Most of us take getting an education for granted. Many people would do anything to avoid it. But back in the first part of the twentieth century, it was not a given.
My father-in-law’s education was minimal. He could write his name, but was able to read very little. He was one of the smartest men I have ever known, but he had to work during his childhood to help his mother and ten siblings. My mother-in-law went to school for three or four years, and before their children were old enough, did the reading, or relied on a neighbour down the road – one of the few educated men around.
After grade eight the students had to write “Entrance ” exams for the right to go on to high school. Dad passed it, but couldn’t go on, even though he wanted to, because as the oldest of six children he had to work on his father’s barn.
So Mom was one of the rare young people who went to high school. There was no school bus, so she had to board with a family in Lyndhurst. So at the age of eleven, Pappy would take her there Sunday night with loaves of home made bread, cold boiled potatoes and cold beef. Every night she would warm up the potatoes, and eat it for her supper. I think she had some of the bread for breakfast and beef sandwich for lunch. No matter what the host family was having, it was never shared with Mom. I don’t know how they could treat an eleven year old girl like that!
I think it was the following summer that Pappy uprooted the whole family, and moved them to Detroit. It was at that time that the Ford Company was expanding in leaps and bounds, and needed houses for all the workers. So Pappy went to build houses. Every time I think of them moving from Californy, back of Jones’Falls to the city of Detroit, I keep thinking of the Beverley Hillbillies!!
When Mom started school in Detroit, at the age of twelve, she had already reached her full height of 5’7, which was quite rare for that time. As many tall girls tend to do, she had slumped shoulders, and terrible posture, trying to look shorter. They made her do a full series of exercises to straighten back up. She particularly hated hanging from the monkey bars . All of her girls can tell attest to the fact that we all had great posture! If you slumped, she would strike you between your shoulder blades with the side of her hand! When Dorothy came to live with us at the age of fourteen, and she was even taller, she soon learned to stand tall and be proud of it. Of course, being the shortest by several inches , I always stood as tall as I could!
The academic part of school of course was no problem for Mom, and in four years she had completed grade twelve and was at Wayne University ,aiming at a four year teachers’ degree. I do not know how she handled tuition – probably worked.
Sadly, for the family, the Depression hit, Pappy was out of work, so decided to take the family back to the farm in Ontario because he knew at least he could feed them. That’s when it hit the fan ! Mom wouldn’t go. She knew if she did, she’d never finish her education. Ma was a lot shorter than the rest of the family, but had the biggest temper, and she lost it. She said if Mom didn’t come with them, not to ever come home again. Can you just imagine how Mom felt to see the family leave, and know she wasn’t welcome back home?
Mom put herself through school by working as a maid for families who were wealthy enough that the Depression hadn’t ruined them. I think Mom worked for two or three families before arrangements were made for her to stay at a residence for women of limited means. I think this was arranged by one of her professors. Her education was three years of classes, and the fourth year she taught a class. I think she told me there were four classes with fourth year students teaching, and a master teacher supervising them.
One year she had a pink dress of very light material which she wore every day, rinsing it out at night. As the fall got colder, a teacher gave her a blue dress of heavier material. For the rest of her life, Mom hated blue! But with a lot of work on her part, some help from people who recognized her unusual talent and intelligence, and helped her reach her goal, Mom got her teaching degree.
Now I have to back up four years. By December of the first year, Mom was so lonesome for the family, she came home for Christmas. I don’t know how she got to Jones Falls, but once there, she started to walk home. Half way home, she met Pappy driving . He stopped and said, “I’ll take you home, but it’s up to your mother” They got back home, Ma came to the door to see why Pappy was home so soon, saw Mom, let out a cry, ran to the truck, arms wide open and gave Mom the hug of her life! I think Pappy knew all along what would happen! When it was time to go back to Detroit, Pappy planned on selling a cow to get enough money for a bus ticket, but met a man who was a friend of one of his neighbours. Guess where he was headed!! So Mom got back for free.
One summer, when she was home, she went to visit Aunt Ruby who was working for a family in Ellisville. While there, she met the oldest son, tall, dark and handsome, Lloyd Oliver Jones. They were married on June 30, 1938. They were renting a farm at Sand Lake near Lansdowne. Mom returned to Detroit to teach one more year to get some money to help get the farm going. However just before she was to go, she had a miscarriage . Aunt Ruby went with her, and Mom would teach, come home and collapse and Aunt Ruby looked after meals and everything. Mom came home to stay at the end of that year.
Mom stayed home on the farm for a few years. Starting with nothing, farming is almost impossible, so Mom and Dad decided she should teach to help with the farm finances. But there was a problem.
Even though teachers only had to have grade thirteen and one year of teachers’ college, or grade twelve and two years of teachers’ college, Mom’s four year teaching degree from Wayne University counted for little. There was a third way to get a teaching certificate. You went to summer school for six weeks, taught a year, summer school again, taught another year then go to teachers’ college for a year. It was decided Mom could get her teacher’s certificate if she went to summer school for two summers. So she went to Toronto for a summer, I went to Grandma and Grandpa Jones where Aunt Hilda and Aunt Beulah looked after me.
At that time married teachers could not teach. But there was a shortage because so many of the male teachers were fighting in WW II. There was a school north of Ottawa that hired Mom, and I spent my winters with Ma and Pappy.
After a short time, the restrictions about married teachers was lifted, and Mom taught at Brier Hill until Virginia was born. Then she stayed home with Sally and Barry joining the flock.
She went back teaching when Barry was two with the help of a wonderful neighbour girl, Myrla Tye, to baby sit the three younger ones. One of the neat things is that Myrla lived in a house by our farm, and she baby sat our two – Christopher and Cindy
She taught in a one room school at Soperton, and then moved to Pine Grove, near Brewer’s Mills in Pittsburgh Township. When I left the two room school at Joyceville, Mom was hired to replace me. Then they started to build an addition onto Joyceville. One of the trustees, gleefully told her they were advertising for a principal. Now the fact they had gone to school together and of course Mom beat the socks off him when it came to marks, might have had some part in his glee. Mom asked him why they needed to advertise , since they already had a principal. Of course he didn’t dare say it was because she was a woman, so said it was because she didn’t have a degree. Mom told him she’d get one!
Queen’s University counted her degree from Wayne U. as grade thirteen and three university courses, so she needed twelve more. So she took a course every winter, and two every summer and in four years had a B.A.
Mom stayed as principal at Joyceville, which eventually grew to a school with twelve classroom, until she retired in 1977. At the first she was one of four women principals.
Mom never took her life and all the people who had helped her reach her goals for granted. She always paid it forward, and raised us to do the same. Children at Joyceville who had less than most, never realized that those handmade mittens that mysteriously appeared under the Christmas tree in their classroom with their name on the package, had been knit by the very principal they did their best to not get on the wrong side of! She often gave people loans, knowing she might not get it back. Two different times she and Dad had a family living at our house who were out of work. The man helped Dad, and the wife looked after the house. They and their children lived for free and received a small wage. They would stay until they found a job.
Of all the ways my parents influenced the person I am today, the one for which I am most grateful is the understanding that I have a duty to support my fellow man in any way I can .