WAYNE — Students in kindergarten through fifth grade filed into their shared classroom and introduced themselves.

One girl said her teacher often sent her to the coat closet when she misbehaved. Another said her mother washed her hair with kerosene when she contracted head lice.

The teacher gave all the students a stern warning. “Polio’s going around, so it’s very important that you wash your hands,” said the teacher, Edna Wallingford.

It was May 1945 this week for students at Wayne Elementary School. In two shifts Thursday and Friday, the school’s 50 students went about their day at the old North Wayne School.

Members of the school building’s preservation committee hosted the elementary school students for a day at the one-room schoolhouse that operated from 1855 to 1961.

“This is a particularly interesting era, of course,” said Linda McKee, who played Wallingford’s role as the schoolhouse teacher. “We’re in the middle of sad and happy times.”

Last year, students pretended they were in a 1930s classroom. Each assumed the persona of a student who attended the North Wayne School at that time.

This year, it was the 1940s, and McKee made a handful of references to World War II during her lesson.

“I can’t wait for the war to be over, so we can have all the sugar we want,” McKee told the students, alluding to wartime rationing.

Students went about their morning lessons, reading from the “Dick and Jane” series.

“We have a new reading series,” McKee announced to the students. “Everybody across the country is talking about them.”

At recess, students learned to play era-appropriate games, including jacks and jump rope. For lunch, they ate sandwiches packed in wax paper, eschewing modern snack food and packaging.

Bob McLaughlin, who attended the North Wayne School in the 1940s, taught the Wayne students about flag etiquette after they pledged allegiance and sang “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.”

For children in the 1940s, McKee said, the schoolhouse became something of a refuge from the daily news from the war front.

“This was a place that felt safe for children,” she said. “It was a place where they felt at home.”

The students who spent their day at the schoolhouse Thursday appreciated the opportunity they had to step back in time.

“I like how the desks are set up,” said 8-year-old Keyrah Powers, who pretended to be student Carol Libby for the day. “I like how the room is and everything. It’s just really cool.”

Austin Bedsaul, 8, assumed McLaughlin’s persona for the day Thursday.

“I’m learning lots of stuff from this school,” he said.

Next spring, McKee said, the schoolhouse will host Wayne Elementary students for a 1950s-era lesson.


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