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Dianne Salamon
Participants in the Mt. Washington Heritage Walk gather in the one-room schoolhouse to recreate the experience of schoolchildren in the early 1900s.

Mt. Washington Heritage Walk: Recreating school days of yore

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By Friday, Sep 25, 2015 Life In the Berkshires

Mt. Washington — On Saturday, September 19, our town held a Heritage Walk in coordination with Housatonic Heritage and the Mt. Washington Historical Society.

It was a glorious early fall day when 25 people gathered for a walk replicating what two young Mt. Washington school girls, Fanny and Lilian Schutt, would have experienced on a school day in the early 1900s.

Mary-King Austin and Cory Hines, program presenters, greeted Heritage Walk participants at the schoolhouse door.

Mary-King Austin and Cory Hines, program presenters, greeted Heritage Walk participants at the schoolhouse door. Photo: Dianne Salamon

Cory Hines welcomed us and led the group on a walk to the Schoolhouse with tales of their homestead, local vegetation and the charcoal industry of the area. These points were embellished with photographs of the place and time from the personal files of Mt. Washington resident Betsy Garrett.

We collected leaves and sang a “counting ” song as we announced our arrival at the Schoolhouse where our teacher, Miss Mary King Austin, greeted us for our day’s lessons.

The One-room school was primed and ready for us with books and readers out, the Blackboard welcoming us and flashcards at the ready. Mary King informed us how a teacher in the 1900s would have to address the educational needs of children from 6 – 16 years of age. We heard glowing reports of Fanny and Lilian’s teacher, Miss S. Elizabeth Benson, from the School Superintendent, and learned as well of a report written to the Superintendent about the academic progress of Franny and Lilian. It was so fortuitous that the archives of Mt. Washington were so helpful in bringing this historical treasure to light.

The Victrola.

The Victrola. Photo: Dianne Salamon

We did an exercise in leaf rubbing and did a poetry reading appreciating nature. Then to our surprise and delight, the Victrola was cranked up to play “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.” Next came every school child’s favorite — snack and recess.

Everyone, young and old, locals and visitors, were enthralled with this experience. Ralph Fedele of the Irondale Schoolhouse wrote, “Magnificent!”; Natalia Smirnova of Salisbury said, “Thank you very much! Very informative!” Vanessa Gang of Mt. Washington said, “Magnificent!” and Tessie, our “student” said, “I had fun.”

Elizabeth Kasevich, president of the Mt. Washington Historical Society, addressed the group regarding the plans to restore this cherished Schoolhouse so more events such as this can be held.

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