Windham County Transcript, December 26, 1946

Years ago the Town of Killingly was divided into school districts. Each district had its number and some had special names, as Tucker, Horsehill, Ledge, Sparks, etc. The voters in the district elected their officers and hired the teachers.

Toward a hundred years ago the men in Sparks District No. 14 decided to change the site of their school building. It was then located to the west of the Aldrich farms.

They made the new building at the crossroads to the east. At first, the seats were built around the room that was before my remembrance. Later the desks were placed in rows across the back of the room.

The heating system was a long stove that would take in several sticks of two-foot cordwood and under the stove was platform made of loose bricks, laid in sand, as a safeguard against fire. There was plenty of fresh air coming in through the loose boarding so it was a common custom to ask permission to "get to the stove" in severe weather.

The drinking water was brought from a spring across a nearby field and individual drinking glasses had not come into use then. The tin dipper in the pail served the thirsty ones.

It was deemed a great privilege to obtain permission to go for fresh water during school hours. Sometimes it took quite a while as some boy elected to clean out the boiling spring before he came back.

The playground was all the territory within the sound of the bell. The green birches across the corner were very pliable and made excellent bowers with their tops withed together. Some more daring boy or girl would climb up the stronger birches till they bent then drop down swinging by their arms. It was great sport to "swale birches." Some of the birches never were straight afterwards.

For an addition to their luncheons, the children could gather wintergreen, sassafras root, black birch, green huckleberries or grapes in their season or chestnuts from a tree growing back of the schoolhouse. They all seemed to survive their varied diets.

There were not many dull moments outside school hours as some game was usually in progress. Baseball, two old cats, one old cat, duck on the rock, cross tag and haily over the hen coop, as the entry to the school house was called, were some of them. To play the latter game the children were divided into sides. If one side caught the ball when it was thrown over the roof, all the others ran around the schoolhouse. All who were caught had to go the catchers side.

In presidential years, enthusiasm ran high with stump speeches, flag raisings and parades with sticks for torches.

The children asked their folks at home what to say for Hayes and Wheeler or the best things to say for Tilden and Hendricks.

One year the teacher was a good democrat. He used a large red handkerchief. The children borrowed it for their flag and raised it on a stick on top of the woodpile in the yard. The Republicans said, "This is a Democrat's handkerchief but we are raising it for a Republican flag." The teacher was supposed to hear that remark. It made him chuckle, I imagine, as he could always see the humorous side.

We had a visiting committee who came at the beginning and toward the end of term. Members of the advanced class can remember being sent to the wooden blackboards to figure square and cube root and to find the amount of wood on a wagon, the three tiers of wood being so many feet and inches wide and so many feet and inches high.

One year before I reached the adult class Mr. Anthony Ames was the visiting committee. At the beginning of one term, he offered a "ten-cent bill" to every member who could read a certain number of periods of figures. When he came all could do it but one and it was found that Mr. Ames had added another period beyond the required number. We had great sport saying, "Units, thousands, etc." clear through to Vigintillions.

Last day of school was usually a great day with dialogues and recitations. Each one was supposed to "speak a piece."

The attic was usually raided to find an old calash or a tall hat to dress for some part. The little girls had their long hair braided into tight little braids at night so to have crimpy hair loose on their shoulders for the great event.

Christmas time was very exciting. The nearby woods furnished ample greens for trimming.

In my early years, Mr. Young from South Killingly used to come Sundays and have a Sunday School in the school house. We always expected him to give us a large peppermint candy every Sunday.

At one time what was called "The Union Progressive" Sunday School was carried on at the school, and later another Sunday School was held for a number of years.

Day school and Sunday Schools combined in putting on Christmas exercises and having a tree.

The teachers during the life of the Sparks Schoolhouse were many, and later some made their mark in the world. Miss Marietta Kies was one of them. Now all have passed on who taught in my school days.

The town consolidated the districts and district management was no more. As time passed the children grew beyond school age or moved away from the farms and it was then deemed wise to transport the pupils to other schools.

The schoolhouse was abandoned and grew more dilapidated every year until a few years ago, on Christmas Eve, it mysteriously began to burn.

Now there is nothing left of it at the crossroads but a few blackened timbers. Passing strangers glance curiously at the place as they drive by and wonder what kind of a building could have been there.

As I obtained my elementary education in the Sparks School house and also taught there eleven years under both district and town management I have many pleasant memories of the old schoolhouse.