April Fool!

April 1 has long been an opportunity for children to tease their teachers. In an interview with a writer employed by the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression, Mrs. Sally Marlowe of Marion, South Carolina, recalled:

We used to run off in the woods on April Fools’ Day and stay till twelve o’clock noon come — then we would all show up to the schoolhouse. What you reckon they done to us for it? Kept us in school so late every evening that week till the moon would be shining bright enough to show us the road home.

The Skippers,” January 19, 1939.
American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1940

Old Heidelberg, copyright 1905. Touring Turn-of-the-Century America: Photographs from the Detroit Publishing Company, 1880-1920
Rural School near Milton, North Dakota external, Miss Margaret McKay, teacher, 1913. The Northern Great Plains, 1880-1920: Photographs from the Fred Hultstrand and F.A. Pazandak Photograph Collections External

Dr. Samuel Lathan recollected engaging in similar antics while attending “an old field school” near his childhood home in Fairfield County, South Carolina.

Interior of “Little Red Schoolhouse,” Crossville, Tennessee, 1935. America from the Great Depression to World War II: Photographs from the FSA and OWI, ca. 1935-1945

April the 1st was dreaded by most rural school teachers. The pupils would get inside and bar the teacher out. The teacher, who didn’t act on the principle that discretion is the better part of valor, generally got the worst of it. Mr. Douglass soon learned this, and, on April Fool’s Day, he would walk to the school, perceive the situation, laughingly announce there would be no school until the morrow, and leave.

Dr. Samuel B. Lathan, circa October 10, 1940.
American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1940

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