Old White Hall school is full of memories

Mount Pleasent: For decades, a single country classroom felt like home. A former teacher and students share its story.

October 26, 2003|By Mary Ellen Graybill | Mary Ellen Graybill,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Once upon a time, there was a two-room schoolhouse in northwest Harford County called Mount Pleasent School.

When the bell chimed at 8:30 a.m., children from miles around arrived to put their coats and gloves in the cloakroom or vestibule and settle into their nailed-down desks by 9 a.m. They stored their lunchboxes until the 10:30 a.m. recess, when they were allowed a snack. Lunch at noon was sandwich and cookies, or a jar of berries in sugar water. Then it was lessons in reading, writing, arithmetic, geography and civics. By 1919, when Pauline Duncan first attended school, the school was called Carea School.

In the 1940s, children commuted by foot and sled to the two rooms at the Carea School, says Angelene Heaton Arnold, who was a student and lives with her husband and mother in the modernized slate-roofed schoolhouse in White Hall.

The yard is carefully tended and is the scene of bright decorations and lights every holiday. Even the old coal house stands neatly, and one outhouse remains. To Angelene Arnold this is home. She remembers her last and perhaps best teacher there: Mrs. Pauline Carico, formerly Miss Pauline Duncan.

Mrs. Carico remembers

Now, 90, Mrs. Carico remembers her days as a student from 1919 to 1928 and returning as a teacher from 1935 to 1950. A classroom of 40 children was more like a family. Even a stubborn old coal stove, lack of plumbing and having to oil the wood floors with a broom didn't stop her. She grew to love the children and enjoyed teaching at the Carea School until it closed in 1950.

"I liked all my teachers," Mrs. Carico says. But one in particular stands out.

"Miss Annie Shane - oh, my, she was big," she says. "And she always wore a white blouse and black skirt clean to the floor. And everything just worked like clockwork. Everything was perfect in that school.

"Miss Shane died that first year I attended, and [someone] said at a speech that `Miss Annie Shane was not one of the best in Harford County; she was the best,'" she says. "In those days, they had seven grades, and at the seventh grade, if they took a test and they passed that test, they could become a teacher. Miss Shane put out several teachers."

But Pauline Carico must have been impressed because she became a revered teacher at the same school, having studied at Maryland State Teachers College at Towson for a degree that was to take her back to her childhood school.

`A wonderful teacher'

Mrs. Carico set the standard for teaching. "What a wonderful teacher she was," says Jean F. Galbreath of Street. "She taught all my sons: Alan, Donald and Stewart."

Angelene Heaton attended, walking two miles from Buttermilk Road. Her father died when she was 5, and she had six brothers and sisters, and her mother raised them alone, she says.

"Mrs. Carico was fairly strict, but she had a way about her. We were like a little family," Mrs. Arnold says. "You had your own seat and books. I was brokenhearted to have to go to Highland, and I got sick every day on the bus."

In 1950, the old Carea School closed, and for a while the school was owned by a family that didn't fix it up. Then Mrs. Arnold's mother bought it. At 92, Mrs. Heaton, too, remembers Miss Annie Shane and can name all her teachers at the Carea School.

The thinking chair

In those days, the discipline was simple: a thinking chair. Mrs. Carico can remember the way she had to discipline with it.

"I had in this corner a little chair, and we called it the thinking chair, and when you did something you shouldn't do, you went back and sat on the thinking chair. ... Well, some little foolish thing had happened, you know. ... Just a little first-grade kid, and I sent him back to sit on the thinking chair. After a while I heard this kicking and kicking, and I didn't say anything. Then, I noticed the other kids in the room were beginning to think that this was funny, you know ... so I saw him give another kick, and I said, `Dickie.' He said, `Well, damn! I'm mad,'" she says. She laughs in recollection.

Sometimes whole families attended the school, such as the Lytle children, who recently visited from their homes in Florida, Maryland and Virginia. The youngest, Dale, was missing in class once, Mrs. Carico says. The children went out and found that Dale had gotten caught in the hollow of an old dead chestnut tree.

The school day

The day began with a walk to the country school. "Some children had quite a long walk, at least 1 1/2 to two miles, while others were more fortunate and lived nearby, " Mrs. Carico said. The belfry was at the front. The bell was attached to the rope that dropped down through the ceiling, and the teacher used it to call the children to order.

At her home in northwest Harford, Pauline Carico lives in an oasis of retirement and order, where chimes mark the hours.

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