My late father-in-law Herman Freeman was an educator. With a master’s degree in education he went on to become principal of numerous Kansas schools. Before that he was a teacher for many years. Herman gave up the teaching field when discipline was struck from the classroom.
One thing he talked about often was being schooled in a one-room school house. My mother mentioned the same. I remember seeing photos of her standing in front of an old wooden building somewhere near Vernon, Alabama.
Back in the day, reading, writing, and arithmetic were the main subjects. They still are. Getting a good grasp on those 3 academics is essential. I wasn’t old enough to attend a one-room school. My first grade class in Selma, Alabama was a fairly modern brick building containing several grades. I suppose the thing I enjoyed most from 1st grade up, besides recess, was reading.
In 5th grade it got to the point I couldn’t put a book down. I started falling asleep at my desk because I’d stay up late reading. Eventually my teacher Mrs. Drake arranged a conference with my folks to see what was going on. When they discovered “The Hardy Boys” mystery books were getting my undivided attention, a moratorium of sorts was placed on my reading them.
Only through help of a friend was I able to keep this addiction fed. My pal checked the mystery books out then secretly slipped them to me. Using a flashlight at night I’d crawl under bed covers to get my fix. You could say I was hooked on the books!
I learned more street smarts from Frank and Joe Hardy than I ever did in class. In seventh grade, a Daniel Boone biography gave me the recipe for making gunpowder. In this book, it showed that a slave named Monk Estill was the person responsible for teaching Daniel Boone how to make the explosive.
Unbeknownst to Monk, his simple instructions taught me the same 200 years later. Interestingly enough I’ve never forgotten the man’s name. Monk Estill later became a Baptist minister in Shelbyville, Kentucky.
Living close to a drug store I was able to purchase sulfur and saltpeter to begin my experiment. The granulated charcoal ingredient was obtained by taking Kingsford briquettes and pulverizing them into a fine dust. It took some doing to get the mixture just right.
I filled a coffee can with my homemade gunpowder and was about to torch it off one chilly September evening. A friend’s mom quickly ran out of her house to stop me. Had Mrs. Malone not done so I might not be telling this story. My can of gunpowder was confiscated by my mom and and disposed of.
In junior high I found our school library had a whole shelf of “Hot Rod” magazines. They’d evidently been donated by a student’s parent. Back then we had mandatory reading so each trip to the library found me grabbing a couple of issues. The librarian came over to see what I found so interesting. Seeing it was car magazines she advised me to read other material. Evidently the woman saw no merit in the publication because all automotive magazines were pulled.
It’s funny but I’ve been a “Hot Rod” subscriber ever since thanks to her censorship. I still love to read yet there’s one area of study I’ve failed miserably. The book I need to spend more time with does not show me how to make gunpowder or modify car engines. It is chocked full of interesting stories and useful information.
I believe Monk Estill found this book to be his daily bread. Just like the one-room school was a pillar in early day education, the Bible in my mind is the foremost manual on how to change life for the better. I’ll be first to admit I need to pick mine up more often!