“Can I go now?” Tom Lambert quipped to his eighth grade teacher Voorhees Myers on the first day of school in 1937. Mr. Myers had just concluded his welcoming remarks to his sixty five students in the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grades.
“You have arithmetic books, geography books spelling books and maps, but you know that experience is the best teacher”, his mentor proclaimed. Tom whimsically thought that he might take advantage of that philosophy and leave school to watch a carpenter work on a house next door. Later in life he realized that such pedagogical advice was the foundation for his life long career in the construction business.
Tom’s experience in balancing farm life and school work began in 1929 when he entered Kendall School and had Miss Dora Hoppock for the first four grades. Throughout the years, he and his five sisters and brothers got up at five thirty in the morning to finish morning farm work. The children then walked one mile along Lambert Rd to Sergeantsville to attend school by 9:00 am and were never late, he adds. After school they came home to do evening tasks. Each child had chores taking care of pigs, chickens and cows. Farming with horses was also common in those days.
At Kendall School, now just north of the modern blinking light intersection, pupils pitched in to help with clean up, hauling drinking water from a well and stoking the coal furnace everyday. For these jobs, Tom was paid twenty five cents a week. “It made you feel important”, he proudly proclaims. He credits his teachers with helping to instill a strong work ethic beginning at an early age.
“We always helped each other if you didn’t understand something or missed school because hay was down and were needed on the farm,” Tom said. Since four grades were in one room, all a pupil had to do was ask another for help or listen to a lesson across the room to catch up. Mr. Myers would readily give make up work and excuse an absence if a student was sick or was working on the family farm. Many times teachers would drop off homework to an ill pupil on their way to or from school.
Teachers like Mr. Myers were multi talented individuals as well. Mr. Myers ran the Sergeantsville Post Office in Wilsons’ store before arriving to teach at 9:00 am. Even though the store was at a nearby corner, he would hitch a ride in Miss Hoppock’s model T Ford. Tom recalls that it was a sight to see the old car chugging up the long hill. A big “to do” was made when the two teachers arrived to a waiting crowd of students. Mr Myers arrived in time to ring the bell in the belfry, summoning children into the building. He pulled a rope which sounded the bell again and again to mark recess and lunch times during the day.
Teachers planned all of the informal social and sports events for the students. Kendall School boys and three girls played Sand Brook School in baseball one spring. Teachers and storekeepers Myers and Wilson organized the friendly rivalry.
“Of course the Sand Brook boys had to walk up several miles to play at Kendall”, Tom recalled, “but we beat them and the girls on our team played as good as the boys”.
The single event was a great remembrance since there were no team sports. It was very unusual to play against other school students from such a distance.
In those days, Tom helped his school board father to personally distribute teaching supplies to each school. School board members had specific maintenance tasks which they were expected to do. Later, as an adult he served fifteen years on the new consolidated school board. Tom personally supervised the building construction projects and relocated furniture from the one room buildings. That same deeply ingrained, hands on approach had persevered in his next generation. Tom is also a proud founding member of the Sergeantsville Fire Company. He views his contributions as a way of giving back to the people who helped him and his family make a great life in Delaware Township.
“Connection with your neighbors is a wonderful lesson that you never forget”, he concluded, “you can learn riding down the road if you want to”.
Tom Lambert, Edith McCloughan, Louanna Burenga and Paul Kurzenberger, gave histories of Kendall School to the Delaware Township Historicial Society.