Early Schooldays in Westport
Interviews conducted in 1987 by Lorraine C. Roy and students from Westport Middle School.
INTERVIEWS MARION SHERMAN BORN 1895
OLD-FASHIONED SCHOOL DAYS
On Wednesday, July 13, 1988, I interviewed Mrs. Marion Sherman, 92 years old. The main purpose of my interview was to find out what schooling was like when she was a little girl and to compare it to what schooling is today. I learned that her school year was primarily the same. She was released from school between 3:00PM and 3:30pm. In her town, there was a fire bell. When it was stormy, she would open her window and listen for the bell. One stroke meant there wasn’t any school. Today schools have to make up snow day, however, when Mrs. Sherman was a little girl, they didn’t have to make them up. When the students had to be punished, they got a slap on the palm of their hands with a ruler. If a student was really misbehaving, he or she was sent to the principal’s office to get a spanking. However, if the whole class was misbehaving, each of the students held out their hands to get a slap with a ruler. For good behavior, they got gold and colored stars.
The grammar school was allowed to go home for lunch, but in the high school there was no time. Mrs. Sherman ate a sandwich, a “goodie” that her mother had made and basically whatever she had.
It took Mrs. Sherman 10 to 15 minute to walk to school. At that time, there wasn’t any such thing as a school bus. She had to walk to school whether it was raining or hailing. The only thing she could do was dress according to the weather.
Of course, Mrs. Sherman had physical education when she was in school. Nowadays, students are required to change into a tee-shirt and shorts. Then girls wore mini-blouse and bloomers. Since the bloomers were so very loose, she wore elastics around the bloomers at her knees. In physical education, the girls had aerobics. Boys and girls were separated as they are today.
The writing instruments we have today are different than in Mrs. Sherman’s day. She used “old fashioned pens” you put in ink wells. She recalls the times when a boy who sat behind her would dip her pig-tails in his ink.
At recess the boys and girls played together, unlike gym. They played ball or tag and other energetic games.
INTERVIEWS GERTRUDE SMITH, BORN 1900
CHILDREN OF YESTERDAY
Gertrude Smith lives on Davis Road in Westport. I was given the opportunity to talk with her about her life and school days.
The schools of yesterday were very different than the schools today in many ways. The school day was six hours and forty-five minutes long with two fifteen minute breaks and one hour for lunch. The school was one room and the teacher not only taught the students, but also acted as principal and nurse. The teacher taught grades one through nine with the whole school consisting of less than thirty children. The students were taught science, social studies, math, reading, sewing, cooking and other home-related subjects.
The children wrote with pencils and when they were older they sometimes used pens. They were given one hour of homework each day. Style in dress was not something that the students were concerned with. The girls wore dresses or skirts and blouses and the boys wore shirts and pants.
During recess a favorite game to play was called “horse”. The boys tie a rope around a girl’s neck and race their friends in the back paths.
To get to school each day many students had to walk two or three miles. Skipping school was not a serious offense. A Town truant officer would search for the students and bring them home. The parents had to bring them back to school.
Home life for these students was quite different than the home life of students today. Some families had as many as six to seven children. The children had to do many chores such as feeing livestock, pitching hay and once a week all the kerosene lamps had to be cleaned and refilled. These lamps were used throughout the house.
Mrs. Smith has been living in Westport since the age of two. She is a very cheerful lady and easy to talk with. I enjoyed listening to her stories and childhood experiences. Her opinion of student life today… “Kids today are very lucky, life is much easier and offers many opportunities.”
Thank you Mrs. Smith!
INTERVIEWS ALICE SANFORD, BORN 1901
THOSE LONG WALKS
The street in Westport, Sanford Road, was named after Alice Sanford’s husband’s grandfather, because they owned many acres of land along this road. Mrs. Sanford lived on a dairy farm but didn’t have to do many chores. The most she remembered doing was having to split wood for the woodstove, their source of heat.
Mrs. Sanford got to school by walking. She wore a heavy winter coat and her mother would insulate her coat with newspaper. Because the winters were so cold, she wore long cotton stockings, called leggings. The streets were very narrow and had no barriers to stop the wind so children had to dress warmly. It was such a long walk to school that all the children had to bring their lunches with them. Everyone owned a horse and carriage, so the drivers were very careful of children walking to school.
Mrs. Sanford remembers that she did not have many “snow days” out of school because every home had a plow. The school day was longer in the summer than in the winter because the children had to walk home, and it wouldn’t have been wise to be on the road alone at dusk.
The schoolhouse itself had two entries, one for the boys and one for the girls. In the entries were kept pails of water that had to be kept full, as this was the children’s drinking water. The bathrooms were outside which was rather cold in the winter, so students didn’t ask to go to the bathroom just to go for a walk and get out of class.
There were seven grades in one school room. There were 39 children in one room in one of Mrs. Sanford’s pictures 20 boys and 19 girls. Some of the children had to share desks. They did not have to buy their books and the books they have were kept on the teacher’s desk and were passed out and shared when needed. The school was called the Sanford Road School, which is today the American Legion Hall.
The teacher had to act as the janitor, nurse and teacher. There was no principal. The School Committee oversaw the teacher.
Mrs. Sanford remembers that at recess the boys and girls were separated. The girls plays a game called “prinny”, which was similar to hide-and-seek. The boys probably played ball or tag.
Up to fourth grade, Mrs. Sanford went to school in Westport. After that, she went to school in Fall River. In the elementary grades in Westport, Mrs. Sanford recalls studying math, spelling and reading. She participated in spelling bees the same as we have today. There were not many art and music classes because the teacher taught many grades and the only time they had art and music was when they had extra time or on holidays.
If the children were naughty, they were sent home with a note describing their misconduct. There were no report cards as we have today. Instead averages were listed.
The school newspaper was only a single sheet. It wasn’t edited. It was written by 8th and 9th grade students for the benefit of the younger children. There was no school library. There was only a Public Library in Central Village. People felt that reading books was a non-productive activity and not an important part of one’s life because they were always busy doing so many other things.
In Westport, parents taught woodworking and sewing. Whereas in Fall River, sewing, gym and woodworking were taught in school. Mrs. Sanford didn’t have the opportunity to belong to any clubs because of lack of transportation.
As a holiday project, Mrs. Sanford remembered being asked to put something on paper as to how the holiday was observed. This was an assignment after the Christmas recess. She recalled that her Christmas tree was decorated with popcorn and cranberries. It was a pleasure spending a good part of one late summer afternoon in Mrs. Sanford’s living room recalling her schooldays. Kids felt about school, then probably what we feel today.
INTERVIEWS MARION REED, BORN 1902
OLD TIMES IN WESTPORT
Life for Marion Reed was very different 77 years ago at her Westport residence. Each part of Westport had its own village with a church and grange in its center. Horse and buggies were abundant and only wealthy people owned cars. Travel was usually hard for most poor people.
Mrs. Reed went to one of the finest schools in Fall River until she was 12.
She has lived in Westport 76 years, 53 of them on Blossom Road. She went to church every Sunday which was the only social life. All activities usually centered in the church.
There were many customs back then that were different from now. People weren’t allowed to ride bicycles on Sunday, and girls could only wear dresses that came past their ankles. Ladies in the house most of the time doing chores, unless they had a maid.
Some activities Marion enjoyed doing as a girl were ice skating on the Blossom Road Mill Pond in the winter , and in the summer, picking blueberries and riding her bicycle to Lincoln Park where they sold penny candy. She also enjoyed going to camp fires in the city. In the Fall, Marion’s husband’s father, Mr. Reed, owned a country store where they sold livestock. They were shipped by the dozen by railroad. Here farmers would bring their turnips and other vegetables and hold sort of a “farmers’ market”.
Gardening was very popular, and Mrs. Sampson of Old Bedford Road had a gorgeous one. Fifty years ago, the potato farm now, used to be a cow farm with over 90 cows! Before Marion lived at the Sampson house, she used to go there after school for a sewing circle.
In World War I, Marion was in high school. The Reservation, which is in Fall River, used to be all meadows where they grew turnips, corn and squash for old people. Marion can remember seeing her first $100 bill when she was hired to husk corn.
On Blossom Road there used to be a slaughter house and a huge barn which contained all of the cows. One day, Marion could remember going to the slaughter house with her father to have Old John, the reservation bear, slaughtered. She can also remember the barn burning to the ground killing all of the cows – 50 years ago.
Many memories were remembered. She was alive when ice houses were built, and when electricity was invented. There were many fires, and life was much more difficult. Marion taught for 35 years, and married Mr. Reed when she was 25. She’s been living life to the fullest, and now lives at the Sampson house, 222 Old Bedford Road. She has two sons and many nephews and nieces. “I love Westport, and have seen it prosper and decline,” says Marion, “but I still love it and so will you!”
THOMAS W. MC COY, JR
INTERVFIEWS LEANNA TRIPP, BORN 1902
I learned some very interesting things when I interviewed Miss Leanna Tripp of Old Bedford Road, Westport. She has lived in Westport all her life and still lives in the same house she grew up in. She attended school in Westport more than sixty years ago.
One thing I learned was how they got to and from school. We take for granted now the buses that bring us back and forth to school, but when she was in school she would have to walk many miles, either all the way to school or to the streetcar. She had to walk from Davis Road to one of her schools about a mile away.
To get to another of her schools she had to walk about three miles to Beulah Road and take a streetcar to Westport Factory. She remembers playing in a field near the streetcar stop with some friends, not paying attention, and the streetcar went by without stopping for them. Miss Tripp and her friends had to walk all the way to school and they didn’t get there until recess! Miss Tripp said that the streetcar driver knew they were there, but left them just to be mean.
Another big difference was the school itself. The school had nine grades in it and one teacher had to teach them all. The schools were heated only by one stove in the center of the room. When the weather became cold, the students wore sweaters and black leggings that strapped under their feet and buttoned up to their knees to keep their legs warm. Sometimes they got wet walking to school in snow or rain, and Miss Tripp remembers sitting in school many days wet and cold! They didn’t have water fountains either. They would get a drink out of a bucket with a dipper, and everyone would use the same dipper. You certainly couldn’t do that these days!
To punish someone, the teacher would do things like put them in the corner or stand them up in front of the room, mostly to embarrass them into behaving. Another thing they did was to “whip” them with a stick on the hand. Miss Tripp’s mother said to her, “If you get a whippin’ at school, you’ll get another one when you get home!” She said that they probably deserved it if they were “whipped” in school. Miss Tripp also remembers one boy who was punished by being tied to the teacher’s apron strings.
After school Miss Trip had to go right home, but some of the other kids could stay at school and play. So, Miss Tripp brought the kids to her house to play. Her mother always had two jars of cookies for the kids after school. One jar was molasses cookies and the other was sugar cookies. School then may sound rough to us, but they liked it. They didn’t know about things like central heating and after school activities and a lot of other things that we have now, so they didn’t expect them. Miss Tripp liked school and she told me a lot about it. I had a lot of fun talking with her, and I think she had fun remembering too.
INTERVIEWS ALTON BOAN, BORN 1907
Mr. Alton Boan remembers himself and his friends “always breaking windows” during his school days. He remembers four girls in his class who wouldn’t appear in a class picture unless they were all allowed to wear the same outfit. Some of his favorite extra-curricular activities were football and baseball. This might sound like Mr. Boan graduated with a recent class, but he graduated from the Westport school system in 1924.
Of course, while speaking to Mr. Boan, the differences were also obvious. Science teachers must have been rare because he spoke of how lucky Westport was to have a science teacher. He was surprised to hear how many school supplies students had to buy because his were all provided for him.
The school had a few functions for the students, like Halloween parties in the basement of the school. The class also had dances to raise money. Because the school was small, the dances were held in a hall which cost four dollars and fifty cents to rent. In addition to this, there were a few small class dances in the hall of the school.
When it came to actual class work, Mr. Boan took the commercial course. His subjects were English, typing, and shorthand. One of Mr. Boan’s reasons for avoiding the college course was a hatred for French and Latin. He also claimed that next to foreign language, his worst class was English, After high school, Mr. Boan attended Thiboutot’s Business College.
The class of 1924 had a graduation ceremony in a Grange Hall. This consisted of a class will, class history and a dance. The class also presented the school with a plaque.
INTERVIEWS HAROLD S. WOOD, BORN 1909
A SCHOOL LENDER
Some of the interests people had before our generation were hunting, fishing and sports. In Westport, at the time Harold Wood went to school, there were very few people compared to today. The population has increased greatly. There were no televisions and you were lucky if you had a radio.
Many new buildings went up during this time. In 1936, the Town Hall was built. St. John’s Hall was the old Town Hall. Many small district schools were built. In 1918, Milton E. Earle School was built and the small schools were closed.
All the grades were taught in one room. You might have grades one and two in a row, three and four in another row. The higher grades might each have their own row. The families for the most part were large. Ten people to a family was not unheard of. The more kids, the faster the work got done.
Breakfast was their main meal. They would have johnny cakes, liver, steak, orange juice and milk. This energy was needed for all the farm work that had to get done.
If a boy or girl did not behave at school, they would have their knuckles wrapped, and when they went home get an even worse punishment. School days were never cancelled due to snow because they didn’t have to worry about cars or buses slipping.
Some of the extra-curricular activities were baseball, football, plays and dances.
INTERVIEWS HELEN PECKHAM BORN 1911
WESTPORT SCHOOLS IN THE PAST
Schools in Westport’s history have changed greatly over the years. Most ideas have changed and some have not changed.
For example, most subjects have stayed the same, but today we have much more to improve skills and become better at regular and extra subjects. The regular subjects, math and science, history, reading and English, were taught to the whole grade at one time. They still taught children what they needed to know. On the other hand, the Westport schools today have one grade consisting of a large number of students in different skill levels. In former times, the children were given time to eat and play at recess. Recess was play time, boys playing their games and the girls their own. Boys would play baseball or chase, and the girls would play hopscotch. After they were finished they would be called in for more education.
Children would be brought to school by a truck, or by their parents’ transportation, or they would even walk. Like buses of today, the truck would have a driver who would bring the children to and from school. When children were naughty or disrespectful they would be punished by being put in the corner or slapped with a ruler. It was hard to keep track of everyone being naughty because a teacher would sometimes have to teach more than one class at a time.
I wouldn’t have minded going to school, then, but I’d much rather go now. It’s more sophisticated and the opportunities are better for preparing me for college some day. As I said before, school has changed in Westport over the years, but basically it is still the same.
INTERVIEWS JAMES HANCOCK, BORN 1911
THE SLOWER TIMES
James Hancock has lived in Westport his whole life. He started out living on Charlotte White Road and then moved to Main Road where he now lives with his wife, Lucy.
He started school at State Side School where there were three or four grades and all the children were in one classroom. There was one big woodstove. Then he moved to Macomber Corner School were all the boys and girls were together. One thing he always remembered learning is noun, pronoun and adjective. School started at nine o’clock and ended at quarter to four. They had an hour lunch and a fifteen minute recess after lunch. In the winter, Jimmy remembers coming home when it was already getting dark.
They had a Thanksgiving and a Christmas vacation. School started in September and it usually ended the 16th or 17th of June. The classes usually had 36 to 39 students in them.
The students had many different punishments. Sometimes they got hit with a ruler, they would have to stay in for recess, they got sent to the corner and sometimes they’d stay after school. He always stated doing his homework on Friday and then he’d do a little bit every night of the weekend because they got a lot of written exercises.
Everyone always brought lunch to school and usually it was a jelly sandwich. It was usually very cold in the school so jackets were kept on. They had a principal and one superintendent and the schools were always free. They had math, history, geography and spelling books.
There was only one janitor to take care of the school. There was no running water and there were outside toilets.
Jimmy’s wife, Lucy, went to the Head of Westport School when she first started, then she moved to Milton Earle School and went through eighth grade and then went to work at Westport Factory. Neither Jimmy nor Lucy liked school that much and their help was needed at home.
When Jimmy finished school, he worked in many different places. He started out picking strawberries for three or four cents a basket. Now, he is a farmer; his dad was too. His grandmother came from Scotland.
Jimmy thinks Westport has changed for the worse. He thinks everything is happening too fast. There used to be very few houses in Westport. Everything was spread out. Street cars used to run to Fall River all down Route 6. It would cost a nickel a ride or six tokens for a quarter. Westport Factory was the only mill in Westport and there were a lot of farmers.
Jimmy had four children and now he is still a hardworking farmer. He says he wouldn’t want to go back to being a kid. He’s happy where he is.
INTERFIEWW HAZEL BORDEN, BORN 1915
DO YOUR DAILY EXERCISES!
Mrs. Hazel Borden has lived in Westport all her life. Her home has been in her family for generations. As a child, she remembers her schooling and the aspects of Westport’s school system.
She first started school in 1919. She attended a small one room school house on Adamsville Road. Mrs. Borden spent here first two years there. She remembers the many cold mornings when she walked to the corner and waited for the “bus”. The school bus was really just a truck with benches along either side. Canvas covered the sides of the truck during the cold winter months, and when it got warmer the sides were rolled up. During the first and second grades, her stereotypical spinster teacher taught reading, writing and arithmetic.
She completed her third and fourth years of schooling at the Milton Earle School. She combined the fifth and sixth levels into one year which she completed at the Point School. Recess was in the mornings and afternoons. There was a boys’ side and a girls’ side of the playground. When asked what event or thing stood out in her mind, she recalled getting water from a pail. All of the children drank from the same pail and dipper because there were no water fountains then. The teachers were strict, and there were no men teachers back then. Rows of desks were bolted to the floor. In the center of the room ran a stovepipe. The stove was located in the room and was always kept blazing. Children who didn’t wear rubber boots lined up their wet shoes along the stovepipe during the winter months.
Mrs. Borden spent the seventh and eighth grades at the Earle School, which at that time was Westport’s high school. There were sports and athletics which the students could participate in, such as football and baseball or, as in Mrs. Borden’s case, field hockey and high jump. She would practice these sports at home and participated in a field day event at Barrington High School. To keep the students fit there was a fifteen minute exercise routine everyday which was our equivalent of physical education or gym.
There were no hot lunches and children had to bring their own lunches from home. Some children did not complete their educations and dropped out to go to work, or as in the case of two “teens” who were caught smoking, were expelled.
Mrs. Borden recalled classes, such as, algebra, spelling and U.S. History. She also remembers several spelling bees. There was only one teacher at the Earle School and she taught grades 7 through 12. In the years 9 through 12, Mrs. Borden took business courses like shorthand, typing, English, U.S. and European History. On June 13, 1930, Mrs. Borden graduated. There were 17 people in her graduating class.
There was a ceremony where predictions were made about each graduate’s future. Mrs. Borden’s case, the predictions were true.
She married 15 days after graduation on June 28, 1930, and one year later, her son was born. Two years after that she had a daughter. Since her schooldays, she has lived a long happy life with her husband. Sincere wishes for luck and happiness are sent their way.
INTERVIEWS JEAN PARSONS, BORN 1917
SCHOOLDAYS IN WESTPORT
The Westport Council on Aging approached me through a guidance counselor at school to get me involved in their Intergenerational Interviewing Project. As a result I was introduced to Mrs. Jean Parsons and set up two interviews with her about her childhood days.
Mrs. Parsons moved to Westport from New Bedford the year that she entered fourth grade. She studied at the Head of Westport School for three years, fourth through sixth grades, at the Westport Factory School for one year, seventh grade, and at the Milton E. Earle School for four years, eighth through twelfth grades.
Her school days would last approximately six hours, but she would have to leave very early in the morning to catch the bus. The Town’s first bus was merely a truck with benches, but the children loved the ride and their driver, Mr. Ray Wood. When you got to your school, you would go into the schoolhouse. The Head School had three rooms with two grades in each room. Since there were approximately forty-five children to a room, it got crowded. The Westport Factory School had four rooms, and the Milton E. Earle School had six rooms.
The subjects studied included English, health, geography, history, math, science, art and music. Mrs. Parsons’ two favorite subjects were history and English. Another was spelling, which came in handy when the class competed in a “spelling bee”. At the Head School, the students would stand around the room until all but one person had been eliminated. They were training for the championship which was held at the Town Hall.
After a few hours of studying, the children would get out their lunches and eat. When they were finished eating, they could go outside for recess where they often played games with marbles, jumped rope, or built houses from sticks and stones in the woods behind the Head school. They would use the sticks and stones to separate rooms. Mrs. Parsons said that it seemed to her that they had very long recesses. When cold weather forced them inside, the students were grateful that they were fortunate enough to have central heating and indoor plumbing systems.
At the end of the school day, everyone returned home where most had to help their parents with chores. In the summer, Mrs. Parsons and her family worked in the fields to harvest the crops. Sometimes, after the work was done, her neighbors would gather together to play baseball. They called their team the Pine Hill Road Terriers. Mrs. Parsons played on the team. She laughingly reported that she was left shack and got anything that went over the wall. She thought that she was very important at the time, but it wasn’t until she was much older that she found out what her job was really like.
At school there was a team that you could play on, or you could join the orchestra. Mrs. Parsons played the violin in that orchestra. It met at the Factory School each week.
The school buildings are still standing today. The Head School is now the Boyd Center on Reed Road. The Factory School is now a business on Beeden Road. The Milton E Earle School is now the School Administration Building and the Town Hall Annex.
I found my interview with Mrs. Parsons very interested and enjoyable.
INTERVIEWS DOROTHY WINTERS, BORN 1917
A FARMER’S DAUGHTER
Dorothy Winters lived on Horseneck Road in Westport. Her life was quite different than today. She lived on a farm. During the early part of her childhood, there was no electricity, so it made doing chores very difficult. Her daily routine started at six o’clock with her morning chores and getting ready for school.
Mrs. Winters went to a one-room school. In the classroom grades were divided by rows. The school subjects were basically the same as today. Because she lived on a farm, she had a lot of chores and little time to do homework. Lunch was not served at school so the children had to go home to eat lunch and return to school. She graduated from high school in 1936 and received a medal in English.
In her free time she would play baseball with the boys. Her favorite position was first base. In the winter after chores she was allowed to go skating and sledding. She was also active in Girl Scouts and the 4-H Club. After she graduated, she went to Truesdale Hospital School of Nursing and also went to Boston University.
Having the opportunity to share her past was a nice experience.
INTERVIEWS ALICE MANCHESTER, BORN 1917
Alice Manchester shared many happy memories with me about going to school in Westport. She started off at the South Westport School, and then went to the Head School. She also attended the Factory School in 7th grade, and finished at the Earle School, which was then Westport High School, graduating in 1935. I am going to share some of the many pleasant memories of her schooldays with you now.
Just as they are today, many classes, such as English, mathematics, and history were part of the daily curriculum. Mrs. Manchester also took sewing and shorthand and special arrangements were made with the school to take a college bookkeeping course with ten other students. She also took algebra with the seniors when she was a freshman. Besides these regular classes, they had spelling bees and went outside to play baseball. The girls would play field hockey against Dartmouth with Mrs. Manchester as their goalie. In high school, she also sand in the glee club, which went to Brown University to sing their cheers at the games. All through school, the students would bring lunch to school in their lunch boxes every day. Occasionally, the teacher would bring a piece of meat to school and the students would bring vegetables to make a soup at the stove in their classroom. At the Factory School, the special needs students would make and serve soups to the school for five cents a bowl. At the high school, the upper grades sold cookies and crackers at lunch to the students. Oreo cookies were a favorite among her class.
The school did many special things on holidays. Every year, they would decorate a Maypole with colored ribbons on May Day and dance around it, weaving the ribbons in and out as they sang. In October, they all learned a speech about leaves and the wind for October’s party. Around Christmas, her father would chop down a tree and put it in the school for the children to decorate. They sang carols and gave speeches for the festive season and her mother would buy a gift for the teacher and a pad of paper or crayons or markers for every child at school. They would wrap and label each present and put them under the tree for the students to open.
Graduation was the highlight of Mrs. Manchester’s schooldays. They didn’t wear caps and gowns, but planned what they were going to wear. The girls wore white linen suits with dark blue blouses and white shoes and the boys wore dark suits. The class flower was the blue delphinium, so every student wore this flower on their jacket. The practiced marching up and back to the Grange Hall, and prepared and practiced projecting their voice so their speeches could be heard. On Friday, June 17, they had class night and their dance, and on June 19, they marched to the Grange Hall for their graduation.
Finding out about Mrs. Manchester’s memories of her schooldays was an enjoyable experience which I will remember myself. Someday, I too would like to share my memories of school to an interested listener just like Alice Manchester did to me.
INTERVIEWS ELIZABETH MORAN, BORN 1921
GOOD OLD DAYS
When Mrs. Moran first went to school, there wasn’t a bus. But after a couple of years of school, a bus would pick up students at a bus stop near a store. The bus ride was very uncomfortable because of the long, wooden bench seats on the bus and the bad road conditions. The boys sat on one side and the girls sat on the other side of the bus. The bus only gave a ride half way to School.
There were special activities back then. One day was May Day, and this was set aside for games, such as three-legged races and running races. Sometimes another school would come by to compete. Another day was Memorial Day. At the Head School, you bring flowers to the graveyard and sing songs and read poems. If you couldn’t get your own flowers, you given some. Some other special days were set aside for birthday parties, Christmas parties, Evacuation Day, Presidents’ birthdays and Thanksgiving. Town Meetings became holidays. When Mrs. Moran went to the Head School, school was cancelled on the rainy days.
The first school she attended was the South Westport School which had grades one through three. She left in the middle of third grade when the school closed down. Then she went to the Head School which had first through sixth grades. Next she went to junior high school at the Westport Factory School for grades seven and eight. Finally she went to the Earle School to complete grades nine through twelve. School started the third week of September and ended in the first or second week of June.
Mrs. Moran’s favorite teacher ever, she said was Kathleen Doyle. Harold S. Wood was principal of the High School.
A big woodstove was used during the winter. The students brought wood to school in the morning to feed the fire. On especially cold days, hot cocoa was served to the class.
In Mrs. Moran’s first two schools, the teacher acted as a nurse and took care of the students bumps and bruises, but with serious injuries, the student’s mother was called. In the next two schools, there was a school nurse.
Throughout the school year there were fire drills in which a bell would ring and students left in an orderly fashion.
Like many other schools nowadays, there were sports. For the boys there was football and baseball and for the girls there was just field hockey. For field trips, student went to a park once a year.
INTERVIEWS WILLIAM PIERCE BORN 1921
NO GENERATION GAP
When I was asked by the Council on Aging to interview an older person from the Town, my concern was that that person wasn’t too elderly and that I could communicate with him or her. However, when I met Mr. Pierce all my concerns were gone. He is a very well-built and handsome gentleman who stood tall and straight upon our introduction. He has blue eyes and snow white hair and wore a bright red corduroy baseball cap. I knew the minute I spotted that baseball cap I was going to have fun and an interesting afternoon and I did. I also realized after this interview that we had a lot in common and that there really wasn’t that much of a generation gap between us at all. I told Mr. Pierce that I was hoping I would interview someone interested in sports and he said that the feeling was mutual. Needless to say, we found a lot to talk about.
Mr. William Pierce lives at 764 Pine Hill Road along with his wife of 45 years and dogs. His early years were spent much like we spend our time today. In his youth he liked to hunt and fish and enjoyed playing sports like basketball, baseball and football. I told him that I did not like to hunt because I did not like to kill things and he said you killed only what you would eat. He felt that things were better when he grew up even though he did not have electricity until he was eighteen. He said the river was cleaner and fishing was good.
Mr. Pierce went to the Westport Factory School and had to bring his own lunch. Not only that, but they had out-houses then. He attended high school at the Milton Earle School where he played on the first basketball team and also the football team. At this time, Westport had a great football team and won all of its games. He was even Captain during his senior year and played left. He felt that the team did well because all the boys worked hard on farms and were tougher than other kids.
His favorite sport was baseball and his favorite steam was the Philadelphia Athletics. Connie Mack had signed him up to play. He went to the farm team but World War II started and he went into the service. His one goal in life was to be a professional baseball player. When asked about the best way to get to play professional baseball, he said “as a catcher”. He also told me about his favorite baseball heroes, Babe Ruth and Chief Bender. The Chief was one of the great pitchers and also coached him in pitching. He also offered to show me how to have a proper batting stance and seemed to enjoy telling me how he showed kids how to bat. He felt that the ball was more lively today than it was when he played. His favorite song I “The Beautiful Ohio” and when asked what age he would like to be, he responded, “I’d like to be your age right now, Mark. Because there are more opportunities today.” He also suggested that the best way to get ahead in life “is to be a good person and be polite”. He has two sons, one of them is the Chief of Police in Westport.