Henry No. 6
School Daze Memories from former students and teachers!
Miss Bainbridge and Henry No. 6: A Memoir
By Harold Mulford
“Henry No. 6” was a little white one-room school house in Henry Township, Plymouth County. That’s where I went to school my first eight grades.
The school was no bigger than a large living room. A pot-bellied, coal burning heating stove stood to one side at the front of the room. The teacher’s desk was centered in front of the black board that covered the entire front wall.
Students stood before it to recite their reading, writing, arithmetic, and other lessons. Some of the school’s 16 students walked as far as two miles to and from school.
Miss Bainbridge was Henry No. 6’s teacher in 1932, the year I was in the fourth grade. She was fairly young, short, wavy black hair and a pleasant looking face. She was plump and sturdy, but not fat.
Miss Bainbridge was strict. She tolerated little nonsense and no misconduct.
She did not use a hickory stick on naughty children. However, she did, on rare occasions, use a leather bullwhip about 2 feet long. Most of the time, the whip hung on a nail above the blackboard.
However, she used it the day that she caught Loren Olson pulling the hair of the girl seated in front of him. When Miss Bainbridge told him that he could not go out for morning recess, he said he would if he wanted to and called her a “fat old cow.”
That is when she reached for the whip, and “Ollie,” as he was called, felt the sting of it on his back. He decided then that going out for recess that morning was not such a good idea after all.
Ollie was one of the three “big boys” who were still in school because the law required children to be in school until they either completed the eighth grade or they reached the age of 16 years.
Such boys were usually much closer to age 16 years than they were to ever successfully completing the eighth grade. This was because each year their parents kept them out of school a few weeks in the fall to help harvest crops and a few more weeks in the spring to help plant new crops.
These three boys were more bully than scholar. They often entertained themselves at recess time by slapping us younger kids around when Miss Bainbridge wasn’t looking.
When she rang the bell ending recess, Miss Bainbridge expected students to promptly go inside and take their seats.
However, this school year had hardly begun when all the boys, big and small, developed a bad habit. They took the sound of the ringing bell as a signal to line up behind the coal shed and pee before going inside.
This bad habit lasted only two days before Miss Bainbridge came charging around the corner of the shed, whip in hand. She instantly cut off their water and sent the boys scurrying to their seats. They didn’t even take time to button their pants.
One morning recess, Alvin Gropper and I got into another fight. We fought a lot when Miss Bainbridge wasn’t looking. It was a late fall day. A cold gusty wind blew out of the northwest.
Alvin grabbed my cap and threw it over the school yard fence into a freshly plowed field. Then I grabbed the straw hat that he was still wearing and threw it over the fence.
As we went into the field to get our hats, a gust of wind caught his hat and carried it far, far across the field and out of sight.
Alvin said that I should find his hat. I didn’t agree.
We began to scuffle. I had him down on the ground, rubbing some of that plowed field into his face when the bell rang.
We ignored the bell until Miss Bainbridge appeared and broke up the fight.
As she led Alvin by the ear inside, she ordered me to go find his hat. I thought it was unfair for me to have to retrieve Alvin’s hat. So, instead of getting his hat, I went across the road to my home.
I was not sure what my parents would say. They usually sided with the teacher, as was the custom in those days. But in this case, I thought they might agree with me because, after all, they had given me my senses of fair play.
They merely suggested that I return to school at noon and see what happened. I did just that, and nothing happened. At least it hasn’t yet. And for all I know, Alvin’s hat is still sailing before the wind.
One misty, moist spring morning when we were out for recess, we were playing on the steep hillside where we had recently been sledding down that same hill through the snow. Now, the hill was lush with fresh green, very wet grass, nearly as slippery as the recent snow cover.
Miss Bainbridge was watching the children play when she saw Kenny Gropper hit a little girl, making her cry. Kenny was Alvin’s little brother in the first grade.
When Miss Bainbridge ordered Kenny inside to his seat he stuck his tongue out at her and started running away down the hill, she managed to grab his collar just as both of her feet slipped from beneath her and she slid down the steep slippery hill feet first on her rear end.
Holding tight to Kenny’s collar and sitting there in the wet grass, she laid little Kenny across her lap, and spanked him, and spanked him, and spanked him some more.
After watching Miss Bainbridge slide down the hill on her rear end, we kids could hardly keep from laughing the rest of the day whenever she turned her back and we saw her wide, green butt.
After that, we called her “green grassy butt” but not where she could hear it.
From the NW Edition, Iowa Farmer Today, Saturday, Jan. 1, 2000
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