Genegantslet School Days
The four oldest Beardsley boys—Raymond, Don, Paul, and Ralph—attended Genegantslet School District #9 in the 1930s by walking crosslots from their home at Beardsley’s Sawmill. The one-room school is now a residence at 746 County Route 2.
Community residents served as the District’s three officers—Trustee, Tax Collector, and Clerk. Elected to those positions during the ’30s were Alvin Slater, Carl Boeltz, Marshall Seymour, Leon Beardsley, Gerry Hagaman, Alice Beardsley, and Ruth Bartlett. They hired the following teachers during that decade: Raymond B. Loomis, then Ruth Seymour Bartlett, followed by Julia Evans in 1937, with Miss Lillian Harrington as substitute.
The Chenango American Genegantslet correspondent of the 1930s provided some insight into school operations. In 1932 a well was drilled and the school was wired for electric lights. School was closed several days one January because of a broken stove grate. Also reported was the installation of new playground equipment in 1936.
Dr. Chapin visited the school to examine the children, and Mrs. Bartlett took the pupils to Greene for vaccinations. Outbreaks of measles and whooping cough affected most of the students. When pupil Floyd Slaughter was hospitalized with a broken leg, and when Charlotte Hanna was ill at the Turner Hospital, the students made them each a sunshine box. Earl Simpson was recognized for perfect attendance in 1938.
Halloween and birthdays were celebrated with parties. Hikes and wiener roasts were occasional highlights of the schoolday. Every Arbor Day in May the students cleaned the schoolgrounds, planted flowers and trees, and hiked through the woods to a picnic spot—“the rocks” was a tradition. (Does any reader know where this is?)
Without fail, there were two events in which the whole community was invited to participate. First, the evening Christmas exercises that included songs, plays, recitations, and “the tree.” And the year-end picnic—sometimes local, and sometimes distant. One year it was held at Leon Cumber’s camp along with District #10 families; another year, Mrs. Hiram Martin entertained at her home. Ross Park in Binghamton was a destination, as was En-Joie Park in Endicott. The 1936 newspaper write-up paints an especially pleasing image: Carl Boeltz transported the load of 27 children and grownups to En-Joie Park in his truck. The weather was ideal, and everyone had a wonderful time.
It is no wonder that Ralph Beardsley had fond memories of his rural school days. While the following recollection was not so pleasant for Ralph, he did enjoy telling the story.
“Most of the time we would walk crosslots to school and come home for lunch. When I attended #9 there were between eight and fifteen students. So grades 4, 5 and 6 would have history lessons together, etc. My favorite subject was recess. My brother Paul and I were very close because we were only about a year apart in age. We were in the same grade in school and did many things together.
One time on our way to school we stopped at Hollenbeck’s store at the Genegantslet four corners. We got a package of wooden matches. After school two other boys and we were playing in the field behind the schoolhouse (now the larch woods on the sawmill property). We younger children were let out of school an hour earlier than the older kids. It was springtime. We were having great fun striking matches and dropping them into the dead grass and leaves and watching them flare up. Then we would stomp the fire out with our feet. We did this repeatedly and were having lots of fun.
Eventually one of the fires got out of hand, and suddenly we couldn’t control it. We didn’t want to get into trouble, so we all ran for home. Paul and I went into our house at the sawmill. Paul looked out the window and said to Mom, ‘Look, Mom, it looks like smoke at the schoolhouse.’ The teacher discovered the fire, and she and the older children were able to put it out. We felt great relief that we would not be discovered.
The next day we went back to school thinking we were in the clear. Our teacher, Mrs. Bartlett, who was a Seymour, met us at the door and said to the four of us involved, “Boys, each of you go out and select a switch.” I thought I was very smart and selected a small switch compared to Paul’s larger switch. When we returned to the teacher, we each received our discipline. I wish I had selected a larger switch, as my small switch left a particularly severe sting.”
School centralization in Greene was phased in beginning in the 1930s, leading to the closing of the Town’s rural schools, one by one. Ralph told about the demise of District #9:
“I started the 7th grade in Greene school in 1940. District #9 continued for two more years. When centralization took effect, Greene school took the Genegantslet playground equipment which was pretty new, about four new pupil desks, and some of the newest textbooks. My dad got some of the old maps, I think Marshall Seymour got the teacher’s desk, and I forget who got the pot bellied stove. The school house and property were sold at auction for $1,000.
Grades one through six were then bused to Smithville and the older kids to Greene. We had to catch the bus at the four corners. If the bus was late, all went well. If it was on time, there would be kids straggling along the road to catch it—the Beardsleys, Hannas, Ray Hornby, Meads, Kirchers, Joyce Hunsicker. Just as one got to the bus, another would appear in sight, and the driver would wait. It could often take a half hour at this one stop.
School centralization pretty much did in goings-on in the neighborhood, as there was no longer a place for very many people to meet. The school had served as a community center and meeting place for years.”
The Greene Historical Society has organized a rural school exhibit in the library museum. It includes a large map showing the location of each school, photos of buildings and scholars as available, and a room setting. Make a visit. Consider contributing photos, recollections, or memorabilia of your school days.
- Christine and John Buck
District #9 Pupils Circa 1938
Top Row left to right: Paul Beardsley, Ida Simpson, Charlotte Hanna, Ralph Beardsley, Leroy Craver, Mrs. Evans
Front Row left to right: Earl Simpson, (Doris Chase?), Alice Rose Seymour, Jeanette Hanna, (Clifford Chase?)
School Bus on Genegantslet Road - late 1930s