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Interview with Esther Zemek

Zemek, Ester
White, Jane
White, Jane C.
Date of Interview: 
education; Chicago
Esther Zemek gives a brief but thorough description of going to school in a one room schoolhouse as a child.
Interview Setting: 
Interview as part of the WSOC-TV Oral History Project. Interviews conducted at either the downtown public library or the Midtown Shopping Mall.
WSOC-TV Oral History Project
Collection Description: 
The Oral History Project of 1979, headed by Dr. Edward Perzel, was an effort to gather and preserve spoken recollections. Interviews were conducted with older citizens, primarily over the age of 65, who were encouraged to share their memories and stories.
EZ (Esther Zemek): From the South.
JW (Jane White): And where was your home?
EZ: We lived in Chicago. All our married life.
JW: Uh-hum.
EZ: Which is 50 years.
JW: Good.
EZ: But what I really wanted to talk about was the one room schoolhouse.
JW: All right.
EZ: That I went to when I was all my elementary school. And those dedicated teachers, I am sure that they have only had probably high school and a little normal training when they started to teach, but they followed a course of study. And the superintendent of the schools would come and check on their work, and I think that I had the best elementary education anybody ever could have had.
JW: We'll stop this for a minute.
EZ: Besides teaching, these teachers had to take of take care of the room. You know they had to take care of the fire in the wintertime. They had to, you know, stoke the fire and keep it warm.
JW: Um- hum. And did they clean the windows?
EZ: Cleaned the windows, and they had to do everything. And usually they were would live with a family and make their home while during the school year. But what, what I wanted to bring out was that they were, you by having all eight grades in one room, you were bound to learn from, from each class. As it went on so as I got to the 7th grade then they would, you'd have to go to the, to the county courthouse and take an examination to make sure that you were getting the proper education. So when, when I got to 8th grade, I, I had been the only one in my class who had three years so when I went I had to go to the county seat to take the examination when I was in 8th grade. And I couldn't imagine why the teachers were grabbing my paper as I came up. I felt like, well that is-that's something must be wrong, but I got the 2nd highest grade in the county. [Laughter]
JW: Well good for you.
EZ: 97 and 3/8 was my average which was, which was really, very, very good that it was the 2nd highest but it was really a, I, I, I think that-Oh, and then we had these spelling contests, you know, like they have them now, and I was entered in that too. You know, so that I really feel that I had a wonderful education.
JW: And you probably learned of concentration too.
EZ: Oh concentration and-
JW: Which was very important.
EZ: Concentration. But I felt that, I felt I had a wonderful background.
JW: Um-hum, certainly sounds like it yes, yes. And you had to walk you say you had to walk a mile.
EZ: Walk over a mile to school. In the wintertime when the snow was, the teacher used to pick me up with a, with a cutter. A sleigh. You know what a cutter is?
JW: Yes, yes. Um-hum.
EZ: A cutter. Oh, that was so, so much fun to ride to school in the cutter. And sometimes one, one side would go down you know and you had to stop -
JW: Um-hum.
EZ: And you had to fix up, it's really very, very, very wonderful.
JW: Oh I'm, I'm sure it was, I should say so. Quite different from this getting in a car today and drive a mile isn't it.
EZ: Yes. Uh huh.
JW: Well tell me about Charlotte, how do you like Charlotte?
EZ: Oh, I love Charlotte. We, we just we love Charlotte we have just been so accepted coming in from the North. We've had all the Southern hospitality that we ever could wish for. They have been so warm, and it's, it's been wonderful. We've enjoyed it.
JW: Good, well thanks very much for talking to us. And I'm sure they're going to be able to use this some day on their tape.