The clothing covering Cynthia, Mother, and me in this 1947 photo screams loudly. Yes, that is a Mink Coat and those are not hand-me-down winter suits for us kids. We were brought up with the illusion of being normal farm children. I never understood why other kids would question me about that status. We were labeled the “rich kids on the hill” by our classmates. I always was a bit naive (most of my life for that matter). I assumed everyone was cut from the same cloth. Living on a farm and going to a one room school for first grade in 1950 reinforced the notion that we were a true rural family. It was a deception that lived for most of my growing years.
Miss Clark was our teacher. She grew up on her family farm adjacent to Windy Hill Farm. Her brother Gordon carried on tilling that soil until he passed not long ago. I would walk down Thompson Road to catch a ride with her on really bad weather days. Most of the time, I would go across the back pastures to connect with Highway 120 to walk the rest of the way to Ostend School. It was about 2 miles away. I was 6. Imagine that today. Sometimes I would walk with Kathy Conley who lived on that highway just up the road from the Clarks. A pretty girl, she was my heartthrob for years. I got to claim that I knew her first as she and I were the First Grade. Endel, Elvie, and Casper were the escaped Estonians who added great depth to our experience together. All of us were farmers.
There were two entrances in the front. One on each side. The right side was for boys and the left for girls. Just inside were the coat hooks and benches where we laid our brown bag lunches. Never did we linger long in that ante room to the single class room. The aroma of a two seat indoor privy on either side spurred us onward to our education. Inside I met Dick, Jane, and Sally; I played in the huge elevated sand box where we made dioramas of places we studied; we made maple syrup from the tree we tapped; we did all sorts of things that only the mix of 8 grades could produce. While there was no flushing of the toilets, there was a single cold water pipe over a sink in the main room to keep us clean.
That was the last year Ostend School was open. Uncle Don was the President of the School Board. District #10 was the new enterprise formed to teach the rural kids around Woodstock. Kathy and I were the only two to move over to Greenwood School where we joined up with our new class mates. Of note: Not one of our classmates knew of Ostend School at our recent 50th Reunion for Woodstock Community High School. I showed them this photo. I was invited to attend even though I went off to boarding school for my high school lessons.
Ostend School was converted into a private residence now surrounded by trees screened from the highway. I have often wondered what they did to eliminate the odor.