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Remembering the Zora
One-Room School House

Jay 'Mike' Hamlin

I had attended 4th grade at Cove Elementary in Panama City, Fl. then we moved to Zora, Pa. ,one mile from the Maryland Line in 1941. My mother owned a house there which she had bought back in the depression for $800. Of course, we felt more like Emmitsburgians than Pennsylvanians, because we did our shopping there and my friends lived there, not to mention the fact that an Emmitsburg doctor delivered me, and was our family physician (Dr. Cadle). I was entered in a one room school about 400 yards north on route 116 towards Fairfield.

The school sat on a steep hill. The teacher's name was Mrs. Sheads, who lived in Fairfield. We were bussed there in an old Model T schoolbus, which left us off at the bottom of the hill, as I doubt seriously if this contraption could have made it up the hill to the school. So I started in the fifth grade there, and one of the first recollections was when I started school wearing shorts. These farmers had never seen boys wearing shorts, as the uniform of the day there was coveralls, or blue jeans.

My mother went to the store and bought me some coveralls (overalls) for 99 cents a pair, so I was then in the correct uniform of the day! The curriculum was a breeze, as I was always observing the proceedings in the grades above me, as the teacher rotated about the grades, while the rest of supposedly studied. We had wooden desks with inkwells, and we put our lunch in the desk. This gave true meaning to the word "brown bag" as most people couldn't afford a lunch pail, so we took our lunch to school in a brown bag, referred to in local dialect as a "toot", pronounced "tut" with a short "u".

During recess we played a crude form of baseball, with a broom stick and a hard rubber ball. Fly balls could be caught on one bounce for the putout. And if you hit a grounder , the infielder could "cross you", by throwing the ball so that it was in front of you while you were running at full tilt. If the throw hit you, you were also out, and of course, infielders delighted in burning you with a throw, however, it was really better to play it safe and cross you, because if you aimed at the runner, the throw might be behind him, then he can cover as many bases as he can till the defensive player retrieves the ball.

One day I got a real baseball for Xmas or my birthday with all the New York Giants autographs on it. Names like Johnny Mize, Willard Marshall, the whole team. My aunt in NY knew Frank Graham, a renown sportswriter in those days, who got me the ball. You ready for this, I took the ball to school, and before you know it, it was being used in a game during recess. By the end of the day, the autographs were all rubbed out with dirt, and the next day we played with that ball again, and lost it in the woods. It may still be there! Can you imagine what that ball would bring today as a collectible!

One time I got a crazy notion that boys who wore overalls were dorks, or sissies, and I wanted jeans with a belt, but didn't have any . So before the school bus arrived, I got out the scissors, and cut the bib off. What I didn't calculate was what was going to hold up these pants! I heard the bus coming down the road, so I got a belt and put it around the pants (no belt loops), so it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure what's going to happen! Here I am. walking up the hill to school, with books in one arm, my lunch in the other, when the pants started to slip. I struggled to the classroom, and faked being ill, so the teacher called mom, and she came and got me. Mother got a big laugh out of this incident, but I was really devastated at the time. As you might surmise, I made a miraculous recovery once I got home!

Back in those days, they let school out early so the kids could go home and help out with the harvest, probably hay, apples, and horse corn to put in the silo. I tried picking apples at a local orchid, and after an hour, I realized this was not my calling. I tried peaches, and they were too fuzzy.

After one year in that school, they transferred us to another school nearer to Emmitsburg, but still in Pennsylvania. I don't remember that teacher's name , but she seemed quite elderly, but excellent. In the 6th grade, I fell in love about three times, sending notes back in forth! In the 7th grade, I learned that I had got accepted to Mercersburg Academy, a very well known preparatory school, west of Waynesboro. Since my step father was in the service overseas, the school dropped the tuition to 600 bucks for the year, provided I do some chores, called a working scholarship.

I remember how pleased the teacher was to hear that I got accepted, and in retrospect, I'm somewhat surprised that she had even heard of that school. Thinking back, I'm sure she played a role in getting me in, as I'm sure she was consulted for a recommendation. But the big endorsement came from Dr. Rodman Cadle, family doctor in Emmitsburg, who wrote me up as sincerely honest, and trustworthy. And of course my grades spoke for themselves.

Well, that's the story of the one room schoolhouses, which of course became dinosaurs. Ironically, my parents bought a one room schoolhouse on the road to Gettysburg later, using it as an antique shop, and last time I drove thru there, that building was still there. But the school in Zora is no more. I drove up that hill to find it recently, and all I encountered up there was an angry dog, barking at me, and protecting his territory.

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