School Life as a Fourth Grader about 1925

Martha Warren Hertel
circa 1992

My home was in a small hamlet outside of Ithaca, Forest Home. About 80 years ago it had its own small school district. All of the children in the hamlet went to a one room school for the first six grades. That means there was one teacher, in one room, who taught all grades. There were only 3 to 5 students per grade, making about 20 pupils in the school.

Some new houses were built in the hamlet with new families with children moving in. The school was soon too small. The school district built a new school. It had two classrooms and a gymnasium. It had two teachers. One in one room taught grades 1, 2 and 3 and the other taught 4, 5, and 6 in the other classroom. We had about 20 pupils in each classroom. The previous one room school house is now a 3 car garage. The “new” school is now Cornell Plantations offices. Both the “old” and “new” school buildings are still standing.

[Editor’s note: See photos of the buildings below]

Everyone walked to school, walked home for lunch and home after school. I lived about a mile from the school and up a hill, on Warren Road. Our playground is now the Herb Garden for the Plantations. We had no playground equipment, but it was spacious. We found many games to play. In the winter we brought sleds to school and had a contest to see who went furthest. In the spring the boys brought a baseball and bat or a football. We did not feel a lack of equipment.

One year we had a strict teacher. We were not allowed to even whisper. One day I had invited a friend to come home with me after school. As school was about to finish, there was a noise at her desk. The teacher told her to stay an hour after school. I left the classroom thinking I would have to wait in the school yard for an hour. However, in a few minutes she appeared. She said she had only been dotting the “I”s in Mississippi, so the teacher excused her.

© ca. 1992 Martha Warren Hertel, reproduced with permission.

Garage at 131 Judd Falls Road. This building was formerly the one-room schoolhouse for Forest Home. Photo by Bruce Brittain (2010)
100 Judd Falls Road, Ithaca. Built in 1921 as Forest Home school. After the school closed in 1964, the building became the headquarters for Cornell Plantations (now Cornell Botanic Gardens). In 1974 the area that had been the school playground was dedicated as the Robison Herb Garden. Since around 2008, the building has been known as the Lewis Education Building. Photo by Bruce Brittain (1998)

Acknowledgments: The text was transcribed by Lucy Hertel Staley, Martha Warren Hertel’s daughter. Caroline Arms selected the photographs and added captions about the buildings. Photographs are by Bruce Brittain.