FREEPORT – Teachers who complain about large class sizes will get some sympathy from Louise Gould Grant.

In Gould’s first year teaching, she had a classroom with just 14 students. Of course, those students covered grades first through seventh and they were all in the same room, heated by a wood stove, with no electricity or running water, so it wasn’t as cushy as it might sound to a teacher facing 25 or 30 kids this fall.

Grant, 99, was back with her students Saturday, as the Bailey School reunion once again brought together students from Freeport’s old one-room schoolhouse.

The reunions have been held annually since 1998, although each year it gets a little smaller. A handful couldn’t make the trip from out of state, but about a dozen were still gathered around a table at Antonia’s Pizzeria to talk about the old days.

Leon Cummings, 87, who helps organize the reunions, said the fact that schoolmates still want to get together more than 70 years after they shared a classroom illustrates that things were different in the days when his brother earned a few extra dollars for the family by rising at 5 a.m. to get to the school and fire up the wood stove so it would be warm by the time the rest of the students arrived.

“There’s not that closeness anymore,” Cummings said. “There was more caring for each other.”

Gould said she was told her students wouldn’t exactly be that caring when she got the job to teach at Bailey School in 1933.

“They told me there was a behavior problem there,” she said. “They prepared me for a wild time, but I never had a problem.”

Of course the kids took advantage where they could. Gould was only 10 years older than her oldest students, so they would encourage her to play — hopscotch and red rover were favorites — with them, Roberta Soule Nason, 88, said.

“We liked to get her out at noontime because she’d come out and play with us and the noontime (hourlong recess) would last an hour and a half,” Nason said.

Nason and other former Bailey students said they felt like they got a better education than children who were in a classroom only with students in their own grade. When Gould would teach the older children, the younger ones would listen in, they said, and understand at least some of what was being taught.

Cummings said he remembers starting to pick up bits of the multiplication tables, taught to the seventh-graders, when he was in third grade.

Nason, who attended Freeport Consolidated School after Bailey School closed in 1934, remembers there being “more kids and we didn’t get as much attention” at the consolidated school.

Of course, there was an occasional downside.

Addy Norman, 97, remembers having to pay a bit more attention when a new teacher — her aunt — was there for a year.

“Then we had to sit right up,” she said.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

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