By Anna May Cole
(Reprinted in Hampton Union-- June 1972)
Long Winter Vacations
The first two winters, the grammar school was taught by Lewis Palmer, a Bates College student, it then being the custom to have long winter vacations in which the young men could go out to teach in country schools to earn money for college expenses.
He proved himself master soon after beginning his work. A big boy, Everett Towle, commonly called "Gib", did something out of the way and was told to come to the front and be feruled. This he refused to do. It was near the close of the day and Mr. Palmer let the matter pass. The next morning "Gib" was in his seat looking self-satisfied. He had refused to mind, and got away with it.
Mr. Palmer came with a bundle of willow sticks under his arm. He locked the door, then told "Gib" to come down in front and take his punishment. The boy sat still and laughed. The master went to his seat and began to switch him with a willow stick.
Gib dodged and ran down the aisle, followed by Mr. Palmer who hit him often; when a stick broke, he threw away the piece and took another stick. Up and down the aisles they ran. The little girls were scared and put their heads on the desks and cried.
Well, the upshot was that the boy gave in and begged the teacher's pardon in words dictated by the latter. The children's parents said that night, "Wait till John Albert Towle" -- Gib's father and district school committee -- "wait till he hears of it and Palmer will get his walking papers!" But they were mistaken. Mr. Towle said, "If my boy does not mind, he must expect to be whipped."
There was rivalry between the East End School and ours, as to who had the best school house, the best teacher and the best school.
Spelling matches were popular and there was one between these two grammar schools.
Annie Dunbar, now Mrs. Annie Berry, was the best speller in the East District; the Center champion was Jane Samuel whose father, Pat Samuel, was the Ballard's coachman.
Jane spelled down the other side, so the Center School was best in all respects!
There was a succession of men teachers in winter and women in summer. One I remember liking was pretty Anna Bean who boarded at Whittier's Union House. She must have been a good teacher for she taught me the multiplication table.
I automatically get multiplications right, though sometimes am shaky on the other tables. I remember her dark eyes and hair and olive skin, but am helped in the recollection because she married Christopher G. Toppan and passed along her features and complexion to some of her children, grandchildren and even to little Peter Christopher Toppan, her great-grandson.