Chase’s Hall proved to be a sort of lemon. It housed classes, indeed, from about 1919, but I have yet to hear a good word about it as a school building. The town purchased it in 1917 to relieve crowded conditions in the village. The gradual closing of the outlying district schools concentrated too many scholars in one place.
The most widely-voiced complaint against Chase’s Hall was that it was cold in winter.
“On cold days, in winter,” Flossie Gilbert told me, “we came into Chase’s Hall with everything on, even mittens. It was hard to write with mittens on but it was too cold to take them off. Mr. Bodge (J.H.H. Bodge, the big, Big Grammar School principal) was very lenient. We did a lot of oral work on the coldest days.”
Partly it was the cracks in the walls letting in whatever weather was outside that drew the complaints. Partly, also, it was the lack of central heating. Although voters sanctioned the purchase of the building, they balked at voting money to install a furnace, so the upstairs room that were used at first had only a stove to dispel the cold.
Bertha Howland remembers the building as an all-weather lemon.
“Mrs. Annie Paul,” said Bertha, “used to let us take turns sitting around the stove on cold days.”
In the spring, she said, it was as disagreeably hot as it had been disagreeably cold in winter.
When we took the spring exams to get into high school, Mrs. Paul went up and down the aisles, fanning us as we worked.
The fireman, on cold days, not only couldn’t keep the room warm but even sitting by the stove, could keep only one side of himself warm. That’s the way Luthan Crosby put it, the year he sat next to the stove in the eighth grade and kept the fire going.
“Even sitting by the stove,” Luthan said, “I was cold on the side away from it. I would keep trying to turn to warm my cold side but the seat was rigid so one side of me was cold all day.
The building wasn’t just cold; it was hazardous.
Luthan recalled the day when a crew from the American Thread Company came over to measure the shakiness of the floor. They carried two sticks. By holding them together, one end at the ceiling, the other end at the floor, they measured the distance from floor to ceiling. Then they called the scholars to stand in the middle of the room and they measured again. What they found, Luthan didn’t remember. He recalled, however, that they shored up the floor directly afterward.
There was something else about the place, too, that wasn’t in other schools, something you just couldn’t put your finger on.
Lala Hughes recalls that.
“I was always afraid of going upstairs in the building. I couldn’t tell you why,” she said. “It seemed to be closed in somehow, at the top.”
Well, there seemed to be no alternative to operating the building, either upstairs or downstairs. Both were used at different times. It continued to house scholars until the new elementary school was finished in 1954. Then all the buildings housing the lower grades were closed.
The Primary School in any system, district, consolidated or S.A.D. − is that part of the system where, if anywhere, love exists between pupil and teacher. The world as yet hasn’t presented its evil, frustrating face for the most part and there is a desire to learn. Oh, that doesn’t mean that there is no test of wills − only that the word “hate” hasn’t yet come to mean something ugly and vicious.
Yes, there will be early a testing of wills.
Flossie Gilbert remembers the day when fire broke out somewhere around Dr. Snow’s on Highland Ave. Fire is a lodestone toward which boys especially are impelled to plunge pell-mell.
And so it was on this day. The boys wanted to go; the teacher said “no”. So Lawrence Hamlin and Arden Cooley jumped out of the window and went anyway.
“The teacher was pretty mad,” Flossie remembered. “She kept them after school.”
And after that? Ah, that’s where the clashing wills came in for their final testing over that issue. And I wouldn’t bet an inflated penny on the success of the scholar wills!
Nellie McLaughlin remembers when she came out from Lakeview to Milo to live and started to school in the Primary building.
“I had never learned to use pen and ink in Lakeview,” Nellie said.
So she learned at the Primary School how to insert the penny steel pen into the cork penstock and dip it into the inkwell.
“I got ink all over my hands and it wasn’t easily washable,” she recalled. “They gave us blotters with advertising on the back to blot our writing.”
Well, most students today have never learned to use pen and ink either. They jumped over the era of fountain pens to Ball Pens, which do not blot. They might not even know what a blotter is!
Mrs. Arthur Carey, Sr., remembers that she came up to Milo from Kenduskeag about 1905. There weren’t any grades in Kenduskeag at that time. Lillian Bell took her into her own second grade seat. Seats back of the desks were wide enough for two persons then. Mrs. Carey doesn’t remember how she made it in class.
“I was always the youngest in the class,” she said, by way of explanation.
She does remember that Pearl Morrill, later Mrs. Oscar Hamlin, skipped a grade and was promoted to one of her classes later.
One of the teachers in the period after 1910 was Martha Gould. Martha graduated from high school in 1910 and was teaching in the Primary School in the teens after a short stint at the Milo Junction School in 1913.
“My favorite scholars?” she said, repeating a question. “They were Luthan Crosby, Roy Sturtevant, Edson Pineo, Joanna Harris and Elizabeth Thompson.”
And there were two others − Ruth Pineo, a very affectionate girl and Irene Greenough who studied hard to make up for her difficulty in learning.
“Irene,” said Martha “was one of the best readers I ever had. I taught her in the third grade. It was hard for her lo learn but she applied herself until she mastered the subject of reading.”
Martha’s prize scholar was Luthan Crosby.
“I could always depend on him for an answer,” she said. “When company came, I always showed him off to them.”
Along with Luthan, Roy Sturtevant ranked as a prize scholar.
Lala Hughes remembers Roy’s status as a prize scholar.
“Roy sat in front of me (that would have been in the third grade). He would sometimes turn around and look at me. Then Martha would move him to the back of the room. Then I would turn around and look at him.”
Childhood looks, childhood affection, yes, the Primary School was the place where the world was beautiful and everything around even including the teacher was good. Given two or three more grades, say in the Grammar School, and childhood fantasies would be gone and life would begin, just begin to show up as a frustrating sojourn!
During the time I was just speaking of, Martha Ghelan (later Gould) was teaching the third grade in the Primary School. Olivia Doble taught the second grade and Minnie Paine (later Mrs. Jim Dean) taught the first grade. W.H. Sturtevant was a quick-tempered man. Martha remembers one saying of his:
“A little elbow grease goes farther than a little love!” By “elbow grease” he could have meant that which went into propelling the strap on its instructive way to the bottom.
The Grammar School
Most of the experiences that marked the grammar school have appeared earlier in this account. Several that are particularly pertinent haven’t been told.
I have mentioned the reports of cheating that appeared from time to time and Agnes Sawyer’s categorical statement that “There always has been and always will be cheating.”
The one instance of her own cheating, Mrs. Arthur Carey, told me.
It seems that she couldn’t do a certain example and decided to take a short-cut. So she asked the girl directly in front of her for the answer and got it. HOW she got the answer, she didn’t bother to figure out − for the moment.
By some quirk of poetic justice, she was sent to the blackboard to put this example on, with the responsibility of later explaining it. She put it on, with the ill-gotten answer and returned to her seat with the others.
While her classmates were being called on to explain the process they had used, Elsie (Mrs. Carey’s given name) was frantically trying to learn the process she would need to know in order to explain it. Or − or what? Maybe the strap?
But the girl ahead of her didn’t know.
“I got it from (and she named the girl beside her)”. And the girl beside her had gotten it from a girl farther along in the side row.
While Elsie was beginning to perspire with dread and the call for explanations came nearer and nearer, the American Thread whistle blew. That was the signal for the class to come to a close.
“It was my one and only experience with cheating,” Mrs. Carey said.
How the experience affected the girl in front of her and the girl beside her, who had also cheated − there is no way of knowing, not knowing who they were.
I mentioned that Elsie MIGHT have gotten the strap.
Strapping was not only for the male sex in those days. It was for ALL who were smart Alecky or who broke rules. And teacher made the rules − sometimes on the spot, if some hitherto uncoded breach of rules occurred. Since teachers were mostly women they had no particular compunction with regard to girls. Only men teachers would have felt a tenderness for girls.
Lillian Bell was a case in point. Lillian lived on Clinton Street just beyond the corner of Curve Street. She had a flair for humor it the humor could escape the teacher’s eye. Mrs. Carey remembers this one, too.
One day Lillian got on her hands and knees when the teacher was otherwise occupied, and crawled up and down the aisle. Emboldened by getting away with it, she tried it again, a little later. Her eyes being on the floor, as is apt to be the case with quadrupeds, she didn’t see the teacher quietly approaching her desk. But the teacher was waiting for her when she got up off the floor and marched her down front and strapped her.
And then there were the Donald twins. No one could tell them apart. Sometimes they may not have known themselves, which one was which, in the morning after waking from a sound sleep. They swapped seats freely and teacher could never tell if either or both or neither was in the wrong seat.
One of them, however no one seems to know which one, pressed his luck too far. He got up and did a quiet little dance in the aisle when he thought the teacher wasn’t looking. She was. If both had been dancing, the teacher might have been embarrased to know which one it was, or neither. With only one on his feet, she knew for acertainty that it was one of them.
So she came up the aisle voicing the judgment: “I’ll teach you how to dance!” And she took him into the entry and taught him. Those inside could hear the strap descending and knew from then on that dancing in the aisle wasn’t for school hours.
There was the matter too, of the tooth that came out prematurely. Hazel Monroe recalled that.
It seems that Hazel and another girl were erasing the blackboards. Something happened, maybe a dropped eraser that needed retrieving. Anyway, both stooped over at the same time. Some part of Hazel, hand or head, hit the other girl in the mouth and knocked out a baby tooth. The girl started to cry.
“What are you crying for?” Hazel remembers saying. “Now you won’t have to have it pulled.”
“I know,” wailed the other girl, between sobs, “but I wanted to put it under my pillow for the tooth fairy!”
Let it not be thought that the other girl was naïve or lingering too long in her childhood at the grammar school. Hazel apparently didn’t think of that.
Ending up the recollections of the grammar school on a nostalgic note:
Nellie McLaughlin showed me a card with Jane Jones’ name signed on the back − a card given, presumably for good work or punctual attendance. Nellie remembers with what eager anticipation scholars looked forward to Friday afternoon when Jane read a chapter, perhaps two of some story if the class had earned it by good behavior and application. Jane was a very good reader, a beautiful woman and one of the best teachers Milo ever had.
Of the tragic events that visited Milo in the 1910-1922 period probably, none brought more suffering and sadness than the 1918 epidemic of Spanish Influenza. World War I was far more tragic and costly in its total scope, but the deaths in war among Milo residents were far fewer than the deaths by this savage epidemic of influenza. By sheer familiarity and frequent appearance in the vocabulary, the word itself was soon shortened to “flu”.
Schools were closed; doctors went without sleep to attend patients and deaths mounted.
One small detail of this tragic year, as it affected the schools, I learned from Martha Gould, one of the teachers in the primary school at that time.
Schools were all closed by the epidemic, Martha said. Dr. Harry Snow, who lived in the big, white house on Highland Ave., just beyond the entrance to Highland court and who was a member of the School Board, promised any teacher who was willing to stay on and help care for the sick that their teaching wages would go on without interruption. The level of teaching wages being what it was, this was little in the way of incentive. Many of the teachers did, nevertheless, sign up to stay. Among those staying were the five teachers who roomed at the large house on the corner across from Dr. Snow’s − the Lovejoy house, it was called.
These five included, besides Martha, Helen McDonald, of Machias; Verna McCann and Grace Thomas of Brownville; Emily Longfellow of Machias and a Miss Hughes from Aroostook County.
Where the other four went, Martha doesn’t remember. She remembers well where she went. Dr. Snow directed her first to Prospect St., next to the Tibbetts house where Percy Stanchfield was very ill.
“I didn’t know what to do”, said Martha, “and I was nearly scared to death.”
All she could do, not being a nurse, was wait on the patient. Sometimes Frank Tibbetts (Edna Hanscom’s father) came over from next door to help what he could. The patient died, however, as patients were doing all over town.
Next Martha was sent to take care of John Stanchfield, who lived in the two-story tenement beside and in front of the Grammar School − where Ruth Daggett’s house is now. John Stanchfield, too, died. Then Martha herself was taken with the flu. It went severely with her as it did with most patients. Her sister, Rebecca from Rockland took care of her.
One of the other teachers who elected to stay and take care of patients was Marion Russell, Mary Tyler remembers. Marion taught at the Stanchfield Ridge School.
One of the most striking of all these 1918 flu tragedies was that of Lewis Mooers and his wife, Ada. Ada’s family name was Perkins. She came from Brownville. A very attractive young couple people remember.
Lewis was taken with the flu quite severely Edna Hanscom told me. He was taken to Bangor by train (no ambulances available then). In Bangor he died. His body was brought back to Milo the same day his wife was taken down to Bangor. She, too, died and her body was brought back by train.
It was in this same epidemic that Floyd Tibbetts, brother of Edna, died. Edith White, who lives still on Park St. was his wife. Their daughter, Dorothy, now Dorothy Knox was born after her father died.
It was Eddie Mayo who first told me about the tragedy of Lewis and Ada Mooers.
Eddie added, as a footnote on this epidemic, his own family experience. His father and mother and his eight brothers and sisters all caught the disease. None died of it. Eddie himself was immune. He didn’t even catch it.
“I don’t know of anything else I’m immune to,” Eddie told me, “but I never catch the flu. Colds, always − and anything else that’s going around. But flu, never.”
There were other vagaries in the epidemic.
Mrs. Sarah Cooper, a registered nurse, went over town, from patient to patient, all through the epidemic and managed to escape unscathed. Mrs. Cooper was the wife of Billy Cooper the taxidermist, whose office and workroom, in the old days was just beyond the railroad station on Main St. It was nearly across the street from where the American Thread Company Office Building would be built later (but long before the flu epidemic of 1918). Incidentally, if one is interested to see what Billy’s office and shop looked like, one can see it as it looked on the 1896 map obtainable at the Milo Historical Society Rooms.
Among others who went through the epidemic, constantly exposed but by a miracle remaining healthy through out, was Dr. N.H. Crosby. The good (and capable) doctor was a patient, humorous man, capable of rage but not often showing it. He reminded one somehow of Abraham Lincoln. Dr. Crosby went about treating flu patients with his common sense and old-fashioned remedies and experienced a quite remarkable record of cures.
Really, this story should have ended with the last paragraph. That was in the year of 1922 when the era of the district school ended in Milo.
Noting, however, the fleet of modern, yellow school buses that ply busily back and forth during the day loaded with students and stand in a sleepy row nights by the superintendent’s office, I must be permitted one more page. The modern buses are roomy, warm in winter, carefully operated and protected by strict rules for all other traffic when bus lights are alternating and students are getting on or off.
So I can’t forbear to mention the first efforts at transportation when scholars from the outlying sections were brought to the village.
These early facilities were primitive, make no mistake about it. High express wagons or in the case of Amos Pitman, a 5-seater buckboard in the summer; pungs, horse sleds, in winter, covered with canvas or some other material to keep out the precipitation and some of the cold – these would be found totally unacceptable even for shortest distances, in this day and quickly ruled off the road.
Eleazer Carver, who followed Will Carver in transporting scholars from the western part of town, did carry hot bricks, in winter, to keep scholars’ feet warm on the trip to and from school. His vehicle, at least in winter, had tow rows of seats, facing each other. He could carry perhaps a dozen scholars. Eleazer’s routes, according to Maurice and Violet Richardson, was the Turner Howe Road, the Dover Road to the district line; and the Carver (D’Este) Road. Whether or not he covered also Sargent Hill and the Billington and Mooers Roads, they didn’t remember. Probably not, for the transportation of that period was very slow compared to todays and there were, nevertheless, school schedules to maintain.
Most flamboyant of all the vehicles, of course, was Amos Pitman’s 5-seater buckboard, used in summer. In winter he used a horse sled with covering. Charles Lafland was the driver. It was said his whip was long enough to reach to the seat farthest back. Why this was remembered, I don’t know. Maybe scholars were as restless then as they are now. Maybe the fearsome memory of Simon Legree was fresh enough still to make the boldest scholar quake when the impulse to act out first entered his head. At any rate, the legend of the whip came into mention.
Most able of the drivers to “force his heart and nerve and sinews” to do his will was Lyle Foss, who transported the scholars from the Stanchfield Ridge District. Lyle had legs that little served him, according to Irs Gould, but was not given to bother with self-pity. He could stand on his feet but to walk, he had to use crutches.
Ira had watched him harness his horses without help, balancing on the crutch and leaning against the horse as he worked the collar over its head and threw the hames over the collar and buckled the strap. He kept the harnesses hanging within reach. Maneuvering the team in front of the vehicle-wagon, pung or whatever − he would lift the pole, still balancing on one crutch and thrust it through the ring, fasten the traces and climb aboard. No stopping a man like that!
Lyle had two children − Henry and Ruth.
Elmer Brown, grandfather of Edith Perry, transported scholars from the Tollbridge District.