Build yourself a strong box.

Thus begins this message from a teacher to his student, possibly on a graduation day in 1935.


Jimmy, build yourself a strong box. Fashion each part with care. Fit it with hasp and padlock. Put all your troubles there. Hide therein all your failures and each bitter cup you quaff. Lock all your heartaches within it. Then sit on the lid and laugh.  Sincerely, your teacher, L. E. Wolfley

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Early schools had no grades, and students were expected to become proficient in reading, writing, and arithmetic in the three months school was in session each year. In addition to instructing the students, teachers often also had to perform daily chores, such as starting fires in the wood stoves and lighting lamp wicks before the children arrived. If a teacher chose not to perform such tasks, the responsibility fell onto a school board member, and the teacher's pay was reduced accordingly. Teachers earned meager sums and then paid some of their earnings back into the community for room and board with Lopez families.  From Images of America: Lopez Island, Susan Lehne Ferguson and the Lopez Island Historical Society and Museum.

I am thinking of my former colleagues in the Edmonds School Districts and all Washington state teachers who begin another school year next week. Please note I did not say they are returning to work next week. Be assured they have been hard at work for at least two weeks in preparation and will spend another Labor Day making name tags and preparing lessons. It IS a little better these days. At least you don't have to carry the kindling in. 

Diane MolineComment