HERITAGE JOURNALS: STORIES COLLECTED BY 6TH GRADE STUDENTS OF JAQUI EICHER, 2002

Tobogganing When I Was a Boy

East of Salem there is a small community called Pratum. This is where I grew up. About 1/2 mile East of Pratum there is a river called the Pudding River.

One Winter day it snowed a lot–12 inches–and it was cold, as the snow did not melt.

A group of boys, including my older brother (6 years older than I), had a toboggan which would hold about 5 fellows. We got it out and started going down a nice hill toward the Pudding River. There was an old rail fence made out of wood at the bottom of the hill, next to the river.

When we went down the hill we would stop approximately 100 or 150 feet short of the rail fence. “Oh, what fun!” We were having a great time when the older boys came and took the toboggan. When they got tired of it, we were back at it again.

That evening they got buckets of water and put it on the hill. The temperature was cold, so the water turned to ice.

Well, the next morning was Saturday, so no school. Us little guts got up early and beat the older boys to the toboggan. We were having lots of fun and would stop before the rail fence. The older boys came and took the toboggan away from us. We thought that was so mean. They got on the toboggan and went down the hill just zooming. When they got to the bottom of the hill, they couldn’t stop. They went right through the rail fence and onto the ice on the river. The ice was not thick enough to hold all the weight and they broke through the ice. All the boys went in the river. The water was only about three feet there, but they all got sopping wet.

Well, do you know what? Us little guys were able to toboggan the rest of the day. The older guys had had it. This happened about 1940. “Oh, what fun!”

–John Wenger

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HERITAGE JOURNALS: STORIES COLLECTED BY 6TH GRADE STUDENTS OF JAQUI EICHER, 2002

My First Year in School

“When I was six and in the first grade I went to Jefferson School. It was located where the elementary school is now. The first floor was elementary and the second floor was high school. In the basement were our rest rooms. One noon I was late to leave the rest room. The bell sounded and I couldn’t get the door open because it was stuck or locked. I could not get out. I never came to class so the teacher sent someone to look for me. They couldn’t get the door open either and I was so embarrassed. Two big boys from the upper class came down and took out the window. One jumped in and lifted me up to the other boy outside the window.

“My most embarrassing moment.”

–Louise Looney Cox

HERITAGE JOURNALS: STORIES COLLECTED BY 6TH GRADE STUDENTS OF JAQUI EICHER, 2002

“This is a story Veron Goin told many times: Jesse Looney was the first to settle South of Salem in 1843. He had many kids and later each son had a farm on the old 99E Highway South of Salem and just North of Jefferson. The Goin Farm was on the same road. The mail boxes read–Looney Farm, Looney, Looney, Looney, Looney, Goin, Looney.”

–Smith Cox

HERITAGE JOURNALS: STORIES COLLECTED BY 6TH GRADE STUDENTS OF JAQUI EICHER, 2002

Happenings of Earl Days At Old Dever School, Dist. No. 20

“My first teacher was Rebecca Crooks (Hoefer), a very sweet lady till the day we were marching into school in a double line and Bertha Skelton (Barnes) suddenly vaulted right over Eva Hooper’s head. Frank Asche was sent back of the school yard for a hazel and Rebecca went into action.

“Another teacher was Elmer Nash who boarded with Joe Jones family. He would watch Mr. Jones set pies in her pantry window to cool and when no one was looking he’d steal a pie, then watch Mary Jones punish her kids, Fred, Frank, Nellie and Myrtle.

“When Ada Cowls was teacher, Bill Hoefer often visited the school. Youngsters were not supposed to know why he was so interested in school. One day when Bill was visiting, the Asche twins (Freda and Lena), Jake Gilmour, Nelson Gilmour, Wayne Kelly and Della Asche marched up to the platform and sang: Can she bake a cherry pie Billy Boy? Blonde Ada was scarlet and furious.

“The Gilmour boys and Wayne Kelly usually teamed up together. One day as teacher sat down, she leaped straight up, demanding to know who put the needle in her chair. Three boys stood up to take the blame. Jake was asked to come forward and put the phonograph needle in the cane bottom chair exactly as it was placed for the teacher. ‘Now Jake you sit down,’ he was told. He carefully sat forward and slid back into the chair pushing the needle as he sat. She next tried to shake Jake but he was as large as she and so very limp, she could do nothing.

“There were no modern play things. A Flying Dutchman was always fun. This was a pole fastened on top of a stump with a spike or wood pin. The big boys would run around at top speed while all who could would hang on. The little kids eager to get in on the fun would run in while the log was in motion and get knocked down. One Monday we viewed the sad remains of our Flying Dutchman. Mrs. Jones and Fred had gone to school on Saturday with axes and chopped stump and pole into bits. After that we had to be satisfied with a teeter board through the old rail fence.

“All attractions were not at school. As we walked by Ed Chambers on wash day we used to stop and watch the big old Angora goat doing the family washing. To make Luella’s wash day easier Ed built an incline for the goat to walk up. This turned a pulley fastened to the washing machine. When he got tired he would brace his feet, some one would have to get him started from the rear. The washing would proceed until his next rest.

“One of Dever’s present Grandmothers loved to steal the boys bicycles and ride west. One day three boys waylaid her; in a fence corner they proceeded to pants-guard on her. This would be fine in modern overall attire, but in those days the girls all wore dresses.

–Della Ede

Circle of Light

My Language Classroom

My Language Classroom

“What does everyone want in life? To not be alone.” Stephen Colbert

In a recent collection of short videos about his Catholic Faith, Stephen Colbert made the observation at the beginning of this post, referring to his show, The Colbert Report. (“Stephen Colbert Opens Up About His Devout Christian Faith, Islam, Pope Francis, and More” by Barbie Latza Nadeau, 9-9-15, The Daily Beast). The entire collection of videos is worth watching because Colbert’s thinking and communication are both so clear, but this one line in particular stayed with me and I’m still processing days after watching it; the idea resonates with me because I’ve already been seeing this thread of a theme throughout my life as I reflect back and back, even to childhood.

One of my favorite ways to spend time is listening to or watching stand up comics and my favorite comedians are those who include everyone in the audience in their jokes: Ellen Degeneres, Mike Birbiglia, The Smothers Brothers, Carol Burnett, Bob Newhart, Victor Borge. After an informal analysis (i.e.: watching hours of Youtube sketches, to my delight), I’ve determined that these folks tend(ed) to draw the audience into their story, as if into their own family, so that the audience feels a solidarity with them by the end of the routine. We feel as if we have a new friend and if we met one of these comics on the street, we’d greet each other with a hug or a handshake. These comics don’t leave us alone, outside of their circle of light and humor which they’ve created, but draw us in with them. This is what makes a great comic, I think. I want to be part of their happiness.

On a larger scale, I agree with Colbert: what any of us want is a place to belong, a family, a village. It is in this circle that we feel secure in our own bodies and spirit, as if we can be ourselves without fear of persecution. The art is to create this “family” without causing others to feel persecuted or left out, which is an easy way to create a group–putting up a boundary or wall of some kind to demarcate the differences involved.

Growing up as the youngest of three sisters provided many opportunities for any one of us to have hurt feelings throughout our childhood years. One vivid and early memory I have related to this was on a summer day in my Grandma’s back yard, near the swing set (which had no swings–we had ingeniously converted it to a large tent by throwing table cloths and bed spreads over it). My memory, like a silent movie, includes my siblings and neighbor boys running off to the next adventure without me, and being left alone, I stand there wailing, immobilized by the feeling of being left out of the group. But then one of the boys returned to reassure me that I could join them, I just needed to hurry up and run with him. I might have been 6 or 7 at the time, I’m not really sure.

Maybe spending my life as a teacher has taught me more about this idea of the circle of light I’m thinking of because in my classrooms, the highest goal of all for me was to create a kind community; this was of utmost importance in order for learning to happen. I still know this to be true as I teach adults in a second language setting. I’ve learned to find what we have in common before teaching the hardest concepts.

I have read and re-read Sharon Salzberg’s book, The Force of Kindness, which I stumbled upon at the city library’s 50 cent book store. In Chapter Four, entitled “How We See the World”, she says:

If we are willing to take a risk anyway, and consciously practice kindness, we see that, unlike the world’s message, which is ‘buy more,’ ‘compete more strongly,’ ‘It’s a dog eat dog world,’ a much more refined happiness comes from feeling joined, from a sense of belonging–both to this life, and to one another. We need to hone our own sense of purpose. We need to understand what will actually allow happiness beyond acquisition, what will help us realize happiness more steadfast than any temporary pleasure of fleeting triumph.

Salzburg also tells a story in the same chapter about a woman she overheard on a New York Street saying, “I was sick all winter,” and when Salzburg turned around, she witnessed this woman handing a street person some money. The woman said, “I had pneumonia, and every time I started to get better I’d have a relapse. Now I am finally getting better, and I just wanted to share the joy.”

Sharing the joy is including others in a circle of light too, and it’s what I aspire to every day of my life. There are so many days that I know I have failed in this aspiration, but I want to keep trying. I hope to continue my study of comics in the hope that their wisdom infuses my life. I think Colbert has it nailed when he said: “What does everyone want in life? To not be alone.”