Reminiscing about Mt. Pleasant School #34Nov 26, 2017 10:05AM ● By J. Chambless
Miller holds the personal recipe book of Anna Hobson, her teacher in the Mt. Pleasant School #34. When items in the Hobson farm went up for sale in the 1960s, Miller said that she knew she wanted to have it as a memory of her teacher. “It’s a treasure,” she said.
One-room schoolhouses are a symbol of a bygone era, and a reminder of a simpler time in American life. It wasn't all that long ago that one-room schoolhouses still served some of the children growing up in the Hockessin area.
Hockessin resident Barbara Miller has very fond memories of the time she spent studying at the Mt. Pleasant School #34, which was one of several one-room schoolhouses that served the area.
“I had such a good experience growing up in Hockessin,” Miller explained during an interview at the Lamborn Library building, which was also known at one time as Public School No. 29. Today, Miller remains dedicated to her hometown—she's a member of the Hockessin Community Club and the Friends of the Hockessin Library and a docent at the Mt. Cuba Center—in part because of the wonderful experiences that she had growing up in Hockessin.
She was born in nearby Yorklyn, but her family moved to Hockessin early in her childhood. She was the oldest child of seven siblings—four brothers and two sisters. They lived out on Old Wilmington Road, and the Mt. Pleasant School #34 was the closest school to the home. It was about a mile away.
“We didn’t mind walking to school,” Miller recalled. “You could see pheasants and rabbits, and cows out in the pastures. There weren’t any sidewalks, but there wasn’t a lot of traffic, either. Hockessin was a much smaller community then. Nobody was being bused to schools at the time.”
The one-room schoolhouse experience bears little resemblance to today’s educational facilities, which have collaborative spaces for STEM programming, large rooms for music or gym, and where iPads and Chromebooks are omnipresent.
Miller explained her earliest memory of Mt. Pleasant School #34: “My earliest memory, I guess, is that when you entered the school, you were in a vestibule where we hung our jackets up. Then we opened the doors to this big room, which is where we were taught.”
At. Mt. Pleasant School #34, each school day began with the Pledge of Allegiance and the Lord’s Prayer.
When Miller was a student at Mt. Pleasant School #34, the teacher was Anna M. Hobson, who taught first through sixth grade for about a dozen students.
“We had a lot of benefits having one teacher like that,” Miller said, explaining that first graders would take the seats closest to the front of the classroom. Hobson would teach a concept—reading, arithmetic, or cursive writing—to the first-graders and then give them an assignment, and then move on to teach the second-graders. A big library table was set up in the back of the room for the students to do their work once it had been assigned. The children usually completed all their work while they were still in school.
“Every pupil also had to help with jobs,” Miller recalled. “The older boys would take care of the furnace that was heated by coal. The younger children would go get buckets of water so that we could wash or rinse our hands.”
Miller explained that a highlight of the day for the young students was recess, where they would play games like hide-and-seek. The fact that there were so few students meant that they grew to be very close to each other.
“We got along very well,” Miller said. “Nobody seemed to be bullied. It didn’t present a problem that there were so few of us.”
While teaching methods are certainly more advanced today, there has never been a substitute for a good, caring teacher who can offer individualized attention to students. Miller credited Hobson for offering that individualized attention in the one-room schoolhouse, even though she was trying to teach students in six different grades throughout the day.
“She took time with each grade,” Miller explained. “She would notice if something was wrong, if something was bothering one of us.”
Hobson did not hesitate to bring any issues to parents. The teacher also lived on a farm not far from the school, so she was a neighbor to the families that had children in the school.
“If she thought that we weren’t giving the quality of attention to work, she would bring it up to your parents,” Miller explained. “She was a wonderful, dedicated teacher—she really had an interest in each one of us in that school.”
The teacher would even take Miller and some of the other kids to Kennett Square with her when she got her car serviced.
“The real treat for us was that we would stop at Connor’s Pharmacy in Kennett Square for an ice cream cone or a Hershey bar. It was a different time growing up back then, but it was a good time.”
When it was time to attend seventh grade, Miller briefly attended Hockessin Elementary School for a short period of time, but then school officials decided that they were going to start busing students to the H.C. Conrad High School in Woodcrest.
“Talk about having to make a quick adjustment,” Miller said with a laugh. “At Mt. Pleasant, the most we had were 12 or 14 pupils. We thought it was a private school. Then we were put into this school with hundreds and hundreds of students and we had several different teachers for our subjects. Now we went from class to class.”
Being bused to the school rather than walking was also a big adjustment for students like Miller who had attended the one-room schoolhouse.
“We had to make the trip, picking up all the other students on the way,” she explained. “It was close to an hour until we got to the school.”
She noted that the long bus trip offered an opportunity to catch up on assignments or study for that day’s classes.
Miller said that she has very fond memories of the years she spent studying at Mt. Pleasant School #34—including those winter mornings when she and her classmates would have to trudge through large snowdrifts to attend school. Despite the fact that many more students walked to school at the time, schools did not shut down just because of some snow. They were simpler times, sure, but also good times.
“I really think that I had a good introduction to my future years of education,” Miller said. She explained that attending a one-room schoolhouse “makes you realize that you can improvise. You don’t have to have everything at your fingertips. Your creativity was not curbed by anything. We learned from one another. There’s always something that other people have to share if you give them the time and the space. You learned from each other all the way along.”
As for the Mt. Pleasant School #34 building, it did not survive long after it stopped being utilized as a school in the 1940s. Today, the Bon Ayre Housing Development is situated in the area on Old Wilmington Road where the one-room schoolhouse was once located. There is no marker to signify that the Mt. Pleasant School #34 ever existed, but it lives on in the memories and hearts of people like Miller who attended the school.
Miller and her husband actually ended up buying a home out on Old Wilmington Road.
“When I go past that area, I have all these good memories flash back,” she said. “That school left a good impression on me.”
While there have been many changes in the community in the years since Miller attended Mt. Pleasant School #34, enough of the Hockessin from Miller’s childhood still exists to make her want to call Hockessin home.
“I still think Hockessin has a community feel to it, even though it’s been growing,” she said. “It’s still a good place for a family to raise children.”
To contact Staff Writer Steven Hoffman, email [email protected]