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The North Grove One Room School, Illinois

As told by Kaleigh Ibarra and the DeKalb County History Center
Sycamore, Illinois

Story Narrative:

A large group of children stand in front of an old school house around the turn of the 20th century.

DeKalb County History Center and several partners in DeKalb County, Illinois, collected 100 objects about the country that will be displayed in an exhibition titled “History of DeKalb County in 100 Objects,” opening on June 11, 2022. Inspired by this exhibition and as a part of Museum on Main Street’s Coming Home project, area students created a project inspired by one of the 100 selected objects. Each student completed deep research on the topic, interviewed local residents, and edited and produced a video. Topics include: the North Grove One Room School, the Olympic Torch, the Navy’s TDR – 1, and the Sycamore Pumpkin Fest. In this short film, Kaleigh Ibarra interviews two women who were former students at a one-room school house.

Speaker 1 (00:01): How long have you guys been living in Sycamore?

Alice Whitney (00:05): Almost 82 years.

Carol Lichty (00:07): Yeah. I moved from Chicago to Sycamore when I was three, so 77 years.

Speaker 1 (00:19): And where did you two go to school?

Alice Whitney (00:23): North Grove One Room School out on Brick Hill Road in Sycamore.

Carol Lichty (00:30): Then you went into Sycamore though into town, didn't you?

Alice Whitney (00:34): Oh yeah. When it closed in 1952, right?

Carol Lichty (00:38): Mm-hmm.

Alice Whitney (00:40): Then we transferred into town.

Carol Lichty (00:44): We knew everybody. I think what's important is the school was not only for education, it was a community center. School wasn't a scary place at all because I'd been there so many times before. And let's see, about six or seven of us or eight of us, were related, so we'd been to each other's houses. We had played. We'd had picnics. So school was just like another part of my home.

Alice Whitney (01:20): One big happy family.

Carol Lichty (01:22): We really were. And poor Mrs. Clark, our teacher, she had to come in in the morning and start the stove and do the sweeping and the cleaning before she ever rang the bell for all of us to come in. We didn't appreciate that. I mean, we didn't know that she did all that. It was just done.

Alice Whitney (01:45): Right.

Carol Lichty (01:46): Uh-huh.

Alice Whitney (01:49): It was the same teacher all through.

Carol Lichty (01:50): Yeah, Mrs. Clark was our only teacher the whole time we were going there. I think Mrs. Clark, I think she was a widow. She lived in town. She lived in Sycamore, and she was a widow, and she had a daughter that went to Sycamore in town. She was a good teacher. I don't remember thinking, "Oh Mrs. Clark. I just love her," but I sure didn't... I mean, she was just Mrs. Clark.

Alice Whitney (02:22): Yeah. Uh-huh.

Carol Lichty (02:23): She was just there.

Alice Whitney (02:24): I didn't appreciate her until after I was out of school, married, and I took a tailoring class at the high school one year, and she was in it.

Speaker 1 (02:43): What makes those one room school houses different from our modern version of classrooms?

Alice Whitney (02:50): Well, it's one room. And you've got all grades from first to eighth grade in that room. Where your modern schools you have... Well, I think, didn't and we in junior high move from class to class like a high school did?

Carol Lichty (03:15): Mm-hmm.

Alice Whitney (03:15): Yeah, so you went to different rooms for your different classes. I think that's the biggest difference maybe.

Carol Lichty (03:29): I don't think I can stress enough is the fact that when we went to school with the one room school, it was such a community. We would go outside. I remember when we would go out for recess, and we would play Red Rover, Red Rover, and half of us were on one side. We'd mix up the little kids with the bigger kids. And when the little kids were running across, the big kids kind of let them run through the line and, oh, made a big deal about it.

Alice Whitney (04:01): One of the things that stays with me. In the town school, girls had to wear dresses. Out at our country school, we were in jeans and blouses. And I know that the first year I went to the town school, I had go out and buy a whole new wardrobe.

Speaker 1 (04:29): Is there anything else you two would like to share before we close?

Carol Lichty (04:34): I can't think of anything. I'm very glad that we had the experience of a one room school and I kind of wish other kids could have that experience. And it wouldn't just be going out and spending a day at the school and playing old fashioned games. Yeah. It was fun. We had a good time. Yeah. It was just kind of an extension of the community, the school was. It was good.

Asset ID: 2022.27.04
Themes: School, education, teachers, community center, history, buildings, architecture, games
Date recorded: Prior to June 11, 2022
Length of recording: 05:27 m
File Type: Video
Related traveling exhibition: Crossroads: Change in Rural America
Sponsor or affiliated organization: DeKalb County History Center, Dekalb, Illinois
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