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Baker remembers walking to school, pie suppers, cake walks, “Christmas trees,” “dirty foot” contests, and local politicians beating the stump. Schools often served as community centers and churches. “We learned reading, writing and ‘rithmetic,” says Baker’s wife, Bonnie


(James) Baker, who also attended area one-room schools. “No more students than we had, we had one-on-one education.” Most schools were poorly attended. A three-month school term and as few as a half-dozen or so regular students were not unusual. Harvest time inter- fered with attendance. Schools suspended for “cotton picking season” even into the 1950s. The little schools began rapidly disappearing after World War II. McKey


School in eastern Oklahoma was one of the last to go, closing in 1962. Erected as a simple wood-frame building along an old stage route in 1907,


McKey School burned in 1939 and was replaced in native stone the following year by the Works Progress Administration. In 1984, abandoned, the school- house was decaying and falling in. Two former students, Jackie (Snow) Pop and Janice (Blount) Sanders were visiting with Mrs. Jessie Lowery, the last living teacher to have taught at McKey, when an idea occurred to them. “Wouldn’t it be nice to see our old school chums again?” Pop ventured. Led by Pop and Sanders, volunteers restored the school to its original state, including some of the original desks and even Mrs. Lowery’s old desk. The


only thing missing is the 750-pound school bell, which had once been used in the community to announce fires, storms, funerals, and other events as well as summoning students to class. Each November, McKey now hosts a reunion of former students.


Refurbished, it also serves as a community center and meeting hall for the First Baptist Church. In the meantime, back at Rose Hill Schoolhouse in Perry, “stern school- marm” Cindy Rupp and her scholars for the day are busy ciphering on slate boards with chalk, writing in their Copy Books with pen and ink, and reciting from McGuffey’s Reader. A pot-bellied stove occupies the center of the room, and Mrs. Rupp tolerates no guff. “The biggest crying comes when they’re doing their Copy Books,” she says.


“Most schools no longer teach cursive or traditional spelling. One little girl didn’t know what sewing was. She had never seen it done.” Nearly 65,000 scholars and over 800 teachers and parents have attended “A Day at Rose Hill School” since it officially opened in 1988. Typically, Rose Hill and other pioneer schools with similar programs take third- and fourth- graders to spend a day back in time. Kids are accepted in classes from schools throughout Oklahoma, not as individual students. They contribute a fee of $5 each for the opportunity. “Man,” exclaimed one young scholar, “this is really olden times.”


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