Pioneer life in the Benton Co. WA area
Tiny Visitor Goes to School/But He Only Went Once
By BURTON 0. LUM
Tri-City Herald, Sunday, 10 September 1961, page 22.
It was a pioneer custom for older brothers and sisters to occasionally bring their baby brothers and sisters to visit the school. The mothers always put on the finest clothes the young hopefuls possessed. The little junior pioneers never made their debuts until they were past three years old. They were old enough then to talk and understand what was said to them.
The young guests were generally brought to the 9 a.m. opening of the school and taken home at the morning recess period, or the mothers would pick them up at that time.
At one of these visitations the caller was a baby boy of three years. His mother had dressed him in his best. She polished his shoes with the Pioneer’s shoe polish made by scraping the soot from the bottoms of the cook stove lids and mixing it with milk. It was applied with a woolen cloth. Little junior was dressed in knee pants, home knit stockings, buttoned waist and a knitted sweater. The crowning feature of his ensemble being a white knit sock cap with a large blue pom pom on its top.
His older brother and sister took him to the school for his own experience and their pride in showing him off. He sat between them on their bench which was located at the rear of the room. He listened spellbound while the students sang “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” to the accompaniment of a mouth organ played by one of the older boys. When the song was finished, classes were called. The older brother and sister left him on their bench. They admonished him to be a good boy, telling him that they would be back soon. They went up front to the recitation seats facing the teacher.
Little Junior could see nothing but the backs of the pupils in front of him. He could not understand what the class and teacher were doing. He looked to right and to his left, then gazed on the floor. It was covered with thick dust. It did not resemble his mother’s spotless floor. She had scrubbed and swept their rough floor boards until all the slivers were worn off.
It was rather warm and stuffy in the room. His new sock cap caused his head to sweat. He reached up and seized it by the pom pom and pulled it off. In doing so he saw the dust on the floor again. Ah! A thought struck him. He rolled over on this stomach on the bench. He reached down with his sock cap held by the pom pom, it just reached the floor. He now had something with which to sweep that dust. He wielded the cap with vim and vigor.
The room was soon a fog of dust. Everyone was coughing, gasping, and sneezing. The older brother ran back quickly. He took junior by the arms and sat him on the seat. Then took his sock cap off, shook it and placed it back on his head. Junior was a sight to behold. The dust had settled on his perspiring head and face. He resembled a colored doll at a side show at which baseballs were thrown. When the dust settled and the atmosphere of the room cleared again the teacher and everyone looked at Junior. They could not keep from laughing at his appearance. He joined in the merriment and also laughed. As soon as the class at the front of the room was dismissed, the older brother took Junior home. The mother, when she caught sight of Junior, could not believe her eyes. The older brother told her of the escapade. She took another look at Junior. His appearance was so funny. She took him in her arms, hugged him and laughed. Needless to say the older brother and sister never took me to visit the school again.Return to Index of Burton Lum Articles