Where Miss Martha tamed the rowdy


June 27, 1993|By Patrick Gilbert | Patrick Gilbert,Staff Writer

To this day, Isabel Lentz can show you the spot on the floor where she began her education 68 years ago in one of Baltimore County's last one-room schoolhouses.

"This is where my desk was," said she says, "and right there, where the wall divides the living room and the bedroom, is where Miss Martha had her desk."

Make that the legendary Miss Martha.

Martha Wineholt was the schoolmarm at Bonds School, two miles east of Maryland Line. For 17 years, she arrived every day in a buggy pulled by an old gray horse, stoked the potbellied coal stove, checked each student's hands and ears for cleanliness, and administered no-nonsense to a generation of poor farm families.

Her one-room, red brick schoolhouse closed in 1931 and was converted to a residence. But, except for a small tin and Plexiglas porch in front, it looks as it did when Isabel Rosier, now Lentz, started school.

The building and surrounding property are on the verge of being sold, and area residents have been worried that the landmark might be torn down.

A zoning commissioner's ruling Friday preserved the schoolhouse -- and the memories of the 14 former Bonds School students who are still living, many of them in the northern Baltimore County area where they were born.

As they remember, farming in the early 1900s was not an easy life, and farm children were tough, self-reliant and sometimes rowdy. But the student who misbehaved in Miss Martha's class got a good shaking -- they called it waltzing with Miss Martha.

Everett Snyder was one of Miss Martha's more frequent dance partners. At least that's the story former schoolmates such as Mrs. Lentz and Carl Whitcraft tell.

Mr. Snyder, now 77, claims his recollection of that part of his Bonds School education is a bit fuzzy.

"You know, some of us boys did try to test Miss Martha a bit, and I'm sure I danced with her a few times, but I can't remember specifically," the retired life insurance salesman said.

He seems to think that a boy named Herb Archer got most of Miss Martha's attention.

"I remember once Miss Martha shaking Herb Archer by the shoulders, and when she got done, he kept shaking his body for another two or three minutes," said Mr. Snyder. "We all howled, but Miss Martha was so mad she couldn't see straight."

Miss Martha's ramrod-straight posture, high-button shoes, ankle-length dresses and hair pulled back into a tight bun made the 5-foot-10-inch teacher an imposing figure.

"My father told me she had a real talent for keeping control of her school," said Edwin Wineholt, Miss Martha's grandson. "Bonds School once had a reputation for being rowdy, and the male teacher she succeeded was beaten up by some of the students. She turned Bonds School around in a hurry."

Grades 1 through 7

Like most one-room schools of its era, Bonds housed youngsters PTC in Grades 1 through 7. Mrs. Lentz said there were 25 students in the school when she went there from 1928 through 1931. Those who went on with their education attended Sparks High School -- now Sparks Elementary School.

In the right corner of what is now a living room in the converted school is the spot where Miss Martha's pot bellied once stood. Outside, a two-seat outhouse has replaced the old Boys' and Girls' outhouses.

"We didn't have running water in those days, of course, so Miss Martha every day would send two boys across the fields to the nearest farm house to fetch water in a three gallon bucket for drinking," said Mrs. Thelma Goodwin, 77. "We all drank from the same dipper, if you can believe that."

Martha Wineholt came to Bonds School in 1912 at the age of 45, with 28 years of teaching experience already behind her, said Phillip Wineholt, a grandson and family historian. She made sure no one left without a good understanding of reading, writing and arithmetic.

"And let me tell you something, if you didn't learn your lesson, you stayed in during recess and lunch until you learned it," said Mrs. Lentz. "The only reason Miss Martha didn't keep us after school is that all the kids had work to do on their farms."

Students started the day with a Bible verse, the Lord's Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance. Then Miss Martha gave the students in each grade their lessons and then moved on to the next grade. Mr. Snyder recalls that you didn't dare talk or make a noise while Miss Martha was instructing another grade.

The arithmetic of hickory

Mr. Whitcraft remembers Miss Martha's 2-foot-long hickory stick. She used it as a blackboard pointer and, when shaking didn't seem appropriate punishment, to rap miscreants on the calf.

Nothing much got past her. Mr. Snyder recalled the day he and five other boys decided to flip spitballs onto the ceiling. Miss Martha was busy writing the lesson plan on the blackboard for the morning session.

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