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Early Schools of Lower Swatara Township

One-room schoolhouses were usually rectangular in shape with three windows on three sides and one blank wall with a front door.  Most had a small tower which housed a bell.  The bell was rung early in the morning by the teacher to alert the children to come to school.  In the late afternoon it would be rung to let the parents know that the children were about to start on their way home.  It was also rung during the day to call the children in from play.  

After saying the Pledge of Allegience, having prayer, and singing, the children would work on Reading, Writing, Grammar, and Arithmatic.  Sometimes they would recite a passage for the teacher.

The only way to get to school was walking.  A few may have had a horse to ride if their father did not need it for chores that day.

Children were needed in the fields in April for spring planting and again in the fall for harvest.  The school schedule was flexible to allow farm-children to work when needed and school usually ended before spring planting.

Coble School

The Coble School (grades 1-8) was built by Isaac H. Coble who owned a farm where the present-day Middletown High School now stands.  It was located just north of the farm on North Union Street.  Issac Coble was a school director and township supervisor.

 

Exerpt from Coble School by Richard Moore; used with permission:  A coal stove provided heat and was located in one corner.  Each Sunday afternoon, the teacher and a few students made a fire in the stove, which was tended all week until Friday, when it was allowed to burn out.  Since there was no plumbing, students had to get their water from a hand-pump outside.  Boys' and Girls' outhouses were located behind the school.  

School opened each morning with singing, the pledge to the flag and prayer.  Each grade was then called up as a group for a lesson and assignment.  Students wrote with pens which they dipped into inkwells.  Very few resources were available to students.  The school only owned one set of encyclopedias, which as on the back table of the school house....Besides good grades, perfect attendance was encouraged and rewarded with a certificate of recognition.  Eighth-graders were required to pass a County examination in order to go on to highschool...  Most of the school work was completed during school as most of the families were farmers and the children had chores to do when they got home....the school year ended around mid-April, because of the beginning of the farming season.  During WWII, studnets were sent outside to collect milkweed pods, which were then handed into the school and used to make fibers for parachutes.  In addition, students collected surplus food from their familes, "Victory Gardens", and would sell it at the Kiwanis Fair.....at the end of the school year, there would be one day for picnicking and playing games...

Alice Demey, a local resident, began her teaching career in 1935 at the Coble's School.  She had between 18 -36 students in first through eighth grade.  Discipline was no problem as the students cooperated in every way.  "I always felt the traditional three "R's" were important but I added three more ---Respect, Responsibility, and Reverence."  She also remembers spending the night at the Coble farm, when the weather became too rough for traveling.

The school closed in 1948 and was turned into a residence.  George Rodkey now lives there at  1236 North Union Street.

Ebenezer School

Class of 1925.  The teacher is Jennie V. Lehman

Located at the intersection of Ebenezer Road and Rt. 441, was the two-room Ebenezer School.  The surrounding land was very rural and the school was surrounded by farmland with woods across the road.  The Ebenezer School House was adjacent to Ebenezer Church.

Since it was the only two-room schoolhouse in  Lower Swatara Township, one side was used as a classroom and the other was used for storing school supplies for the other three one-room schools.  When a school needed supplies, the teacher would give a boy a list and ask him to walk to Ebenezer school and bring back the needed supplies.

In 1949 the schoolhouse was sold by the Lower Swatara School District to Landis Hoffer on October 1, 1949, who turned it into a residence.  At this same time, the church bought a portion of the land for $300.

Stoner School

Stoner School, 1902, J. H. Espenshade, teacher

Stoner School (kindergarten through eighth grade) was located on Rosedale Avenue near Jednota Printery.  The school was originally red brick and had a small cellar dug out to store coal.  The coal was used in a pot-belly stove that did not adequately heat the school.  Those students sitting close were very hot and those toward the front of the room were cold.  The school had high ceilings which made heating difficult.  

In the back of the schoolroom were two large oak chairs that the children referred to as "King Chairs".  These were saved for any visitors to the school such as Board Members.

Stoner School had a hand-pump outside where drinking water was obtained.  There was no playground but the children made up games and used what they could find for any needed equipment.

Thanks to Cheri ChiChi for the following photos and information on the Stoner School.

Stoner School House, located on Rosedale Avenue, near the end of Stoner Drive. Left photo:  Boy labeled Bill is my Grandfather, William Selcher Sr. approx. circa 1911. Maxmillan Selcher was his father, who owned the Selcher farm on Selcher Lane off Stoner Drive near turnpike over pass Bridge.

Ulrich School

The teacher in the two class photos was Mr. Ira F. Alleman from Longview Drive.  He also served as school superintendent for many years.  The photo on the right is from 1909.

Sources: 

Coble School by Richard Moore, Middletown Area Historical Society Fair Booklet.

"I Remember When" by Georgia E. Burkett

Interview with Charles Bosnijak 6/16/1996 

Photo of Ebenezer School, The Press and Journal, 12/12/1990.

The One-Room School by Robert R. Hoppes, Kutztown Folk Festival

Cheri Chichi, private collection