The building has now been repurposed, however, many of its former students are unwilling or unable to let the title "My School" fade away. I am one of those students. The education, and commraderie we gained in that building is unmatched in many minds. No formal gym classes existed while I was a student there in the 1940s and 1950s. Peer tutoring was all that was necessary. Student control and discipline was the order of the day once those doors opened for "recess" both in good weather and when the snow was on the ground. Rules were taught for Red Light/Green Light, Fox and Geese, Softball and so many other 'student organized' playtimes. Even the areas where age levels played was well-defined. The first and second grade students had the front yard toward the creek. There was even shrubbery for hideaways.The smaller of the two ball diamonds belonged to the third and fourth grades while the larger diamond way out back by the cow pasture was dominated by the fifth and sixth grades. A playground out in back was also available with the long-chained swings where when you went high enough the chain would jump. Teeter totters and slides added to our enjoyment. Who needed a coach or teacher we had the older kids to serve as mentors?
Many a student was awe-struck walking through those double doors on the first day of school. Both girls and boys marched up the stairs together.The smell of the fresh-oiled stairway and wooden floors was overpowering. Walking up those seemingly massive stairs left us anticipating what was up above. At the top to the left was the cloak room for the first and second grade class room. Mrs. Bowen was there waiting. She taught reading, writing and arithmetic. We learned to read with Dick, Jane, Sally and Spot. We learned to recite our math facts in addition and subtraction to prove mastery in front of our classmates. Moving to the room on the right when we were in third grade we met Mrs. Ebel continued our reading spending a lot of time reading aloud in front of classmates. We now recited multipliction and division facts and added social studies to our curriculum. Then when we finally reached the last classroom we were in fifth and sixth grade with Mrs. Wing. Cursive writing was a focus and we were given the grid to place over our practice efforts to see how closely the writing was to perfection. Try as I might I was constantly frustrated because I could get no higher than a 98 for my efforts.
What a sad day the last day of sixth grade in East Otto. Many could not muster excitement for boarding the bus in the fall for the ride to Cattaraugus, NY to the big old school on the hill. We found out the girls walked in one door and the boys in a different door as we now were integrated with students from other schools to become the graduating class of 1960. School would never be as it was, but the memories remain 60 plus years later.
It is so comforting to see "My School" being cared for and used still by the community.
Submitted by Sue M. Cross, Town of Mansfield Resident. She grew up on Bowen Road in East Otto, NY.