A Very Good Place to Learn and Grow
My first memories of Church were in Midway School. When the country was first developing, that is, the country of south central Jackson County, Oklahoma, the people built a Church House. It was called Odema. [I don't know why it was called that. I never thought to ask.] Anyway, at Odema any and all church minded people gathered there for services. If a Baptist preacher came riding or driving through, he could preach. If a Methodist preach came riding or driving through, he had the same privilege. Across the road, they dug the Odema Cemetery.
It was located at a cross roads, two miles north of Granny and Papa's farm. The cross roads had a creek running through it. So, they gave the corner crossing a kind of dog leg, horse leg, jack rabbet leg, maybe a fish tail bend in the intersection. Just be sure to slow down and look both ways. I think, but not sure, there was a store on the northwest corner at one time, and there might have been a one room school.
By the time I remember, Odema was the Baptist Church and the Methodist met in the Midway School. Midway School was the merger of at least three smaller schools: Odema, Custer, and I don't remember. A record I saw said Odema had first been called Gill, started in 1893, closed probably 1919. I didn't find when Custer started or where it was located. It closed about 1916. Midway opened about 1919. Our parents, aunts and uncles attended school there. (Well, I'm not sure about Myrl and Byrl.) I remember attending Aunt Bonnie and Aunt Kathryn's graduation on the same night in Midway gym. The record I read said Midway continued at least until 1940.
BUT it was still in operation when I started. Because, Mother and Daddy said the School Board were afraid they were going to loose the school for lack of students. The building was a beautiful, two story brick. There were several rooms. I don't remember ever going through all of it. When I started, we used two rooms for eight classes, one teacher for each room. The Board ask our folks to let me start in January of 1944, to finish the second semester of 1943-44. I was six years old on Christmas Day 1943. So now that I was six, I could count as a properly qualified student. I finished the term in May, 1944. I started over in first grade August 1944-45 and Leanna Mitchell was the other first grader that year. Mrs. Edith Levell was our teacher. There were four classes in the room. Her sister-in-law, Mrs. Wise, taught the other room of grades: five, six, seven and eight.
During that first full year, the School provided hot lunch, at least part of the year. Mother had been sending a cold, homemade lunch. She made fried apple pies or other fruit. They were so good. I still remember how they tasted. The Hot Lunch Program provided a dish I still could eat by the cup. They had crunchy peanut butter mixed with a huge amount of blue ribbon syrup. It was served in a large crock bowl, about one gallon size. We or they, dipped it out onto our plates with a real big serving spoon. O, it was so good! Sorry you weren't there to try it also!
Midway School was about six miles southeast from Eldorado. It had been a full twelve grade school. By the time I started there, their High School had been lost to Eldorado. The Eldorado School sent a bus out to pickup the high school students who rode our bus each morning and brought them back in the evening. So then all of us, High School, Middle School and Grade School students boarded our bus and were delivered to our homes. Our two teachers, Mrs. Eidth Levell and Mrs. Wise were sisters-in-law. They lived next door to each other in Eldorado. They caught the Monday morning bus in Eldorado and rode it out as the driver came to pick up our Midway High Schoolers. We had two teacher-ages on our School property. The Teachers lived together in one of the four room houses. Our Janitor and Grounds Keeper were Mr. and Mrs. Weems, who lived in the other teacher-age. (This Mr. Weems was a brother, I think, of Gail's grandfather.)
Those Teacher-ages were to the east side of the School House. The large gymnasium was to the west of the school. The coal house was in back of the school. Our cistern for drinking water was just outside the west wall near the Lunch Room. Farther west and behind the gym was the playground and far out were the outdoor toilets for boys and girls. The 4.1 acres of school property also included a ball diamond. Milk was bought from the neighbor across the road and up the hill. A couple of the older boys walked up, about a quarter mile, to bring the bucket of milk back before lunch time.
In our class room, Mrs. Levell had a most wonderful sand box. One play time lesson I remember was "Little Red Ridding Hood." She put a mirror in the sand and just covered the edges with sand...now we had a lake. Her paper stand-up characters with trees and houses told the story of Little Red Ridding Hood going from her home through the woods of many trees to visit her Grandmother. The bad wolf and the great hunter/wood chopper were all there. The sand box was a table with 1x6 boards nailed around the edge. It was a great aid to the imagination of a boy. My sand box at home was on the ground. Clayton Mensey whose family attended our Church was in a higher grade, but in that room. One day Mrs. Levell noticed he seemed ill. Then he got red spots on his face. He had the measles. He lay on a table in the room the rest of the day and rode the bus home with the rest of us. In a couple weeks when I got the measles, Mother Shumaker and Grandaddy with Myrl and Bryl came to see me and the twins brought me some "quite, lay on the bed in a darkened room" toys to play with.
Our second grade began August 1945-46. Christmas 1945 was my eighth birthday. During our second grade the School House caught fire and burned down, some of the brick walls were still standing. I don't remember, if it happened on a week end or during a holiday. The School Board rallied to provide housing for the School. The gym had bleachers on the north side, the stage was center of the south side with dressings rooms on either side. They turned the east dressing room into a rather nice apartment for the Teachers. The four room teacher-age was used for our classes. They tore out the partitions to make two long rooms side by side. Mrs. Levell and grades one through four were in the west room. Mrs. Wise and grades five through eight took the east room. The back porch of Weems' house was enclosed and a foot wide shelf was build against the back wall for our eating table. Mrs. Weems was the lunch room cook. So now she cooked in her own kitchen and served us on her own back porch.
By the end of May 1946 we knew our Midway School would be no more. I'm sorry I don't remember the names or grades of all the students. I'll try to give the names of some kids or families who attended the school or rode the bus while I was there: The Rosser family lived across the road form us. Their children who attended were Roenna, Adrian and Shirley. Cocky and Harold Mitchell came. Leanna Mitchell and her older brother. Loren Freeman, his cousin Wayne Neeley, more cousins were Uncle Perry's brothers and sister, Johnny, Tommy and Barbara. Virginia and Billy Roy Hall were siblings of Daddy's best friend, Johnny Hall. Ozella Ward, the Hail kids and some of the Dickerson's. Wesley Miller, was Aunt Nina's younger brother. Kathleen and Harold Buckhanan attended. The Mense's, Carroll's and Richie's were all to the east edge of the district. Hey, guys, I must apologize for any and all mistakes and omissions.
Midway School was a great experience for me. I did enjoy my two and a half years there. Mrs. Levell was a good teacher. We read lots of Dick and Jane books. We had lots of fun and I learned not to cheat on spelling words. That was a lessons that has lasted me for a lifetime.