I have always loved going to school. Even now, when I walk into WalMart or Target and the school supplies are displayed (in JULY!) I have to stop and look at them. My husband laughs at me, but I just keep on picking up post-it notes and pencils, thinking “I will need these at some point…”

Growing up in the 60’s, our school supply lists were not long at all in elementary school. A “Big Chief” tablet, one of those HUGE pencils, paste in a jar (with a brush built into the lid!), a box of crayons, and a pair of “school scissors” and a wooden ruler. That was it. By the time my kids started school in the 90’s—all that had changed. After shopping for school supplies for only two children, I wondered how families with several kids could afford for them to even go to school—and that wasn’t counting back-to-school clothing.





My mom spoke of her school days just shortly after Indian Territory became the state of Oklahoma. That happened in 1907. She was born in 1922, and started school when she was only 5. She attended a one-room school house in Albany, a very small southeastern Oklahoma town. With the Depression on the way, and the Dust Bowl days looming, she spoke of the poverty of everyone she knew. She was the eldest of eleven children. Food was scarce. School supplies were almost nonexistent. I imagine that was why she took such pleasure in buying Big Chief tablets and crayons for me.



SEQUOYAH ORPHANS TRAINING SCHOOL, 1920 (near Tahlequah, OK, Cherokee Capital)


Education is so important. Thinking back, I’ve included it in many of the stories I’ve written, and I always love to see it included in the stories I read, as well.







Young boys pose during recess. This picture was taken at Newcastle, Oklahoma, in 1914.

BLOG-Boys at school in Newcastle-1914







This is interesting. It’s the exam that students had to pass in order to graduate from 8th grade. This one came from Salina, Kansas, and is dated 1895. Students could take the exam in 7th grade and if they didn’t pass, could have another chance in 8th grade to re-take it. I don’t think I could pass this even now! Take a look!


Examinations at Salina, New Cambria, Gypsum City, Assaria, Falun, Bavaria, and District No. 74 (in Glendale Twp.)

Reading and Penmanship. – The Examination will be oral, and the Penmanship of Applicants will be graded from the manuscripts

Grammar (Time, one hour)

  1. Give nine rules for the use of Capital Letters.
  2. 2. Name the Parts of Speech and define those that have no modifications.
  3. 3. Define Verse, Stanza and Paragraph.
  4. 4. What are the Principal Parts of a verb? Give Principal Parts of do, lie, lay and run.
  5. 5. Define Case, Illustrate each Case.
  6. 6. What is Punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of Punctuation.
  7. 7-10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.

Arithmetic (Time, 1.25 hours)

  1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
  2. 2. A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
  3. 3. If a load of wheat weighs 3942 lbs., what is it worth at 50 cts. per bu, deducting 1050 lbs. for tare?
  4. 4. District No. 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
  5. 5. Find cost of 6720 lbs. coal at $6.00 per ton.
  6. 6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
  7. 7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. long at $.20 per inch?
  8. 8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
  9. 9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance around which is 640 rods?
  10. 10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt.

U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)

  1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided.
  2. 2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus.
  3. 3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
  4. 4. Show the territorial growth of the United States.
  5. 5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas.
  6. 6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
  7. 7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn, and Howe?
  8. 8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, and 1865?

Orthography (Time, one hour)

  1. What is meant by the following: Alphabet, phonetic orthography, etymology, syllabication?
  2. 2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
  3. 3. What are the following, and give examples of each: Trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals?
  4. 4. Give four substitutes for caret ‘u’.
  5. 5. Give two rules for spelling words with final ‘e’. Name two exceptions under each rule.
  6. 6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
  7. 7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: Bi, dis, mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, super.
  8. 8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: Card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.
  9. 9. Use the following correctly in sentences, Cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane, vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
  10. 10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.

Geography (Time, one hour)

  1. What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
  2.  How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas?
  3. 3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
  4. 4. Describe the mountains of N.A.
  5. 5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver, Manitoba, Hecla, Yukon, St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco.
  6. 6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S.
  7. 7. Name all the republics of Europe and give capital of each.
  8. 8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
  9. 9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
  10. 10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give inclination of the earth.

Health (Time, 45 minutes)

  1. Where are the saliva, gastric juice, and bile secreted? What is the use of each in digestion?
  2. 2. How does nutrition reach the circulation?
  3. 3. What is the function of the liver? Of the kidneys?
  4. 4. How would you stop the flow of blood from an artery in the case of laceration?
  5. 5. Give some general directions that you think would be beneficial to preserve the human body in a state of health.

Incidentally, during these times, school only lasted 7 months, from October 1 to April 1. This allowed time for planting, farming, and harvest.

What about your “school days” memories? Were you a student who looked forward to school, or hated it? Do you have a favorite story of those by-gone times to share?

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A native Oklahoman, I've been influenced by the west all my life. I love to write short stories and novels in the historical western and western romance genres, as well as contemporary romantic suspense! Check my Amazon author page to see my work:
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  1. My Mother was born in 1929. She went to a one room school in the Harbin Community before going to Dublin High School. Her records were wrong and she graduated a year early. She was the only sibling of 8 that did get a diploma.
    I am a nerd that found school boring and got into trouble for walking and talking a lot. I made straight A’s though from 3rd grade through High School. Only 2 B’s my freshman year because the teacher made it her goal to bust me. Not too successful. I went to college and the professor taught me how to use a TI- 30 calculator. Did not need a lot of Stuff to for to school.
    Now I am retired and actually live in the Harbin Community area. Full circle has been made.

    • Jerri, one thing I learned from experience–for me, being one of the youngest in the class was not a good thing. In those early years, even a few months’ worth of maturity can make a huge difference. I loved going to school, but I think a lot of that was due to the fact that I was virtually alone in the house by the time I started 1st grade since both my sisters were so much older than I was. My oldest sister went off to college the year I started 1st grade, and my middle sister followed 2 years after, so by 3rd grade I was alone and LONELY. LOL I got in all kinds of trouble for socializing too much. My daughter had a teacher like the one you had–she had made straight A’s, too, and ended up with a B in her sr. year, but it happens. Thanks for coming by today!

  2. I loved your interesting post. I totally forgot about paste with the brush in the lid. I got the same supplies you did! I loved school and always looked forward to getting my supplies every year. I would go to the grocery store and ask for an empty cigar box to hold my precious supplies.

    • Hey Melanie! I wonder if they even make that king of paste anymore. We had a boy in our class that would eat that stuff–I think he just did if for attention. He was always getting in trouble, and that was one of the things he got in trouble for doing. LOL YES–they cigar box! My dad actually had started smoking cigars (along with his cigarettes) so I did have some cigar boxes, and I kept all kinds of treasures in them!

  3. Great blog, I always loved the beginning of school. I remember when I was in the 2 or 3 grade I was infatuated with the show Bionic woman. I wanted her lunchbox. We looked everywhere but only found The Six Million Dollar Man lunchbox. I was everything Horses and since it had a horse on it I was satisfied. I didn’t care that the kids told me I was carrying a boys lunchbox, I was just happy for the horse. My mom still has that lunchbox to this day and she has it filled with crayons so when kids visit they can color. Oh to be that young again.

    • Oh, Tonya, YES–the Bionic Woman! By that point, I was older, but still loved that show and The Six Million Dollar Man, too. My mom was always buying me frilly little lunchboxes and at that time they had those old breakable thermoses in them–so you had to always be so careful not to be rough with your lunchbox or the thermos would break into a million pieces. LOL Yes, I hear you, it would be great to be that young again–but to know a lot of the stuff we’ve learned along the way! LOL

  4. I loved back to school with all the new things. When I became a teacher, I still loved it. the kids returned with shiny new sneakers and great supplies. It meant time to learn.

    • Debra, seriously–I would consider becoming a teacher because I love that time of the year so much and like you say, to see the kids all coming in with new duds and supplies and ready to learn. I remember how excited I always was to go to school and see my friends again.

  5. I hated school. Could not wait to graduate. I could already read and write when I started school, so I found it boring. I would rather have been reading a good book. I went to school in the 50’s, so there wasn’t as many choices for school supplies.

    • Estella I remember when my daughter was in Kindergarten and she had a Kindergarten teacher who would not let her learn more than what was on her lesson plan for the day–Jessica was one of the older kids in the class, only missing the “cutoff” by 2 weeks, so that teacher had her “helping” other kids instead of letting her move on up with her own learning. She even told me, “She’s ready to be reading right now, but then what would she do in first grade?”

  6. I don’t know how many people could pass those tests today! Wow. As for school supplies I adore them also.

    • Hey Susan–I KNOW I could not pass that test–and did you see the times they gave for completion? I can’t even imagine doing those portions in one hour, or 45 minutes! Those were some tough questions!

  7. I loved school and for many years wanted to be a teacher for quite a while. When I was in 4th grade in the mid-80s, our school had pioneer day. The parents moved out all of our desks from the classrooms and we sat on benches and did our work on homemade slates. We played old fashioned games, learned to churn butter, and even wore mob caps some moms made for all the girls. I still remember wearing my sister’s Raggedy Ann doll’s dress and bloomers to school that day. It was one of my favorite elementary memories.

    • That is so cool, Carrie. Here in Oklahoma, we had “’89 DAY” in the elementary schools when my kids were going (80’s and 90’s) until the powers that be realized that probably was not very politically correct to celebrate white settlers stealing Indian tribal lands. So they stopped doing it FINALLY, but what you’re talking about would be a great replacement for that and be so much fun! There’s an old historical school in here in Oklahoma that does demonstrations like that–my son’s class went there on a field trip (4th grade, I think) and I gook my daughter out of class (7th grade) to go with us. They did the old games, everyone brought a sack lunch, and they had to sit at the old desks and had a teacher that “taught” and they had to write their lessons on their slates with chalk. They all loved that so much.

  8. I did not like school at all. I didn’t fit in with the other kids and was always picked on. These days they would call it bullying and most teachers and parents will do something about it. But back then we were told to just get over it or grow thicker skin. So, I got where I skipped school any chance I got and quit going to school when I was 16.

    • Janine, that happens so many times, even today. But I know back then, it was a lot worse in many cases. And if you go to a small school there is just no way out–not like today where you can switch schools or even do school on-line. I wish that teachers and adults in general had been more caring and aware in years past. It seemed it was, like you say, the general idea that you needed to “ignore” it, or “don’t let it bother you.” But how can you not?

      • That’s right, you can’t ignore it. Unless someone had been through it, they really don’t know what a child goes through. At least over the years, there is more knowledge and (like you said) opportunities for kids schooling. I would have loved to have been home schooled.

      • Janine, my mom was usually right in her advice, but not on some things. One thing I remember was her saying, “If you just ignore them they’ll stop.” That is just not true. They will many times try harder and harder. Ignoring bad behavior does not make it stop. I was surprised as I grew older (and wiser) and realized that she had been so dead wrong about that–she’d had 10 little brothers and sisters and raised 2 daughters to jr. high age before I was born. LOL She was definitely wrong about that, and I told her later on she was wrong about it. I guess by that time she’d realized it too, because she said, “Well, sometimes it works…” LOL My heart just aches for kids that are bullied and nothing is done. Both my kids always got in trouble for taking up for other kids that were being picked on. Instead of being told, “That’s a good thing”–they were made to feel like they shouldn’t do that because it wasn’t their business. But it is–we are here to look out for one another! And they both learned that early…and when they would get in trouble for that at school, we’d go out for an ice cream cone or a movie or something — after the principal and I had a chat. Being cruel to others is just not acceptable, and that was important for me to teach them.

      • Yes, it was a constant battle, for sure, but I wouldn’t trade my kids for anything–they have big hearts, filled with kindness. I wish schools would be more “human” rather than just “the rules are the rules” and with no understanding of what the situation might have been that brought on the BREAKING of the rules, you know? We need compassion and intervention sometimes, no matter what the “rules” are.

  9. Thanks for this great post! I can still remember the smell if the paste in the bottle with the stick in the lid. I enjoyed school and I still love learning. When I was given the chance to take some college classes for my job at the library I jumped at the chance!
    I must say that the questions that you shared are tough! Makes me wonder if I need to go back to school again!

    • Connie, I worked at a college many years ago and they offered their employees 2 free classes per semester. What a gift! I don’t think many colleges do that any longer. That was a wonderful bonus for me. Oh, I would definitely be a “professional student” if I had the time and money! LOL

  10. A great post. I too bad the same list of school supplies you did. I actually used to live the blue with the brush. School shopping became a big event with 7 kids. First it was the school clothes and then the supplies.I don’t think any body could answer those exam questions. I incredible. Thanks for posting.

    • Oh, goodness, Carol! I can only imagine school shopping for 7 children. As I mentioned, only having my two it was sometimes a financial burden even then. But you know, things have gotten so much more expensive and it seems these days kids need so much more to go to school. When my daughter was in highschool (she graduated in 2005) she had a teacher who REQUIRED the kids to buy a tape recorder and she would grade their papers on TAPE. At that time the tape recorder (it had to be a small “mini” tape recorder)could be found at Radio Shack–and it cost about $40, and then you had to buy the tapes. The teacher used that method ONE TIME and decided it was too much work. Just stuff like that.

      Oh, yes, those questions–I marvel that ANYONE could answer them! 7th and 8th graders? I couldn’t do it as an adult!

      • Oh Cheryl, the cost of living was so much cheaper then.I often joke with my kids now that they have their own kids and the requirements for school supplies is really expensive. I tell them I could never have done it or fed them so well if the prices weren’t much lower.

      • RIGHT! Things were much cheaper in proportion than they are now. And I think it’s sad now that things have become so expensive that churches and civic groups are having to come together to buy supplies for the kids–God bless the teachers who buy things for their students rather than see them do without.

  11. Great post. I had that same school supply list you did, and today I also love anything paper, pen, pencil, post it, you name it, I love it. I was living in Spain (AF hubby) when post-its became a thing. My sister sent me several and I was the envy of the entire base ;-).

    • HA! I love the idea that you had those post it notes and I’m sure everyone else on base was like, “DID YOU SEE WHAT SALLY HAS?” LOLLOL That’s great! Those were so innovative. Like you, I love anything paper, pen, marker, etc. LOL I have to hold myself back from buying stuff I really don’t need, ‘just because’…LOL

    • Caryl, I did, too. I remember getting a “NIFTY” notebook, must have been in 2nd or 3rd grade. It was sky blue and had two holders at the top to hold tablet paper with those two holes punched at the top. Oh, I was sooo proud of that thing! LOL

  12. Great post! Loved the pictures. We tracked down my mom’s one-room school house in eastern Oklahoma on one of our trips; it was way in the outback on a dirt road and was just a thrill to find.

    You mentioned the Kansas test–I don’t think many Americans could pass it these days since so many can’t even spell, never mind know the difference between your and you’re, or their and there, or its and it’s, and that since “Is” is a verb and not a preposition, it is always capped in titles even if it is only two letters. (For cryin’ out loud, our POTUS didn’t even know the French helped us win the American Revolution! Hello, Lafayette? The French fleet at Yorktown, anyone?) Very discouraging.

    I always was a serious student (I went to university on a full scholarship) and still am, to be honest, even at my advanced age. In several ways: (1) I still love supplies: pens, post-its, notebooks, tape, you name it. (2) I still study but on my own now, most likely something in history, world religions, language. It varies from year to year. This year I’ve been studying the history of Rome related to the Second Fall of Jerusalem and what most likely happened during Jesus’s lifetime and what he likely said vs. what was re-interpreted later on, based on all of the manuscripts and archaeological finds that have come to light. I was lucky to meet a retired professor (who had also been a monk scholar who studied in the Vatican, Israel, Greece and Turkey), and so reading his own published books plus what he taught from really has been something else– hard to put in words. But I’ve learned a lot and his works especially were good. Studying slows me down, though: to underline things or take notes! That’s why I need all those supplies! 😉

    • Eliza, what an exciting friendship to have with the fellow who had been a monk scholar–I’m sure he was SO interesting and able to talk about all kinds of things that would have just had me spellbound. Friendships like that are rare.

      And what a find–your mom’s old school house! I would have been absolutely thrilled to see where my parents went to school. They had known each other ever since first grade. Grew up together, dated in high school, and then both went out to see the world before they married. But that was also the beginning of WWII, too.

      I love to study things, too, even now. My problem is not having enough time. There is so much I want to learn and not enough hours in the day. I agree with you–I don’t think very many people could pass that exam these days, either.

      So good to hear from you–thanks for stopping by!

  13. I loved school fr the most part. We did have a history teacher in high school who was impossible and not a nice person. I was a relatively good student, but was young for the class I was in. I am the oldest of six siblings and the oldest 4 were born Jan. 1947, Feb. 48. Sept. 49, and Jan. 51. I don’t know how she managed. She begged them to let me start school when I was 4, several months before I was old enough. It put my brother 2 years behind me in school. It all worked out for me, even through college.

    • Patricia, I remember Mom telling me she started school when she was 5 years old, and she was the oldest of 11. I, too, wonder how people managed with such large families, and so many times the kids were “stairsteps” like you mentioned. Mom told me once one of her earliest memories was standing on a stool at the kitchen sink washing dishes –she thought she was about 3. It was good to put a little distance between you and your brother!

  14. I just spent $300 on BTS school clothes for the youngest–after shopping the closet of hand-me-downs from the older two. Just about at the stage where that won’t happen again.

    School hasn’t sent the list of school supplies. That will be pricey, too.

    I enjoyed school. I went to a typical-at-the-time high school in the 80s and then to a state university with a half-scholarship.

    I have one in college and one in grad school in addition to my 8th grader.

    Both of my parents attended a one-room school in their younger years. One in rural PA and the other in rural TN.

    • Thankfully, both of mine are through with college–that was a whole other story, too. The days of working to put yourself through school are OVER. There is a big uproar right now about the University of Oklahoma building “luxury apartments” for students who can afford them to the tune of $6000 PER SEMESTER for a studio, and $8000 per semester for a 2 bedroom. Meanwhile, the dorms for “regular people” are falling into disrepair and are soooo old. And the classes cost so much. Times have sure changed. Thanks for stopping by, Denise!

    • Kim that was how my hubby looked at it too. He was soooooo ready to go back in the fall, and when he got older he took summer classes so he could finish early.

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