Jean Schwieder


It’s time to think about getting ready for school and I’m not sure anyone is ready to face that yet! Summer has flown by fast this year! I can remember myself getting ready for the fall starting of school. I always loved school and studying, so looking forward to returning to that was exciting for me.

Mother would sew for us so we would have new clothes to wear the first few days of school. We would be paid, I’m sure less than minimum wage, for the work we did on the farm and used that money to supplement our clothing supplies. I remember going to the store, probably Woolworths or Newberry’s, to get crayons, pencils, erasers, scissors, and tablets. We didn’t have backpacks, but we would buy a pencil box, usually made out of heavy cardboard, to put those things in. That box would remain in our desk at school. I don’t believe we had lists from the school on the supplies we needed to start school with, but we pretty well knew what those things were: pencils, crayons, scissors and erasers. And the glue was called “paste” and it came from a big jar the teacher had in her supply closet.

The first day of school was exciting. My brothers and sisters and I went to a small rural school, so we knew the other children we would be with. Many of our classmates went to the same church as we did, thus we kept in touch throughout the summer. Many times we knew who our teachers would be also, as there was only one classroom per grade. If a teacher didn’t return for another year of teaching at our school, we would make acquaintance with the new one.

There were no kindergarten classes back in those days and no television. The learning of the alphabet and reading was accomplished in the first grade. We also learned to count and do simple addition and subtraction In fact “reading, writing, and arithmetic” were the basics taught in the first three or four grades. We learned how to behave in school: raise our hand and wait for the teacher to call on us; listen to what the teacher has to say; do no talk to other classmates during school; etc.

I loved recess and lunch hour when we would go outside and play. Our playground would not be approved of now!

The slide was at least 10 to 12 feet tall and made of metal. During our lunch hour, we would take the wax paper wrapping sandwiches and sit on that paper as we went down the slide. The waxed paper made us go faster than usual. There was always a line up at the stairs to climb to get to the top of the slide.

The swings had poles that were as high as, or even higher, than the slide. We would go as high as we could by using our legs to “pump up” the swing. Some of the children would then let go of the rope and fly off into the sand. We had sand around our playground equipment, not concrete.

We also had a Giant Stride, which is a tall metal pole with a lot of individual chains and a place to grab hold of at the end. We would grasp hold of the chain and run around the pole, running fast and then lifting our feet as we would fly around the pole. I understand this has also been called the most dangerous piece of playground equipment ever invented, but how we loved to play on it!

Jean Schwieder is a writer who has spent her life involved in eastern Idaho agriculture. Her books, including past columns, are available by calling 208-522-8098 or by email at