exam was passed a certificate to teach would be issued. Vada and I took the test and we both had certificates to teach. Vera taught one year at Wooley Creek before she got married but Vada chose not to teach.
She will tell you that as children they felt very fortunate because they always had everything they needed. She remembers having dolls when the girls were little and always getting to buy a sack of candy when they went to town. But they were never allowed to take the candy to school unless they had enough to share with the other children. Vada recalls that back then a person could buy a very large bag of candy for a nickel.
She recalls recess at school as a time for playing games like hop scotch, jump rope, kick-the-can, hide ‘n seek, marbles and baseball. She remembers a game called “wave in and wave out” but can’t recall how the game was played. She remembers two outhouses on the east side of the school down close to the fence line. Water to drink and wash hands was drawn from the well in a bucket. She said, “There was no sanitation to it. We all drank from the same dipper but seems we never did get sick. I don’t remember us having colds. We were healthier than kids today. All the food was home grown and not full of preservatives like today.”
Vada said a school day would start at 9 a.m. and dismissed at 4 p.m. Although the Stone children were the only ones to ride their horses to school they were not allowed to let others ride them because her parents were afraid they might get hurt. When Clarence had graduated from the school she said that George Owens and Orie Foster would always help the girls get on their horse and get started off for home safely in the afternoon. She said, “We always got out of school early in the spring because everyone’s family picked strawberries. Walter Calhoun and Wayne Wilson had big strawberry patches and hired adults and children to pick. Berries were always ripe for picking by the 15th of May. Mama and us kids rode our horses from home to the berry patch several miles away.”
Vada remembers well the pie suppers that were always held at the school to raise money. “The kids would put on little short plays and programs before the pie supper. When someone bought your pie it meant you would share a piece together.” Auctioneers would auction off the pies. “If you had a boyfriend you just knew he had to buy your pie. Everybody had a good time. The funds went to the school.”
“We always had a Christmas program for our parents. It taught you to memorize and get a little fear out of you reciting in front of people. We would sing songs and have little plays all planned by the teacher. Sheets would be hung up on a wire stretched across the front of the school room for a curtain. There was a stage in front of the chalk board then.. I remember one play when Clemma Foster played the part of the ‘mother’ and I was her ‘baby’. I called her ‘mama’. (Every time she would see me after that she would always call me her baby.)”
For school supplies Vada said they bought a Big Chief tablet for a nickel and pencils were a penny each. Or you could buy two pencils with erasers for a nickel. Teachers taught students on subjects reading, writing, spelling, geography and arithmetic by class. Young students would be called to the front to learn their lessons.
She doesn’t remember many discipline problems while attending school at Wooley Creek, but told about one time she did remember.
“There was one bigger boy who always wanted to be rough. He was a bully and couldn’t get along with the other kids. He did something that caused the teacher to say she was going to punish him with a whipping and he told her she could not and that he would whip her! They had a discussion about it and then she dismissed him. That night she went to the board members and to the boy’s father. The next morning the board members and the father came to the school. They marched him up on the stage and he took his whipping with no arguments. After that he didn’t give the teacher any more trouble.”
Stone County always held a writing competition for good penmanship each year. Vada and Vera always entered the competitions and earned reward certificates for their ability to form letters correctly. She remembers hours spent practicing the correct formation of letter writing.
“After Vera and I graduated from 8th grade we went to high school in Crane. The first year we met the school bus on top of the hill. Next year our daddy bought the school bus and Clarence drove it since he was old enough. The next year the Galena school district wouldn’t let the Crane bus cross at Crossroads corner so Vera and I boarded in Crane in Callie Williams’ apartments. Glendon Wilson also went to Crane high school and worked at the McCullough Hotel for his bed. He also worked at the service station after school for his breakfast and we cooked his supper in the evening. On Sunday evening our daddy took us girls to meet Joe Jones and his daughter Alice and we all rode to Crane. Then daddy came and got us on Friday evenings to go back home for the week-end and Glendon would ride with us.”
Vada later married Glendon Wilson and went to live on the Century Farm where she has lived for 67 years at the time of this writing. Glendon worked for a construction company when Table Rock Dam was being built. Vada worked at the Bank of Galena until it closed. The bank building is still located on the northeast corner of the Square in Galena. She then went to work in Ozark at the Missouri Extension office for Christian, Stone and Taney Counties. When the Stone County office was moved to Galena, Vada worked there. Later she worked at the Crane Garment Factory for 25 years.
Vada’s mother taught her to make quilts when she was just a little girl. Most everyone around is familiar with Vada Wilson’s hand made quilts and her perfect little stitches. She has spent countless hours making quilts and her family members have been the fortunate recipients of most of them. She unselfishly donated one of her beautiful quilts to the Wooley Creek Restoration project which was very much appreciated and helped to raise some much needed funds.
Recalling her days as a schoolgirl at Wooley Creek she said, “At school we were all treated special by the teachers. We got along with each other because we were like family. There were only about 8 or 10 families that lived in the area and there would be several children out of each family that attended school there. Many of them were sisters, brothers and cousins. It was a good community and everyone worked together and helped each other.”
(Interviewed by Glenda Chamberlin)
Earl Jones attended Wooley Creek School as a student grades one through eight. He graduated eighth grade April 7, 1933 along with other classmates, Vada and Vera Stone, Virgil Foster, George Jones, Edith Foster, Opal Foster and Franklin Stallions. The teacher that year was Irene Calhoun and the Stone County Superintendent was C. H. Keith.
Earl walked to school from his home which was about a quarter of a mile away. Every day he would bring his lunch to school in various types of containers which might have been a pail, lunch box or paper sack, whatever was available at the time.
He remembers that school would always start promptly at 9 o’clock in the morning and end at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. The children were mostly seated by grade levels in the room with smaller children sitting at the smallest desks and the larger students sitting at largest ones. Brothers and sisters were not necessarily seated together but were seated at a desk to fit their size.
Earl recalls that there was a pump at the well outside for obtaining drinking water since there was no electricity or indoor plumbing inside the school. Electricity did not come into the area until after World War II, some time in the 1940’s. The school building was a wood frame structure with a belfry on the roof top to hold the bell that was used to call children into the school each morning. The older students did not help the younger ones with their studies during the day. The teacher taught each of the subjects by grade level always starting with the younger students first by bringing them to the front of the room. The other students would be given lesson assignments known as seat work. Hard back books were used for studies and Earl recalls a Blue back speller used for spelling lessons. From time to time the teacher would arrange for the students to practice their skills by having spelling bees (called “spelldowns”) and ciphering (arithmetic) contests. He doesn’t recall the teacher ever displaying any of their school work on the walls and doesn’t believe there were any pictures or wall maps either.
Directly in front of the black chalkboard at the front of the school room there was a teacher’s desk sitting on a raised platform or stage as it was called. It was probably referred to as such because that is where the children would perform little programs and plays at various times throughout the year. These programs were most generally presented when a pie supper was held at the school. There would be a wire strung in front of the stage from one side of the room to the other and the teacher would hang up sheets (or sometimes feed sack material) to use as a curtain.
Books for studies were furnished but children were expected to bring school supplies, which was usually a Big Chief tablet, pencils, crayons, notebook paper, scissors and ink. There was no money for the school to buy supplies. Those who had crayons shared with those who didn’t have ones of their own. They were like family when it came to sharing with each other.
Earl remembers the school room in December when someone would bring in a Christmas tree and the students would hang paper decorations on it that they made by hand. Sometimes they would string popcorn and berries to put on the tree.
A favorite time of day was always recess when the students could get outside and work off some of the “wiggles” after sitting in the classroom studying. There was a morning and afternoon recess time as well as during the noon hour allowed for lunch time. Games at recess would often be hide-and -seek, tag, “Blackman”, baseball, ring-around-the rosy and drop-the-handkerchief. Recess would also be a time to use the outhouse (outdoor toilets). There was one for girls and one for boys and they were located on the far east side of the playground. The teacher was always on the playground to supervise.
Earl remembers fun times at the school when it was used for community gatherings such as pie suppers and “kangaroo courts”. News of pie suppers would always spread when one was being planned and everyone in the area looked forward to those. The ladies would bake a pie to bring to the supper, put it in a fancy decorated box in hopes that their “favorite gentleman” would bid a good amount of money for it. Whoever bought the pie would mean that the highest bidder would sit down afterwards and have a piece of pie with the lady who brought it. Money earned at the pie suppers always brought a nice sum of money and the ones held just before the Christmas holidays earned enough to buy nice gifts for the children.
He also recalls “kangaroo courts” held at the school just for fun and entertainment. Some person would be “accused of a petty crime” like stealing a chicken or some silly thing like having dirty feet. Someone would be appointed as the “judge” and there would also be a “jury”. A “lawyer” would plead the case and then the “punishment” would be decided. Of course it was all a big joke and everyone had a good time taking part.
Wooley Creek School would also be used as a Sunday School from time to time throughout the years. So many folks lived far away from each other and had very little transportation available. Times were hard and money was scarce. Consequently the school was an important place for community gatherings and a way for neighbors to get together and visit.
Earl and his wife Lenora still retain his mother's former home across the road from Wooley Creek School. They come back for visits often and like to reminiscence about the old school days and their memories of Wooley Creek.
Raymond E. Stone
Raymond Stone was a student at Wooley Creek School when he was in first grade and two other times but doesn’t recall what years he attended. He thinks that was some time around 1915. His dad worked in the timber and had to move where the work was and his family always went with him. Raymond attended schools that were closest to where the timber jobs were, which was sometimes out of the state. His family moved to Wolf Ridge, where his dad worked and he went to Pine Grove School. Raymond’s mother and dad would take him and his older sister, Eva to school because the timber wolves were so bad his parents were afraid for them to walk alone. They later moved back to their home near Wooley Creek before leaving the area again. For a period of time, Raymond’s family also lived on Piney Creek where he attended Piney Creek School.
Raymond attended high school in Tulsa, Oklahoma where he got acquainted with a boy whose last name was Wooley. Raymond told his new friend that he had lived near Wooley Creek in southern Missouri when he was very young. The boy told Raymond that the Wooley Creek was named for his family. Raymond’s great uncle, Elijah Stone married Martha Wooley and lived north of Wooley Creek, so he has a connection to the Wooley family.
Although Raymond was very young when he attended Wooley Creek School he does recall quite a few facts about the time he spent there. He always walked the half mile from his home to school and remembers the teacher ringing the bell in the belfry to call the students inside to begin their studies. The school was a wood frame building then and had no electricity. There was only one outhouse for a bathroom. Water for drinking and washing hands was drawn from a well.
He remembers that the school day started with students pledging allegiance to the flag. Students were seated from front to back according to their grade level. Brothers and sisters did not sit together. There was a black chalkboard in the front of the room behind the teacher’s desk and a step stool for the little ones to stand on so they could reach the board. There was an aisle down the middle of the room from front to back separating two rows of desks. The seats in the front of the room were small for the younger children and towards the back of the room they were larger to accommodate the older ones. A wood burning stove stood near the back of the room between the rows of desks.
Raymond recalls the only supplies that the students brought to school were pencils and a Big Chief tablet. The community folks raised money to buy books and other supplies by having pie suppers. The boys had a ball made of string that they used for games at recess time. At Christmas time the larger boys cut down a cedar tree and put it in the school room. The evergreen trees were plentiful in the woods so they never had a problem finding one. The children decorated the tree by stringing popcorn and he remembers they exchanged gifts. Raymond always brought his lunch to school in a pail and it usually consisted of a sandwich made with eggs or bacon.
At the time of this writing, Raymond is 96 years old but there is one memory that is still very vivid in his mind.
(The following story is in Raymond’s own words):
“We were living in Galena when the school board (at Wooley Creek) hired a young teacher and it was her first teaching job. There were some large boys at Wooley Creek who had quit school and decided to come back. The boys made it hard on the young teacher and she quit her job before the school year was over. When we returned to Wooley Creek from Galena, my father (Ben Stone) was on the school board. The board members went over the mountain north to talk to an older woman who had taught school, about coming to teach at Wooley Creek. Her name was Iva Garrison. She did not give them an answer right away, but said if she accepted those boys would not run her off.
I was one of the smaller ones. She was explaining a math problem to us and I noticed her face flushed. She laid down her book, went over to the wood stove and picked up the poker, went back and stood just to the right of the door. And she told the boys, ‘You can attend school, but if you attend school you must abide by the rules. And if you don’t intend to abide by the rules, here is the door!’ She pecked on the door with the poker. They stayed the rest of the day but didn’t come back to school again.”
Note: Raymond Stone submitted this information in
November, 2005. At that time he was living in Independence, Missouri. His
daughter, Joy Lynn Davis also resides in Independence.
© 2006 Jo Dunne
All Rights Reserved