Grade School Teacher
by Jane Glenz
This interview was conducted on July 29, 1988. Mrs. Paterick attended grade school in Leopolis and high school for two years in Leopolis and two years at Marion. She received her educational training at Wood County Normal School in Wisconsin Rapids, and a Bachelors and Masters degree from Stevens Point. She taught in a one-room rural school in Shawano County; then at Leopolis and Lincoln and Olga Brener Schools in Shawano.
Describe your early years.
It was too far to walk to Marion so you had to find a room. In those days I was too poor to do that so I worked for the Superintendent of Schools, Mr. Forest, and the next year I worked for Mr. and Mrs. Hart. He was a banker. I stayed with them and I did housework, took care of the kids and anything they wanted me to do I did. They let me participate in any school activities.
In the summers I worked for wages in Marion. It wasn’t much but it paid for my tuition to Wood County Normal in Wisconsin Rapids. There again, for my room and board I worked and there I really worked. I got up at six in the morning and did everything. I took care of the whole house. I’m telling this because people don’t realize how we had to work to go to school. They think they got it hard today. I got up in the morning and one morning I would have to clean the stove, the next morning clean the whole refrigerator; the next morning it was scrub the floors; the next day I would do the washing before I went to school and hang it out if it was nice or in the basement if it was raining. The next day I would do the ironing.
When I came home from school, I would prepare the vegetables or whatever they needed for the meal. I would take care of the two children. I would clean the rest of the house on Saturday and Sunday. I would dust every third day. I washed the windows and when I wasn’t busy, I thought I would have an afternoon free to do something, I scraped paint off the storm windows.
The second year I got a job downtown at the old Hotel Witter. There I got to do everything. I would do the silverware; or I would be at the desk. There was a telephone that you had to plug in; or I would have to be a waitress. I had to learn to carry a huge tray. And I will never forget to this day I got way over the other side of the room with this huge tray and all of a sudden, the hostess said, “Take that back to the kitchen.” I looked at her. She said, “You forgot the parsley.” It was my job to put the parsley on. Sometimes I would make the menu. Sometimes I had to makeup rooms. I did have to work in the cocktail lounge once and the head of the school found out about that and that was one place I wasn’t allowed to work. They made good tips there. Wish I could have stayed.
When I was working, I also took telegrams and I took the telegram that announced that Pear Harbor had been bombed. I couldn’t believe it. I will never forget that.
I remember the school I went to had regular teachers desk. We all sat behind them. They had a janitor and these desks were dusted every day. We did receive very good training. We had students who came to this particular school and it was select. A lot of people liked to get into it but they couldn’t. We had special students. We were given classes to teach. We had to write plans and work under the supervising teacher. We also had regular classes. Yes, I did receive a very good training. It was almost private. I think there were only 17 or 18 of us. It was closed afterwards. The state couldn’t afford to just take that few students and train them that way.
Continuing on, after I graduated, I was married and I didn’t expect to teach and then my oldest son was born and they need a grade school teacher out at the Loken School. It’s a Norwegian community and my aunt told them that maybe I would fill in because the teacher who was teaching out there, her boyfriend, I don’t know what happened, he either committed suicide or was killed in Chicago. She was so upset she couldn’t teach. I agreed to go out there and teach although at that time, because of the war, you could find a job practically anywhere.
I didn’t know how to drive so it either meant leaving my son at home for the whole week and rooming there or learning to drive my dad’s old car. So, my brother took me out into the field and taught me how to drive in one afternoon. So, the next day I took the car but I didn’t know how to back up.
I taught at this one room school then and taught every subject. The one that gave me the most trouble was agriculture because you had to teach about all the pigs, cows, etc. so the night before I would teach the class I would read the book.
I taught during the war so during that time we did have hot lunch. The government did pay us a certain amount but you had to use certain types of food. I would buy the food, take it to school and the eight grade girls would help to cook it on a back burner. They would do the dishes. We had a good hot lunch.
How many students did you have?
I think I had 26. That consisted of some in every grade.
What ages were they?
Well, none of them went to kindergarten. So I think it was from 5 to 14. Some of the boys were a little bit older.
They were wonderful kids to teach. I only had one problem and that took care of itself. They threw some tomatoes at the back door. It was just the time the superintendent came, too. I thought he probably saw it so I suppose I had better mention it. So I just said, “I don’t want to ever see another tomato thrown and if it is, I will have to take other measures.” I never had to. The kids were really good.
They were very intelligent children. One that I had graduated cum laude from Stevens Point.
Some of the things we did during the years we had to hold parties; had to give a Christmas program. We did things for the fair for the first time, which they liked because they were very artistic. You had to take the children to take the examinations to see if they passed the eighth grade. I did give intelligence tests.
The one thing that was different was that I had to drive to the secretary’s house to pick up my check. Her husband later became our state legislator and they always expected you to sit and have coffee. That was a wasted three hours sometimes but you had to get your check.
I did get $50 for doing the janitor work. I took the curtains home to be washed; did all the cleaning. I could never remember to keep the furnace stocked. So, Mr. Lowberg, who lived near the school, would take care of that every day. They would also help out if we needed things like onions, etc. for lunch. Very lovely people. It was just like a huge family. You also carried your water and put it in cooler.
We would have ball games with the next school — older children. I also had to go to Ladies Aide next door once a month. I always enjoyed the luncheon.
After my husband came home, I quit teaching for six years. Then my husband
was killed and I went back to teaching. I taught out at Leopolis. I taught the upper grades but I have always preferred the lower grades so when there was an opening, I moved to grades 1-2.
I taught there for six years and then a group of us formed a salary committee because we felt we weren’t getting comparable salaries to people around us. I had four children and decided I needed more money. So, we got together and proposed a package. And all of us on the salary committee were not given raises and everybody else was. That made me angry so I came into Shawano and applied and that is when I met Olga (Brener). She told me they had a position. She didn’t know if I wanted it though. It was a group of first graders going to second grade. They just had not learned. They had IQ’s, some of them, of genius’s but they couldn’t read. I said, yes, because the salary was a $1,000 more.
I told them at Marion I wasn’t coming back and boy were they angry. But I told them they had a chance. If you had given me the raise, I would never have left here.
Then I came to Shawano ad taught that grade and took them into third grade. They were naughty. One stole my keys once. I had to have my car wired to get home. His mother found them and she called me. That boy came back, and about two or three years ago he sent me a message. (The family had moved out to Washington and he came back to school at Eau Claire). He thanked me because he said he wouldn’t be in college if it weren’t for me. But they were really naughty. They wrote all over the desks until I laid the law down. Of course, Olga was a strong disciplinarian and she appreciated anyone who could get these kids to behave.
I enjoyed third grade so much that I stayed in there the rest of my time. When Lincoln was overcrowded we rented four rooms at the Catholic school and I was there for six years until they built Olga Brener Elementary. I was happy they named it Olga Brener. They asked me if I wanted to be at Olga Brener and I was there until I retired.
Olga Brener asked me many times to become principal but I said I enjoyed teaching too much. She had to go up to Neopit and Keshena as part of her job and it was a great deal of work for her. Also, at that time I still had two kids at home and was working on my Masters. I had worked up there on a summer program and I knew that either they would kill me or I would die of something else because I would not tolerate the things that were allowed up there. I just didn’t think my personality would match that.
How come so many women were in education in the early years?
I think there were men but when there came a better opportunity to get better wages, we didn’t have unions then just education associations, but the pay wasn’t there. They use to pay men more than women because there weren’t that many of them. That’s another thing, when I came to Shawano, I was on the negotiating team for many years. Olga and I worked this out together, because she thought it was unfair, too, that I should go in and demand that head of the household should get as much as married men. Single men were getting more than single ladies. They said that men have to find wives and have money for spending. I said they can wear dark socks and I have to wear nylon stockings and they wear out. It costs me more to dress than it does a man to dress. They had no answer for that. We did get head of the household.
Later we joined the Wisconsin Education Association. They wanted a single salary dependent upon your education, your experience, etc. I went for that. I said that is the most fair thing I ever heard of.
Do you feel there wasn’t much advancement for women?
I think if you wanted to you could. But most of the women were married and they would never rock the boat. Many just loved teaching. A lot of them did. They wanted their jobs. They didn’t care about their wages because their husbands earned money.
Also, school boards didn’t want women. Of course, a lot of women didn’t aspire to higher positions. I told these teachers, though, if you don’t help with negotiations, don’t let me hear you complain about the high school teachers having regular hours or middle school.
I think the people who go into education are there because they like people and they are not the fighters for money. They know from the beginning they aren’t going to get good money. You have to be a different kind of a person to be a teacher.
What do you remember about consolidation?
When I was in the Marion District that’s when consolidation happened, about 1949 and 1950. Leopolis did not want to go with Gresham because Gresham had built a great big gym and was paying off a huge debt. So Leopolis went with Marion that had no debt. It caused a lot of trouble at that time because so many of the people were interrelated between Leopolis and Gresham. So Shawano took Gresham. Many of the people are Catholic and shared the same priest; they had the same relatives, same interests, same activities, ball teams. It would have been the logical thing to do.
The country schools didn’t come in, the last of them, until Olga Brener was built. So by 1968, they were all closed.
Those teachers then became a part of Olga Brener. They had been a part of District 8, though, since the 1940’s. Dorothy Nielsen was the supervising teacher when I came into Shawano. The County Superintendent was supervising when I was at Leopolis in 1948 to 1954.
Did you have any discipline problems?
No, not even with the eighth graders. I do remember one boy, though, I took him over the chairs and put him in the corner.
I always expected to be taken into court anytime just like Olga.
I remember one boy who came from Milwaukee. He could read a little. He was in third grade. He was naughty. I tolerated everything I could. People should realize that children do want and need discipline. One day this boy got up in front of class and he exposed himself. I was helping someone and turned around and saw him. I took him into a separate room and I took a ruler and paddled his rear and said, “You have three options. You can come back here and apologize to everybody in this room; you can go down and call your father and mother; or you can go talk to Miss Nielsen the principal, but I don’t want to see you until you have made up your mind.” Finally the busses were coming and I saw a little head come out and he said, “I’m sorry.” I told him to get in and tell everybody. He did. It worked and he worked from then on. When his mother and father came, they could not believe he sat at his desk and did his work.
What about a dress code?
No, but the kids dressed as best they could. When I was out at the country school they sometimes smelled but that was part of living in the country. I would never send a child home because he wasn’t dressed properly. That wasn’t his fault anyway. They only had a few changes of clothes. They wore the same thing all week. In the winter it was odorous but you lived with it.
Sometimes they had sores and you had to treat them. I remember one boy coming with a big sore on his hand that was infected so I soaked it. The next day I got a note from his mom asking me to do it again.
They would come very dirty. We would heat water from the furnace so they would wash in the morning when they came in.
What sort of games did they play?
They played ball, tag, pom-pom-pull-away. Made up their own games. Most liked ball. They brought sleds, skates in the winter.
Did you have to supervise them?
I did because I liked to play. They wanted you to play. When I was at Marion we had a teacher that would come out and teach the children games and then I would play with them. We also had one teach music.
Did you have any audio-visual equipment?
We had a movie machine. We would get movies through the interloan. It was so difficult to run.
Have things changed much?
Kids are the same but the way we handle them has changed. I always stuck to what I said. The amount of training has changed.