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Barry Schrader
Columnist

 

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.

Archive Page

Midway’s last living teacher recalls schooldays

By Barry Schrader.................................March 23, 2006

Miss Ann Freisman was 19 years old and fresh out of college when she got her first teaching assignment in 1938—way 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 nature’s 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 World’s 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 couldn’t teach because “they didn’t 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 Bancroft’s 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 “White’s Elementary Arithmetic and Dudley Stone’s “Essentials of Arithmetic.”

Continuing her detailed report, she mentions that each afternoon she started with Mason’s 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 o’clock. 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 month—The 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-Valley’s 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 :

Historian2sbcglobal.net

or by snailmail at:

Barry Schrader
PO Box 446
Livermore, CA. 94551

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