I currently have columns running in 3 newspapers;
- Tri-Valley Herald : Looking Back
- Valley Times : Do You Remember?
- The Independent : Do You Remember?
The Articles appear in the Herald and Independent on Thursdays,
and the Times on Sundays.
They will also be found on this page each week as well.
If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates to catch up.
Midways last living teacher recalls schooldays
By Barry Schrader.................................March
Miss Ann Freisman was 19 years old and fresh out of college when she
got her first teaching assignment in 1938way up in the hills from
Livermore at Midway Public School.
The 87-year-old teacher reminisced with me on the phone from her Scottsdale,
Arizona winter home last weekend about her four years at the country school
atop the Altamont. Starting out in the Depression era with a $110 monthly
salary, she said it was a good experience for her in the little school that
averaged 12 to 18 pupils during her tenure there, many of them Mexican-American
children of the section crews on the nearby railroad.
She came from the Freisman Dairy family of Livermore and attended the
one room Inman School with her five brothers and sisters, then went on to
graduate from Livermore High in 1936.
She drove an old Plymouth up Patterson Pass or Altamont Pass roads every
day to school, arriving at 8 a.m. to build a wood fire in the pot belly
stove before the students arrived for 9 a.m. classes. They started that
late because the ranch kids had to do chores before school and then walk
up to a mile or more to get to the schoolhouse. She used a handheld bell
to call them in from recess and lunch. There was no electricity or plumbing,
so the two outhouses adjoining the woodshed out back sufficed for natures
call. The desks were nailed to a runner in rows and she remembers there
were inkwells in each one by the time she taught there. Asked about special
programs, Ann recalls putting on Christmas pageants for the parents, which
included carol singing, something not permitted in public schools today.
A couple of extra-curricular highlights she recalls: loading a bunch
of kids in the Plymouth one Saturday and taking them fishing on a slough
off the San Joaquin River; then she organized another special day trip by
train for the entire student body to see the 1939 Worlds Fair on Treasure
Island, something she and her students would never forget.
In 1942 she became Mrs. Don Schofield so had to give up teaching in
May of that year. It seems there was a county schools policy that married
women couldnt teach because they didnt believe in two
income families in those days. That soon changed, however, and in
1953 she returned to elementary teaching in San Lorenzo and stasyed there
25 years until retiring. She was pleased to report that one of her Midway
trustees, Elwyn Mul Mulqueeney wrote a very glowing letter of
recommendation to San Lorenzo school officials.
Looking through old Alameda County school records back into the 1880s
I also found the account of an earlier Midway teacher, Miss Agnes Regan.
In a handwritten report to the county school board in 1884 she explained,
Since I devote one hour to drawing on Fridays and one hour to composition
and letter writing on Tuesdays, I am obliged to deviate from my program
on those two days
. I usually engage the sixth grade pupils in little
conversational talks during the time assigned. Upon the fourth Friday of
every month immediately after drawing, every pupil recites some selection
taken from their reader. During the first term I do not take up the textbook
in Geography for fourth grade. In order to economize on time I teach them
with the fifth grade local geography and from Bancrofts Pictorial
Chart of Geographical Definitions. Although the third grade pupils spend
but 10 minutes with me on arithmetic yet they work 40 minutes on practical
examples drawn from Whites Elementary Arithmetic and Dudley
Stones Essentials of Arithmetic.
Continuing her detailed report, she mentions that each afternoon she
started with Masons Music Readers for different grade levels. Next
she instructed classes in writing, drawing or composition, followed by calisthenics.
Toward the end of the day, after a 20 minute recess during which time she
examined student papers, she taught third grade eclectic geography plus
supplemental reading for other grades. Dismissal was at 4 oclock.
It was fascinating to spend time in the county schools archives reading
teacher reports submitted over decades from rural schools scattered all
over the Tri-Valley.
I also had a phone call from Mrs. Beverly Rouse of Los Gatos to say that
her mother Helen Root, later Mrs. Forney, taught at Midway following Ann
Freisman. She was a sister to Dr. Root of Livermore and was attracted to
this area because the dry, fresh air helped her asthma. Beverly and her
siblings Bob and Audrey also attended Midway for part of the time her mother
taught there because they needed to increase enrollment or the school would
be closed. Her mother next got a teaching position at Fifth Street School
so the kids finished their education in Livermore.
With all the information collected from alumni and a teacher, plus the detailed
Alameda County records, this would make a good documentary.
* * *
A recent phone call reminded me of a milestone being reached this monthThe
Tri-Valley Science and Engineering Fair was started a decade ago by Karen
Kiernan Rodriguez of Lawrence Lab, with the encouragement of her then-boss
Mike Campbell. It was first held at the Blackhawk Auto Museum, but this
year for the first time will be housed at the Robert Livermore Community
Center. There the public can see hundreds of the Tri-Valleys best
student projects from March 30 through April 1. Karen speaks with pride
about the early days of the fair and how it grew by leaps and bounds over
the years. She is now retired and living in Encinitas.
The columnist can be reached via email at :
or by snailmail at:
PO Box 446
Livermore, CA. 94551