Tuftonboro Central School - Winter 1950
Everett O. Rockwell, principal
TUFTONBORO CENTRAL SCHOOLWorld War II was over. The wartime glider factory where dad was production manager had closed. Dad was an inspector for a major airplane and airport insurer. The farm across from the summer cottage they had built on the hill near Mount Pleasant in Tuftonboro, N.H. had become available. It was a perfect base location for inspections and adjustments in northern New England. Our move was epic with four us, a goat, a dog and a couple of chickens in the car. It was 1945 and we were ready to start our farm and I was ready to start second grade with Mrs. Brooks.
THE SCHOOLTuftonboro Central School is a beautiful school. It has four generous, well lighted classrooms in the four corners. The classrooms housed 1st & 2nd grades, 3rd, 4th & 5th grades, 6th, 7th & 8th grades, multi purpose (sewing machines, musical instruments & library). A wide hall went through the center of the building. In the middle, in front, was an office and storage room and pretty large boy's & girl's bathrooms. In the rear was a wing with a modest stage and a gym/auditorium. Built into the tiled floor was a single shuffleboard court, and badminton court markings (moveable net); at the far end was a basketball backboard. Chairs were stored under the stage. The basement went the full length of the school. At the north end were the boiler room and kitchen; near the kitchen were the tables and chairs for dining. At the end of a long open space was a remarkably well equipped shop.
Outside, behind the school to the west, beside Ledge Hill Road, was a playground with heavy duty swings, sea-saws (teeter totters), jungle gym and sand pile. Behind that, the road that went around the school and beyond that a rough field that went back to the woods. To the north of the school is the most beautiful level field that can be imagined. Near the school was a perfectly laid out regulation baseball field with a huge backstop fence and way big outfield. Between the ball field and school was a net for volleyball and a ring-toss game.
MY SCHOOLINGMemories are vague about the first four or five years. I was a small kid and I believe that my personal brand of individualism was developing early. One stand-out incident was earning an "F" in Geography in the fifth grade. It must have been a wake up call as I went on to teach Geography a couple of decades later. Mrs. Thelma Colby was a fine teacher.
My clearest memories are with 6-8th grade teacher Everett Rockwell. He was also principal of the school. He had about 30 students in the room: 6th graders near the door, 8th graders near the window. In my class there were 10 girls and 2 boys. Every morning started with the Pledge of Allegiance, the Lord's Prayer (Protestant) and a Bible reading (King James). On the black (green) board was a table (squares) with the days of the week on the top and the subjects down the left. In the boxes were the day's assignment for each grade.
Every week special teachers would come in. The girls had a home economics teacher that taught sewing in the fourth room and cooking in the basement kitchen. A music teacher would teach in the fourth room. I don't think she had much success with my music talent - or lack thereof. Downstairs was the wonderful shop. Every Friday we had real shop classes. Some things that I still have are the maple wall hanging that I made for my aunt, the Dutch boy with sandpaper knee pads that my grandmother used when lighting her gas stove, and the well pump lamp that is still working beside my bed. These were practical skills that have stood by me to this day.
Mr . Rockwell was a pretty busy fellow. He had a well disciplined classroom. As principal, he had to leave us occasionally. I don't remember much of any rowdiness. We raised our hand when we had a question. We students, when our work was caught up, were allowed to go to another student whose hand was up to see if we could help. That was a great experience for many of us. There is nothing better than explaining something to someone else to embed your understanding. Also, we raised our hand to go to the bathroom - one finger to wet, two fingers if it was more serious.
My bent toward independent thinking, and perhaps my level of general awareness, grew. I remember asking the one Catholic girl what she thought of saying "debts" instead of "trespasses" in the Lords prayer. She said that her priest told them to just say it correctly under her breath - "the others just didn't understand."
One of the seminal moments of my life occurred during the Republican primary run-up in 1951 as an 8th grader. It was General McArthur or General Eisenhower. He asked us one day who we would vote for if we could. My turn, I answered "Eisenhower." He then asked me a question that quite literally shaped the rest of my life. His elegant question was: "Why?" My answer had to be "because my folks liked him." I didn't have the foggiest idea why. That really bothered me. It haunts and inspires me to this day. I decided that I really wanted to know why I believe things. And, to this day, I try.
A FAVORITE SUBJECT: RECESSAs I recall we had 15 minutes in the morning, an hour for lunch and play, and 10 minutes in the afternoon. Here too there was little adult supervision. An adult was out with us, but spent most of her/his time with the younger kids. Yes, they taught us the games and the rules; but mostly we self enforced them. Sometimes we were given specific activities, and when it rained we were led in calisthenics in that wonderful basement. There were so few of us that age didn't matter too much. There was only a little mixing of boys and girls.
Football is a Fall sport. Not enough of us for teams, tho we sometimes played tag football. A favorite was called "Drive Back." A rectangular field with a center line was set up on the back of the beautiful field. Teams were selected by captains who took turn picking players. A strong player stood about 20 feet from the center line and kicked or threw the football as far as he could into the other teams field. They in turn kicked or threw it back from the place where it stopped or went out of bounds. If you caught the ball you could take six giant steps forward before kicking or throwing the ball. You tried to find a place where it couldn't be caught or easily stopped, or where one of the littler kids was likely to flub it. Get rid of it quickly and you might catch them off guard or running back. You won when they couldn't get it back across their base line. When the bell rang you placed a rock where the next throw/kick would be and ran in to class. You started there the next recess or the next day. Some games went on for days.
Baseball was the Spring sport. We had a Tuftonboro team that played other schools so we practiced regular baseball on the beautiful diamond. Other times we played "Scrub Softball" on the rough field. Rocks happened to make a pretty good triangle (no second base). Not too many bushes in the outfield! In Scrub Softball each player takes a position, last person to the game takes the most distant position. Positions had regular baseball numbering. If there were more than 10 fielders they simply took a higher number and moved around the outfield. There were three people up (batters). When they were out they moved to the highest numbered position. Number 1 then became a batter and the rest moved up a position. If someone left the game (unexcused) they had to start at the highest position when they came back. When the bell rang, we ran to class and started in the same positions at the next recess. Games could go on all Spring.
We played baseball against the local elementary schools (grades 1-8 at the time). How we managed with only two 8th grade boys and maybe five or six 7th grade boys, but we did. Uniforms? Haaa! Hey, have you seen what the major leaguers played in back then? We didn't even have similar caps. Our ball field was the envy of everyone else. Carpenter School, a much bigger school in Wolfeboro, had a field that sloped downhill in the outfield. Brookfield hadn't even mowed the outfield one time. We would bring our "official" bases to share sometimes. Back then kids on one team might ask a kid on another team to let him try his glove. Boy, did we have fun!
Winter: Coats, boots and snowballs. Walter, the road agent would drive his big plow up and down the beautiful field, the plow "wings" making a high snow bank. The snow banks would face each other about 30 feet apart. They made great, long snow forts. Groups on either side would try to hit someone on the other side. Hard snowballs were not allowed. When hit you had to go to the other side. Got tricky when it came down to one or two people on a side. The big side could coordinate a barrage of snowballs. On the other hand, one snowball was almost bound to hit someone. On and on through the winter it went.
When the snow plowed fort wasn't there, we'd go to the rough field and trudge parallel lines in the snow about 30 feet apart. The game was similar to the plowed fort game, except in an open field with no hiding place.
A LITTLE GRATITUDE AND A LITTLE HISTORYThank you Tuftonboro. You gave me a really fine start in life. I'm grateful that I got a really good elementary education there. (I'm a trained educator (B.Ed.).
In high school I wrote a paper on the history of Tuftonboro. The part that has stuck with me most is the part about the schools: the town's remarkable devotion to excellent schooling for their children. This is a town of about 33 square miles. In 1823 there were 6 school houses. By 1873 (population about 1,200) there were 11 school houses. Think about that: 11 buildings, 11 stoves, 11 woodpiles, 11 outhouses, 11 sets of school supplies and 11 school masters/mistresses. Much was provided by labor and board, but that's as much of a "tax" as anything. I can't help thinking of that when I hear people complaining about taxes, particularly considering our general lack of support for our schools today.
As population dwindled and transportation became easier, schools dwindled to 4 or 5 by the early 1930's. About then the town, in the Great Depression, got together to build the magnificent Tuftonboro Central School. And, from what I hear, while it has expanded a great deal, they support it well to this day.
I was a big Boston Braves fan. I loved baseball then. Around 1914, My mother's dad, Al Pigon, had played sandlot baseball with Babe Ruth (who finished his professional career with the Braves). The ticket above is to a game he took me to at Braves Field - note the price. He, and my Aunt Muriel Rich, took me to several games when I visited them in Boston suburbs during school vacations. I particularly admired Al Dark, the Braves' shortstop (Spahn & Sain were pretty good too). I so wanted to play shortstop, but, at about 4'6" the throw to first base was too far so I ended up playing second base. I never was good at hitting, but I got a lot of base on balls. Any time I could afford a candy bar it was a "Waleeco Coconut Bar" because they sponsored the Braves on the radio.
Can you imagine how devastated I was when the Braves moved to Milwaukee in 1953!
That little chicken was my class graduation gift from Tuftonboro Central School in 1952. It laid those eggs when you pushed down on her. I was pretty active in 4-H. I remember Elizabeth Roper as a wonderful county leader. My favorite activities were Conservation, Forestry, Poultry, Gardening, and Junior Leadership. I've always been grateful for the training I got in their Junior Leadership program. I ended up being a Unit Leader for 6 cabins of boys at 4-H camp at 13 because the intended counselor didn't show up.
BACK to David N. Rich