Jewett, Hunter’s good neighbors just up the hill

These neighbors are just four miles north of almost anywhere in the town. (County Route 25, 23C and Scribner Hollow Road).

This week I re-read the 1976 book by Elwood Hitchcock, honoring Jewett and the Bicentennial of the American Revolution. The book, “THE HISTORY OF THE TOWN OF JEWETT,” is factual and to the point. Mr. Hitchcock, being the gentleman that he was, made sure to honor a past Jewett Historian, Margaret O’Brien. If he were here today, I’m sure he would spread the praise to Janet Lawrence Nichols, long-time retired historian of Jewett.

A huge thank you to Linda Hitchcock Varelas for permission to use her father’s information. (Sadly, for the sake of space, I condensed much of it).

Mr. Hitchcock, with his extensive education and background in the school system, knew the history of the rural schools in Jewett.

With the fear today, of the Coronavirus, children are being kept home from their schools. It might be interesting if they knew what it was like to be a kid going to a rural school so many years ago. Mr. Hitchcock explained it well.

There were no stores to shop in, no Walmart. Kohls, not even Amazon! Clothing was hand-made. It was warm but bulky and uncomfortable to wear.

“During the warm weather, the children went barefoot, while in cold weather, heavy shoes, leather boots, and coon tail boots were worn.”

Many parents had little money; lunch was carried with the kids while they walked the two or three miles to school. Elwood explained that often a lunch was a cold pancake and an apple. (No school buses back then)!

The school building was usually old with almost no furniture. A wood-burning stove would be where the children stood for heat. This woodstove frequently thawed out frozen mittens and hats. “A pail of water (probably from a near-by spring) was filled for drinking water. The children drank from a common dipper hung on a nail by the water pail.”

Hooks and nails held their coats and hats.

The library rarely had the money for books; most books were donated by parents that had them at home. (So sad for those kids, my granddaughter reads a bundle of library books, especially now with no school).

“Parents provided the textbooks, paper and pencils or slates for their children. Slates and slate pencils were cheap and would last a long time.”

“School started at nine and closed at four. The day began with a Bible reading, prayer, and perhaps singing one or two songs. Some teachers would have an older pupil examine the children each morning and keep a record of clean face and hands; hair combed, clean nails and ears, and a clean handkerchief to encourage cleanliness and personal care.”

“Unless the teacher who taught all grades one through eight was versatile and gifted, there was usually little music, art, shop, homemaking, agriculture, or guidance in grades 7 and 8.”

What a great book. Elwood shared the history of: The churches, schools, cemeteries, wild animals, people, and the economy. Great reading.

I inquired about purchasing additional books and found out that books were available at the Town of Jewett building. Thanks again, Linda, for allowing me to share this part of your dad’s book.

Please, any comments or concerns, email hunterhistorian@gmail.com, or call 518-589-4130.

Until next week, take care, be thankful, and be kind. You never know how your act of kindness may change someone’s life. Please, everyone, stay safe.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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