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Young, naive, and irrepressible, a turn-of-the-20th-century Iowa teacher documented her coming of age in letters home
Spring 2011 | Volume 61, Issue 1
It must be because I was such a bad egg when I went to school but it seems as though I could tell what each one is going to do and how they are going to take things nine times out of ten.
I rode to school with the cream man on muddy morning... One boy came to school with his pants on wrong side out. Another little fellow found a sand bur in school time and exclamed “Get out of this you old sand bur.”
Elisabeth F. Corey.
December 4, 1905
To Mrs. E.O.Corey, Elmdale
I went to the dentist and he said I had three wisdom teeth through alright and the one I had been having trouble with was two thirds through but my jaw was full of teeth with out it and it was coming in farther back so I had to have it pulled he got his hatchets and things ground up then went to work he cut out a piece of my gum about the size of your foot then after cutting the rest of the gum free from the tooth he put that what you call it of his in my mouth and took a hold of that tooth as if it was a bad boy, he wiggled it and twisted it and pulled it untill he got tired of fooling and then he yanked it out. you aught to have heard the exclamation he made when it came out, he said it was an “awful big tooth” he filled one for me while he was at it. Must close so some of you write soon
E. F. Corey
January 7, 1906
To Mrs. E.O.Corey
Dear folks,—Last evening we went over to Wevers—Walter Emma and I we just had a fine time—McKeighans were there too—we played games and ate popcorn and cake—we played cross questions and crooked answers and I never saw answers fit so well—one boys question was “Will you marry me” and my answer to it was “I guess so.”
I will put some of the other questions and answers on the next page
“When did you see Henry last?” “Yesterday at half past nine.”
“Will you be my best girl?” “I’ll tell you tomorrow evening at half past eight”
“Who called on you last?” “Sure Mike”
“May I see you at home?” “Why of course.”
“May I see you home?” “I’ll think about it”
“Did you see John” “No.”
“Who was it?” “MissCorey”
Did you ever see answers fit better than those?
I never did...
I must close for now and answer Alma Johannsen’s letter so good by yours as ever
February 15, 1906
To Mrs. E.O.Corey, Elmdale
It was raining wellMonday evening it turned colder and we had a blizard all day Tues.—don’t know what you folks had. They wouldn’t let Gertie go to school but I went any way—had to follow the fence and then it wasn’t any too safe. I went early and had the stove red hot before half past eight. The threeMiller boys came and that is all the school I had. They had taken some of their books home the evening before and had learned their reading and spelling so we hurried through and got out about eleven I got to Wevers about half after eleven and I couldn’t have gone a quarter of mile farther to have saved my life and if I had attempted to cross the ploughing I wouldn’t be writing to you now I dont think.When I got here my clothes from my legging tops to my waist were wet through and getting stiff so I had to change every dud I had on. I’m alright now though.
Yesterday we opened our Valentine box. It was chuck full—everyone was remembered—I got fifteen I believe it was.
March 28, 1906
To Mrs. E.O.Corey, Elmdale
Dear Mamma,—I most forgot to tell you about my boarding place. I like it just fine I have a heated room of[f ] the sitting room. it is a snug homelike little room 3 x 6 x 9 ft with two windows and furnished with a bed a dresser two chairs two rows of well filled books and my trunk and grip. I find that by setting one chair out side I can turn clear around at the risk of tearing the lace curtain, upsetting the pin tray and pulling most of the clothes off the hooks.And after several experiments I found that by climbing to the farther side of the bed and raising the window I can with much care remove both shoes without much danger to the miror and without loseing my garters in the wash bowl.
April 2, 1906
To Mr. J.Olney Corey, Elmdale
Dear Brother,—Oh! say do you know Teddy? No I guess I didn’t write any thing about him last time. He is a lovely old maid gentleman of Tennant who told my pupils that he would give them a nickels worth of candy apiece if they would throw the new schoolma’am out doors. May the rats get his ornery picture if he didn’t come mighty near making things pleasant fore me.Mrs Shaffer went for him today and asked him what he ment by putting such notions into the childrens heads and he laughed and said he knew they couldn’t
April 8, 1906
I trimed a box for the social while they were gone. It was shaped like a house with white tisue paper put on in tucks for siding and the three windows and one door had green frames. the roof was shingled with brown wrapping paper. It was real pretty and so different from all the rest of the boxes.
...I have to dress “sweller” now I live just half a mile out of town and amquality folks. I got me a new cap and gloves that can be worn all the year around and enough ribbon like the scrap enclosed to make a bow for my hair and a neck ribbon that goes twice around my neck and ties in a—what is it? foreignhand or a fourinhand . You can’t tell much about it from the little piece but it is really the prettiest ribbon I ever saw...
I believe I’m like Margaret and would rather stay at home and “Raise chickens, make garden and slop hogs” than teach school.