The Berlin Historical Society has scheduled a Story Share for Wednesday, Nov. 9, 1 to 3 p.m., at the Senior Center, 33 Colonial Drive.
Was the snow really thigh deep walking to and from school, or were we just shorter then? Did we really get a better education in the days of slide rules and fountain pens? Many of us remember that a teacher’s authority was never questioned. Classrooms of the past may have had up to 40 students, sometimes with combined grades. Maybe teachers felt a bit overwhelmed, but rarely showed it. We like to think that we learned the basics in a no-nonsense environment, but it’s not as if school was all work and no play.
At “Story Share” we often laugh over confessions of childhood highjinks.
In 1907, Berlin renovated Worthington Town Hall to be the “state of the art” four-room Worthington School. In the same year, the old Kensington Town Hall on Percival Avenue became Percival School. Soon after, the town was building Hubbard School in East Berlin and Kensington Grammar in Kensington.
Can you imagine the community support for opening four new schools within a few years of each other? There were also a dozen neighborhood schools scattered all over town. Some of these remain as private homes and public buildings.
In oral histories, older residents tell us what it was like to go to school in Berlin. We’ve heard stories of riding a horse to school, helping the teacher build a fire in the stove, and serving cocoa to fellow students before classes. Many remember days when most kids rode their bikes or walked a mile or more to a neighborhood school. Some seniors remember climbing into the attic of Worthington School to write their names on the rafters. Others vividly remember the potato salad salmonella emergency at the high school.
We hear tales of legendary teachers and administrators, like Miss McGee, Mr. Harris and Miss Bruce. If you went to school in Berlin, you must have stories to share. We’ll pass a microphone through the audience, so there is no fear of standing before a crowd.
Response from the public for these programs has been overwhelming. Participants continue to bring us photos to be scanned, expanding our collective knowledge of what life was like in Berlin and how the town evolved over time. Perhaps the best thing about these programs is that they provide an “old home day” experience for longtime residents, and for new members of the community who want to feel more rooted where they live. Registration for the Story Share is requested by calling 860-828-7006.
– The writer is Berlin Historical Society Secretary.