RUMFORD – Eighteen people shared their earliest school memories at a meeting of the Rumford Historical Society on Wednesday night, and elected officers.

Due to the lack of a public speaker, members, at Weston’s suggestion, dipped into the past to relive childhood memories, which Weston then recorded for posterity.

Many attended one or more of Rumford’s nine schools, most of which are now gone or doing double duty as something other than a school. Several also recalled having to walk to school from a mile or more through all kinds of weather and a few were bused.

Weston, 86, said he started school in Madison at the age of 5 in 1927 at a time when there were no school buses or school lunches. While he couldn’t recall his first day of school, he distinctly remembered efforts focused on separation of the sexes.

“Girls and boys were not allowed to play together and they had separate playgrounds,” he said.

Additionally, school officials used a Victrola phonograph to play marching music for students had to march in and out of school.

Mary Greaney, who lived on Red Hill, said that throughout her school years, she was known as “The girl with the green hair.” Her family got their water through copper piping which turned her very blonde hair green when washed.

Pat Hopkins said she attended St. Athanasius and St. John School, which has since been converted into the Concord Apartments.

“Our teachers were Sisters of Mercy, and while our average class size was 30 to 35, the nuns kept order very well,” she said.

Hopkins said boys and girls were also kept separated at her school and that the Latin she learned from singing hymns came in handy when she entered high school.

Tom Hoyt started school in 1960 at the then new Virginia School, went to Rumford Center School three years later, then back to the Virginia facility, Rumford Middle School, then Stephens High School.

He recalled suffering from grand mal seizures in high school and, once, during elementary school, being forced to write 500 times, “Thomas Hoyt will not throw snowballs anymore.”

However, since his elementary school teacher wanted to leave early after correcting papers, he was excused after doing it 236 times.

Henry Dupill, who attended St. Athanasius and St. John School, recalled having nuns whack him on the tops of his hands with a ruler when he misbehaved.

He also distinctly remembered being drafted out of his junior class at Stephens High School to fight in the war.

“During the war, I was 18 and I couldn’t drink, smoke or vote, but I could go to Europe and kill people for Mr. Roosevelt,” he said.

Dennis Breton said his early Rumford school years were very traumatic, because the nuns spoke French and not English. Now, he’s fluent in the language.

One woman recalled sharpening her pencils with her teeth because she was too shy to raise her hand to use the sharpener.

New officers elected are President Curtis Rice, Vice President Bill Weston, Treasurer Bill Hersey, and Secretary Jane Peterson. Rice replaces Len Greaney and Peterson replaces Jean Hersey.


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