Books & Study
n writing recently about the old LHS building I had barely gotten by the front door when our gatekeeper, Mr. Bascom Boyd took over the article. There were other teachers in the building that deserve some of our attention. Each of them brought something of value to share with the crowd of wide-eyed students who were embarking on life’s academic trip that would be foundational in developing their respective character.
Today, I will turn to some others on the staff that likely had as much influence as the scary but likable mathematics teacher. Just across the hall, through a small vestibule, the school’s small library provided lots of reading material including texts that were a resources of further study, and many periodicals that would be helpful to those doing research or trying to keep up with the news. All the classics were there, as well as a ton of books on travel, history, and adventure.
Many of my high school classmates had begun their scholastic training in small, one-room schools spread about the county. I visited some of those, but certainly not all. I know there was little room or budget for real libraries. From conversations I had I believe a shelf holding a few readers was all these school had. Because they were for the younger grades, many were elementary fairy tales and the like. There were left over McGuffey Readers that were written more to introduce reading than for providing great literature. Therefore, their introduction to the LHS library must have been a surprise. As in all things, many saw these rooms in different ways, such as perhaps a wonderland of exciting stories. Some, especially boys, likely didn’t want to spend time reading when there was so many other things to do.
One classmate, Delbert Caudill, had grown up attending Lick Creek School and had exhausted the small collection by the time he began taking the bus to the high school. He loved to read so when he discovered the library he was in heaven. He would check out four or five books at a time. Libraries can be taken for granted and may be avoided by others, but to a country boy who loved to read it was a lasting adventure. He told me that he “traveled all over the world, through time and space and places only limited by imagination.”
When I was growing up it is likely that we had many more books at home than many of the schools around. I did read some classics including Wuthering Heights, and many of the Mark Twain novels. I was scared by Edgar Allen Poe, but found the many volumes of Landmark Books to my liking. Those were historical and about real people I had already met in history classes. These were less a textbook, but more descriptive and personal. I got to know Daniel Boon, Wild Bill Hickok, the Wright brothers, Thomas Jefferson, and Henry Ford. Books opened the doors to living and helped us to relate to those things that life throws our way.
Obviously, those times were eons before anyone had thought of the internet, Google, or smart phones. Volumes were catalogued using the Dewey Decimal System on cards that would tell us where a particular publication could be found. I certainly wasn’t one of the better students so I was one who needed help when perusing in hopes of finding just what I needed for a term paper. Time and again I would be saved by Madam Librarian, Mrs. Louise Kingsmore.
Mrs. Kingsmore, as I remember her, was a happy person trying always to do her best to solve our respective dilemmas. I think of her smile today and still feel as if the mother hen had spread her wings and pulled me into her domain. The world of books was and still is a mystery to me. She would take me to the subject matter I had thought I wanted, but as she talked and explained I would be drawn into her world of famous, classical authors, or to the technical resources that would open my eyes to yet a bigger world. Later, when I was a senior, I would work with her on the next edition of our school annual, the SCARLACK.
The one thing that is common to librarians is their low tolerance of noise. Of course it was about preventing distractions to those deep into study, but somehow Mrs. Kingsmore’s very being declared peace, quiet, and elimination of stress. Maybe her smile was the result of a peaceful existence, or maybe there was more. People are complex and seldom as they seem, but I never once saw her out of character.
One of the scariest things that frankly troubled me was when I had early on asked Mr. Bill Cheek why the large bell in the belfry wasn’t used. His answer was that it was very old and likely not supported anymore. It could fall straight down taking everything with it into that small library below. Well, at least I used it as an excuse to be quick about checking out any book I needed and finding an escape to another, safer part of the building somewhere out of the drop zone. Even with that, Mrs. Kingsmore was comfortable and happy, or at least as far as I know.
The library opened up to the next big room on the first floor, which was one of two study halls. Like the library, as might be expected, those two rooms had to remain quiet. When setting up our schedules we were required to have study hall each day. The kids who were playing sports or taking band could schedule study hall, but when it was time for practice they’d be excused. I sometimes used this time to help lower-classmen in band to get instruction. Under the direction and supervision of the band director, I taught several students how to play certain brass instruments. In at least one case I had to learn an instrument I didn’t know before I could teach.
At the rear of the building was a room filled with things that many kids today haven’t seen. I think that typing was done on Royal typewriters that were set up so everyone had their own, along with typing paper, rubber erasers, and a typing manual and stand. I signed up for this thinking it would be fun. I got to around 45 words per minute, which seemed fast to me. Later, when I was in the service, I was sent to class and raised my speed to 55 wpm, and then another class that took to me 80 wpm.
Today, we have keyboards on all of the computers like the one I’m pounding on right now. Kids learn the location of the letters and symbols. They likely type a lot faster than me, which these days is maybe 35 wpm. Well, I’m getting older and a lot slower in a lot of ways. Of course, with the help of grammar check, spellcheck, an on-line thesaurus, and numerous research engines, writing is much easier.
Fixing typo problems is also easier. Today there’s no more digging out rubber erasers wheels with their little brush attachment. In fact, there’s nothing to erase. Editing continues until you are done and only the finished document is printed. There’s no need for carbon paper! You can print as many copies as you want, or not. That’s right. Once you save the new document it is catalogued and filed for whenever you may need it again.
I remember that it took time and effort to memorize the key board to the point there was no need to look at the keys. That freedom alone added speed to the effort because having to find your place and refocus always took away from the bottom line. We used to do exercises for our fingers, typing a series of keys over and over until our hands learned what our brains hadn’t. Kids today are born knowing where all the keys are located. Further, they’ve invented acronyms as a short-cut to getting the message over. LOL! Well, this grandpa is still wondering why USA means United States of America instead of U.S. Army, or does it? My wife sends me texts from time to time and I spend considerable efforts figuring out what she said. OMW it turns out should tell me she’s on her way. I thought maybe she’d missed the nail and struck her thumb.
I’m grateful for the lessons I learned in typing, and the studies I reluctantly carried out in that old creaky building that is now a part of history. I liked the library and especially Mrs. Kingsmore. I have a few stories about other teachers and classes in that revered school building, so hang in there as I wrestle them onto a printed page (electronic).
I invite any of you that remember times or events, or even persons from those early days to share those memories with me. If you want me to protect authorship should I use your tale in this column, just say so; else, I’ll give you credit. Meanwhile, it will soon be time to cross the hallway and write about those other educators who meant so much to us as we developed into adults. Later, we’ll climb either the front stairs or the back stairs to discover other memories.