Reading, 'riting, 'rithmetic

Monday, July 29, 2002

The small white schoolhouse was about the right size for "Annie-Annie Over."

"Annie-Annie Over" was a popular game a century ago, when one-room schools were popular throughout the nation -- in both urban and rural areas.

First off, the game is played over a building that you can throw a ball over and be able to run all the way around it.

The game goes like this: Players on one side of the building take the ball, call out "Annie-Annie Over," throw the ball over the building to the kids on the other side.

If they catch the ball, they can sneak around the building and throw the ball at their competitors, or catch and tag players. A player tagged must join that team. Players being chased can run to the other side of the building, where they are "safe."

There can be an even number of kids on each side to start with. When the last kid on a team is tagged, then that team wins.

At one time in history, students from first grade up to usually eighth grade attended classes in one-room o school. They were seated by grade, often with the boys on one side of the room and the girls on the other. Younger students sat up front, older students in the back.

The most important subjects were reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic, with writing, or penmanship, being the one most stressed.

Imagine youngsters sitting at old wooden desks, opening McGuffy readers, writing on slates and eating midday meals from tin lunch buckets. A single teacher gave lessons in the three R's, to eight grades of young students. During the winter, students kept warm from an old iron stove in the middle of the room.

Recess games such as "Annie-Annie Over" and "Bug in the Gully" were popular.

Discipline was strict, and punishment was always handed out, sometimes with a hickory rod.

At the end of the day, some students would be asked to help with chores, such as wiping the blackboards, cleaning the chalk brushes or bringing wood in for the next day's fire.

Life wasn't much better for the schoolteacher. Pay was usually low, and the teachers were often young. In addition to teaching, the teacher was expected to get water from the well, light the fire for warmth in the schoolhouse every day, raise and lower the flag, sweep and scrub the floors and wash the windows.

That was in addition to firing the furnace, or stove, scooping snow and overseeing recess and lunch time.

One such school was Rumbranch School, a few miles northeast of Advance, Mo.

"I attended school there in the 1930s," said James Baker. "One teacher taught grades one through six."

Baker's dad also attended the one-room Rumbranch School, said Baker, an electrician from Jackson, Mo.

Baker provided the Southeast Missourian with the class picture from Rumbranch School.

Do you have memories of Rumbranch School or school days in another one-room school? Share them with us. Call 335-6611, or e-mail

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