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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
April 29, 1906
To Mrs. E.O.Corey, Elmdale
Mr Pingle stopped for the children this evening and I ask him how it was and he said “fine.” I asked him if he was satisfied he said yes he would not complain when things were going so fine so I’ve conquered the Pingles—something no other teacher has ever done so have the bells rung, the horns blown, the tin pans pounded, the fire arms discharged, and sing all the triumphant songs you know for I’ve conquered the whole Pingle tribe.Hurrah!!!! My how it does rain!! and thunder! and the lightening makes the phone ring every once in a while
Yours with love to all—Bess.
May 7, 1906
Sarahs eldest brothers eldest son has taken a homestead in SDakota and wants her to come up, and take one and she wants me to go up and take one too. she says I could clear $1000 in a year up there and I would like to try it. we talk of going up at the end of this term as I will have a week vacation before Summer School commences. It will cost us at least fifty dollars each to file then we can come back here and go up again next Spring and live on it eight months and improve which will cost at least $200 that is counting in the cost of the deed which is $.50 per acre and at the end of a year it will be worth ten or fifteen dollars an acre or more as time goes on—It would be alright if I could raise the money nesacessary this Spring for you see I could come back and teach next fall and winter and raise the money for next spring and perhaps I could get a school up there next spring as they say teachers are in great demand in some parts ofDakota. You might talk it over with the boys some time when you have time and see what they think of it—perhaps they could help me raise the money—you know “grub stakes” mean half
May 20, 1906
Thursday I started to give the exam’s to three of my pupils—don’t think any of them will pass—discovered when it was to late that they knew nothing of square root, cube root and longitud and time—had always skipped that, so they say.Of course they blame all of their former teachers but thank goodness they think I did all that I could for them and if they had not been quite so stubbern they would have learned a good deal more than they have...
Did you have to set the south pasture fence in as you thought you would?Hows the garden and crops?What are you going to name the colt? Yes I’d give a “lick” at my piece of candy to be home long enough to can 60 qts of pieplant .
Yours as ever—Bess.
May 27, 1906
Dear Mamma,—How you vas?We’re so cold we are like the dutchman “shust about so leaf live as die.”
I walked up to Tennant or rather I “went up town” Friday evening to meet the other teachers and make “arrangements” for the picnic.MissMorris didn’t get there and that left it toMiss StewartMiss McFarland and myself There was but one “arrangement” made and that was for me to see to getting the grove cleaned, getting some one to fix seats, getting the use of the church organ and getting some one to move it for us, and see to other small details In fact I— the youngest of the four—have the responcibility of every thing and will get, as I told IdaWever, some of the praisemost of the work and all of the cussing. I wouldn’t mind the work if some one else had the responcibility but as the picnic is in our grove its up to me so I will have to do my best and take what I get. Saturday I scrubbed my head and had my hair dry before nine oclock—when my hair is brushed back the ends just touch the top of my belt I made my black sateen waist—got it all done and its fine I made it with a yoke and full front so it wont get too small. I got a new tie and belt like the scrap of ribbon enclosed to wear with it so you see it wont look so sober. . . .
Elisabeth F. Corey
June 3, 1906
Friday morning earlyMr Brown phoned up that he was going to Shelby and so could not help with the seats at the picnic so I had to get ready and go up early to see about things—I went to see the drayman who stopped in the middle of unloading a car of lumber and hauled two loads of plank for seats—then I went to seeMrMoury and Mr Bartholomew who quit their painting, which they wished to finish by noon, and came and put up the seats and stage for me by that time most of my pupils were there and the other schools had commenced to come and it seemed that “MissCorey” was wanted every where at once.We Schoolma’ams went up town and got the material for lemonade and while we were makeing it the mammas in the crowd put the dinner on and then I waited rather, helped wait on table till every one was threw eating thenMiss Stewart,MissMcFarland, BessieGrauel and I sat down—I don’t know how much we ate.After dinner we began to think about getting the organ over—Ida and I started to hitch up a team but made up our minds we couldn’t get it in the wagon so ElmerMyers, MissMcFarland, BessGrauel, Ida and I went over to the church— MissMcF__ took the organ stool the rest of us took the organ and we carried it over to the grove while the crowd stood with mouths open far enough to swallow us all.We then made out our program, rallied the crowd and commenced. They tried to put reading the program on to me too but I wouldn’t stand for that with all the extras to see to soMiss McF__ who had nothing else to do agreed to read it. I had plenty to see to just to manage part of the crowd.Anna Stewart was down from Harlan butMr Luxford did not put in appearance to present Ruth Myers herDiploma Ruth was one of my pupils last fall and winter and the only one who passed.