Even at 89-years-young, Ruth Snedden Crane vividly recalls first grade in 1937. In fact, she remembers so many aspects of her childhood and the five formidable years she spent at Country School, she decided to commit all of it to print in her self-published book, Kicking the Can On Frogtown Pond. The thin paperback is chockablock with anecdotes and memories, some a bit foreign to readers today while others remain surprisingly familiar.
Ruth, a member of the Class of 1946, recounts for example, her fondness for woodshop classes with the warm and affable Harold Dean (1933-1944) who she discovered in a delightful turn of events, to be the husband of her homeroom teacher, the seemingly stricter, Margaret Dean (1933-1944). “Mr. Dean showed us how much easier it was when you first made a small hole with a nail and hammer and then switched to the screw and screwdriver. Sharing carpentry secrets like that endeared him to me forever.”
She goes on to share recollections of second grade teacher Margaret Lataday (1938-1941); her fashionable but slightly shocking dress and modern demeanor, shoulder-length hair (not worn in a bun!), shoes (with heels!) and her classroom on the second floor of the Main Building (currently Grace House’s Accounting and Technology offices). It was during this period that she fell in love with books, being located as she was in such close proximity to the Lower School library, then at the other end of the hall.
This being the age of aviation, she recalls running excitedly with classmates to the large windows every time they heard the noise of an aircraft approaching.
Fourth grade teacher Dorothy Upton (1937-1946) is remembered by Ruth as “absolutely forthright.”
“She didn’t put up with any nonsense, was totally fair and treated everybody the same. There was absolute control in the room at all times. A child of ten could feel safe in this controlled atmosphere,” she writes.
It was also during this time that organized games such as red rover, dodge ball and kick ball began to take precedence in Ruth’s life.
“I loved all these playground games, and I suppose I was about average in my ability to do them, but my great love in the fourth grade was the chance to run across the down sloping meadow from the main building to Frogtown Road and then across to Frogtown Pond (Hardon Pond). On winter afternoons, we would skate on the pond and play a wonderful game called Kick the Can. It was a simple but wonderful game. It just never got any better than that.”