Remember the old school desks?

Embed from Getty Images

When I started at the Dayton school in 1945, we had desks that looked like this, although not quite so heavily defaced. In first grade there was no ink bottle in the ink well provided for it, and I don’t recall having one even in the higher grades. By then we had ball point pens, but the hole for the ink well remained. What I do remember about this desk is how we learned to write our names in first grade. Miss Fraine, who taught grades one through four, would write our names in chalk, in her beautiful flowing handwriting, on the top of our desks. We each had a jar of corn kernels and would outline the name with the corn, to learn the shape of our names.

The desks were fastened in rows, with the back of one seat supporting the desk for the person behind. Seven or eight rows of these seats held the four grades in each room. Miss Fraine moved from row to row as each grade was called on for their lessons. By the time you reached fourth grade, you had heard those lessons several times over.

Gracie Green’s school days

card & ribbon

In 1881 little Gracie Green was an eight-year-old student in the Dayton school. She was a well-behaved student, since her teacher certified that she “during the winter term of five months has not whispered once neither has she been guilty of any act of misconduct.” Grace was the daughter of Isaac and Mary Jane (Trumbo) Green. She was born in Dayton in 1873. She did not marry, and died in Dayton in 1894. She is buried in the Dayton Cemetery.

Gracie Green

Her teacher was Miss Desdemona (Dessie) Root. Miss Root taught in the Wedron school in the summer of 1881 and then moved to the Dayton school for one year, where she was responsible for the success of many of the entertainments held at the school house. She received many compliments on how well she had prepared her students for their performances. Surely little Gracie did her well-behaved best in her part, whatever it was.

Walking on the Desks

A Pioneer School

Maud Green told her memories of school life in Dayton in the 1870s and 1880s. The school would not have been as isolated as the one shown above, as it was right in the heart of the village.

The desk tops were hinged and when the boys walked on them mischievously they sometimes dropped unexpectedly with disastrous results.  A bench ran around three sides of the room to accomodate more pupils.  The other furniture consisted of the teacher’s desk and a small organ. There was always something extra for Friday afternoon.  One teacher read us chapters of “The Swiss Family Robinson” each week and we spoke pieces and sometimes had a treat.  Once it was oyster soup!  We all had slates instead of tablets and our slate pencils came covered with gold or silver paper.  Once we girls put boards over the corner of the fence to make a play-house at school & we all took rag-dolls to play with at recess.  Our best “play house” at home was when the oats-bin was empty in what we called the “little barn” north of the house.  Of course we all wore sun bonnets.

Miss Emma Clementine Fraine


Miss Fraine bookmark     1952 Class list - Dayton school     Miss Fraine

In 1952, Miss Emma Fraine retired after fifty years of teaching, most of them at the Dayton school, where she taught grades one through four. The class lists shown above include only those students whom Miss Fraine had taught, so not all of the members of the upper grades are included. Her classroom was a single large room, on the first floor of the school. Each grade had its turn at recitation, with time to prepare for the next lesson while other classes were reciting. If you listened to the recitations of the classes ahead of yours, you could get a head start on the next year’s work. She was a firm believer in teaching reading by means of phonics and when phonics fell out of favor, she asked the school board to allow her to continue her existing ways, which they were glad to approve.

Her parents were Charles and Clemence Fraine, who were married 11 May 1878 in Ranrupt, France. They immigrated to the US and came to Dayton by 1882, where they raised their family: daughters Addie, who married Richard Thompson, 31 Dec 1901; Jennie, who also taught school in Dayton and surrounding towns; and Emma, and son, Jules.

The School Playground

Dayton school picnic

Shirley Walleck and Judy Jackson are sitting on the merry-go-round, which is unusually stationary. The more normal state of affairs was to have several children pushing it madly around, while others clung to the bars and screamed. This picture was taken around 1949, at a school picnic held in the schoolyard.

There was other playground equipment – swings, monkey bars, and that favorite of some of us – the giants. Also called a Maypole swing or an Octopus, you’ll never see one on a playground today, but we loved them. As seen in this picture, you ran around the pole holding on to the handles at the end of the chains until the centrifugal force swung you off your feet.

playground equipment

What do you remember about the playground equipment? Leave your stories in the comments.