HAMILTON, AL. – they had names such as: New Home; Frog Pond; Shiloh; Buttahatchee; Pig Eye; Mars Hill; Wiginton and Adda Hannah. That was then. In the early 1930’s and survived until the late 1960’s. Farming Community schools.
An artistic sight to behold, these primitive schools located in the farming communities in the northern Marion County (Alabama) area, were standing testimonies to hard work going hand-in-hand with early education in early southern Alabama.
These mostly-two-room school buildings were the simple rural arena’s where dedicated teachers worked with sweat and tears to provide a solid education for a group of people who were mostly overlooked in a fledgling southern society. Rural families who gave birth to rural children who could hold their own picking cotton, gathering corn, and clearing this early landscape of northern Marion County to not only plant the roots of another fall crop, but deeper roots of a life that knew very little luxury, only hard work.
The evidence of hard work by these rural children who attended the early farming community schools was not hidden by flowery dresses and store-bought jeans. These children had hands with calluses from doing daily chores. And as for school clothes, they were glad to wear homemade clothing made by industrious mothers who viewed sacrifice not as an option, but a daily task that would reap the priceless harvests of farm children with solid morals, keen minds and a sense of integrity not bought in any storefront.
Underpaid teachers at these sometimes-forgotten schools taught the rigid fundamentals of the “Three R’s,” for sometimes, that was all the children had time to learn. Most classes in these rural schools, had a “fall harvest vacation,” lasting for up to two weeks to allow the children to help their parents, and what hired help was available, to harvest their crops, their only livelihood. and barrier against starvation and sheer poverty.
Along with learning the basics of early education, the children were also helped the teacher with their various tasks such as bringing in firewood, coal and pine splinters called “kindling,” to start the fires in huge, pot bellied stoves on a bitter-cold winter’s morning. This was not just an experiment in rural socialism, but a daily event at rural southern schools.
Each school had its own recess activities. (Now) vintage games such as: Tag; Soup Pot; Run Sheep Run as well as softball and baseball added a healthy dose of exercise to an already-sharp mind ready for the next grade of school when the student had met their educational requirements.
In the late 1960’s, the Alabama Department of Education shut these once-needed places of learning as to meet the changing degrees and formulas for early education. One by one, each school, like a row of dominoes, shut their doors sending their classes of rural children to the city school systems of the state of Alabama.
These schools are now but a memory, but what they instilled in the students who attended them are forever remembered.