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As It Was: Southern Oregon Children Clean Rural Schools

Children returning to Southern Oregon rural schools a century ago faced a first week of clean-up duties uncomfortably familiar to their home chores.

The Jackson County superintendent’s office provided a list of the work, assigning the jobs of cutting grass and weeds, scrubbing and oiling floors, washing the wood work, windows, and outside of the school house, fumigating the school room, polishing the stove, and cleaning its chimney.

The superintendent assigned teachers and students to removing worn out decorations, rearranging pictures, hanging sash curtains, decorating the school room, organizing the library, washing desks and windows, polishing the stove, and clearing school ground debris.

The Medford Mail-Tribune noted that thorough cleaning and fumigation was necessary after the previous year’s round of influenza and colds.  Besides, the newspaper said, “Pupils always think more of their school after having taken part … (in its maintenance).”

For those students who might have dreaded the end of summer’s freedom, the work did defer for a week the chore of “reading, writing and arithmetic.”

Source: "Mail Tribune 100: Aug. 27, 1919 COUNTY SCHOOLS TO BE CLEANED FOR FALL TERM." Mail Tribune, 27 Aug. 2019[Medford, Ore.], local ed., p. A2.

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.