The Story of my Life
Louise Virginia (Weir) Frasier

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Chapter III


e moved to the Garret house when I was five and left it when I was ten.  I started to school while we lived in the Garret house when I was five years old.  We didn’t call it kindergarten, it was primary, then first grade.  In Alabama, we had six teachers if it was a sixth grade school, eight teachers if it was an eighth grade school.  The principal taught classes too.  There were no high schools except the private schools.

I walked to school with Lillian and in the spring she and I would go into the woods on our way to school (a no! no!) and gather huge arm loads of wild flowers.  We called them honeysuckle but it was really a form of ivy.  Or we’d sit on the ground and pick wild violets.

All the other kids were already going barefoot but Mama wouldn’t let us go outside without shoes before May.  She said bare feet on the cold ground would cause rheumatism.  While I was at school I would pull my shoes off and go barefoot from lunch time until school let out.  One day I was hurrying to put my shoes on before school was out and Lillian saw me.  I was talking to a boy named David who sat across the aisle—I was in love with him.  The teacher told me to sit up.

I said, “I can’t.” She asked, “Why not?”

I said, “If I don’t get these shoes on before Lillian sees me, I’ll be in trouble.”  But she made me sit with David and then go out of the class room with my shoes in my hand.  I never spoke to David again.  Ah...romance!

One day, a girl told the teacher that I had cheated on a test.  I did not!  The teacher, Miss Bains, said that I had to go see the principal after school.  When I got to the principal’s office, Comer and Buford were there waiting for me.  They went in with me and told the principal, “She did not cheat and if you whip anybody, whip us.”

The principal asked, “How do you know she didn’t cheat?”

They said, “Because she knows that stuff.  So why would she have to cheat?”  I don’t remember the out come of that.

We had out-door toilets at school as well as at home.  We had no toilet tissue so we would take pieces of scrap paper with us to the toilet and if we didn’t use it, we would hide it so it would be there when we had to go again.

We walked to school and carried our lunch.  For lunch we usually took peanut butter and crackers, an egg biscuit, or sometimes, mama would make what we called frog pies.  I don’t know why we called them that: she would roll biscuit dough into rounds, put butter, cocoa and sugar on them, roll them, and fry them.  That was a very extra treat.  We never had fresh fruit in the winter time.  During the fall, Mama canned and dried apples and peaches.  Sometimes she made fried fruit pies and we would take one of those for lunch.

One boy took Porta Rica sweet potatoes for lunch.  We called him Porta Rica.  He had a lot of gas and would stink.  Once the teacher told him to stick his butt out the window the next time he did that.    

We went to Boaz to school where they taught through the eighth grade.  There was a one-teacher school at Bethsada which was as close as Boaz, but Papa and Mama wanted us to go to school in Boaz.  School started at eight o’clock and was out at four o’clock.

We fought other kids, both going to and coming from school. We went to Boaz to school, but neighbor kids went to Bethsada and we met them going and coming and had a fight almost every day.

In first grade we studied reading (real stories, not Dick and Jane stuff), arithmetic and spelling.  In second grade we studied general science and geography.  I remember the first thing that I learned in science: There has been nothing created or destroyed since the beginning, only transformed.  When you remember that I learned that in the second grade, you realize how much school text books have changed.

Of-course we studied geography and learned the names of states and capitals, but they didn’t mean a thing to us for most of us had never left the county that we were born in.

When we finished the sixth grade and eighth grade, we took a state exam, and got a certificate.  Almost all the teachers in Alabama taught school on a sixth grade certificate.  They would go to Normal school for six weeks in summer and teach the next year.  I don’t suppose that any of the teachers had a degree.  Some teachers didn’t even go to Normal school at all.  The teachers were paid $50.00 a month and the principal got $60.00. 

Not long ago, I talked to an eighty-eight year old woman who taught school in a one teacher school in Alabama.  She only went to the third grade and taught through the sixth grade.  She told me that she had never read a book in her life.  She was paid $50.00 for nine months of school.  She said that she had to get to school early and start a fire in the heater and clean the room.  That was from 1916 till 1922.

Students were punished by whipping (especially the boys), standing in the corner, wearing a dunce cap, writing copies of sentences a thousand times on the black-board, and staying after school.  Once, the principal (our cousin) had Comer and Buford cut the switches and bring them every morning.  They learned to take their sharp knives and cut them almost through at a slant, so that when the teacher hit the first lick they would break into a thousand pieces.

The school we went to was called Whitesville.  The principal was a holiness preacher.  He whipped a boy pretty hard with a leather strap.  The boy’s father and big brothers came to school, tied the principal to a tree, and beat him almost to death with horse whips.  The principal didn’t teach anymore after that.

Then our cousin, Bertha Collier, became principal.  On the first day of April, all of the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grade kids played hooky.  We went on a picnic together.  Bertha Collier,  the principal, put ten pounds of Epsom salts into the water cooler and made us line up and drink a cup of water each. UGH!

 Nora, Evelyn, Lillian, Elizabeth, Louise, Mary Will,

          Buford, Dora, Comer

Papa Willie Weir, George William, Mama Ida Weir

(Taken about 1937)


               Now we have to have counselors and psychologists to tell the kids how to deal with their everyday problems.  My father always said that “Like begets like and that if parents beat their kids that the kids would want to beat someone back.”  And now the psychologists say that if you were abused when you were a child that you will abuse your own children.  Which is a pile of you know what!  What is abuse? 

If your kids do things that you know are harmful to them or others, you should let them know that you’re angry about it— right then!  Kids don’t care if they are grounded.  And they forget what they did to get grounded.  But if they break your rules, you should punish them right then and let it end right then.  So I say that if you get mad, hit the thing or person that you’re mad at or, at least, tell them that you’re mad and get it over with.

When I started school in 1919, in our first grade reader, we read “The Little Red Hen”, “Chicken Little”, “Three Little Pigs”, “The Ginger Bread Boy”, and all those stories where you had to repeat words and sentences over and over again.  We also had to memorize poems, usually nursery rhymes.  That is how you learn to read: by memorizing.  We started math by learning the numbers, doing simple addition then subtraction then division, then long division.  And we had to memorize the multiplication tables.  By the time we were in the fifth grade we could tell you instantly what eight times seven was.  How many TEACHERS can do that now? 

Seven Frasiers In School - 1951-1952 School Year

Virginia (a senior) took picture

Dot, Carrie, Hoyt, Bill, Pat

and John in front

I don’t know when the public school system began to disintegrate.  It must have started in the seven years between the time I graduated from high school and the time Virginia started school.  Between 1932 and 1938.  The school system does not give good service for the money spent.  Of-course during World War II, a lot of good teachers had to go to war.

After the war, the integration of the races set it back. When the white kids had to start going to school with ‘nigras’ (God forbid!) the kids, themselves, didn’t even notice or care.  But their parents were really nasty about it. 

Then after the Women’s Lib group finished with it, it was complete.  More women entered the work force, leaving the kids to get themselves ready for school.  School buses still run and I don’t know why, for parents think that their kids are too good to ride a school bus.  They might have to obey the driver and sit still and be quiet!  It is easier for the parents to take them to school before work and pick them up than it is to teach them to respect a school bus driver and behave on a bus. 

A day at a time is how we have to go.  My children got up in the morning, got dressed cleanly and nicely, and caught the school bus.  They sat on the bus quietly, went to classes, listened to the teachers, caught the bus home, got home, changed out of their school clothes, and got busy.  Maybe busy climbing a tree, but they didn’t sit around the house.  Then they ate supper and went to bed by 9 or 9:30. 

When I was growing up and later with my own kids there was never a question whether to go to school or not.  It was just something that you did.  Virginia went to school for twelve years and never missed a day.  One year we had seven children in school and none of them missed a day.  Carrie missed the bus the last day of school that year.  She walked the five miles and got to school just as the other kids were getting on the bus to go home.  Since it was the last day, they only went to get their report cards. 

They might not have liked school all that much a lot of the time, but it was just something you did.  Just as when you get older, you get out of bed and go to work.  Maybe it’s not very exciting, but that’s the way things are.  We have to accept the things that we can’t change, and be able to know that there are some things that won’t change and that it’s useless to beat your head against a stone wall. 

When I was young, children and women were paid less than men, although they did the same job—and some did it better.  For instance, we lived on a farm and I know that I hoed just as many rows as any man in the field and some of the women hoed more.  Women got the vote in 1918, but very few women voted because you had to be able to write your name and pay a poll tax.  Not many women could write and few of them had the money for the poll tax.  And since men thought women had no business voting in the first place, they wouldn’t give them the money to pay the poll tax.

In Alabama when I was growing up if you had kids, you had to take so much fire-wood to the school—or after they had coal heaters, each man had to buy a half ton of coal.  Coal was $2.00 a ton.  If the school needed work done, everybody had to work or pay somebody to work in their place.  And every man had to work one day a month on the roads.  If a man didn’t have time he had to pay someone to work for him.