Fun, Friendship and Families at Kendall School
“We never minded school, we loved it,” Edith (Wilson) McCloughan and Louanna (Chamberlin) Burenga still spoke for each other after eighty years of friendship. The two women attested that their life long friendship that began in 1924 at the Kendall School was a main reason for their enjoyment and success in school. Edith always knew that after school, she would go to nearby Louanna’s house when her father could not pick her up. Her extended visits with her good friend made her wish the days wouldn’t end.
Edith’s father was a prominent poultry farmer in Stockton whose farm was near the Wilson Dr. Edith attended the two room Kendall School as an out of district pupil from far away Stockton for her first four years. Since there were no school buses, she traveled the miles by family car. Most of the other children outside of Sergeantsville walked up to one or two miles or road a farm horse. The horses remained tied outside of the school for the day until dismissal, waiting for the trip home.
Louanna was the daughter of Sergeantsville’s sole physician at the time, and walked to school from her nearby house. In inclement weather, a neighbor would pick her up for a car ride to school. Louanna proudly recounts that her father was often out of the house delivering one of the 3,000 babies she credits to his medical practice, therefore couldn’t drive her himself.
“You always wanted to go to school to see your friends, said Louanna, “and we were never late.” On the school yard, the girls always teamed together to play “tag”, ‘hand ball” or “Anthony Over”, a game in which they tossed a ball over the outdoor privy, to a catcher on the other side.
“Teachers made it fun too” they both proclaimed, “and you couldn’t wait to get back to school after summer vacation.”
The Methodist Church and Grange Hall sponsored their primary social activities outside of school. Most children who attended Kendall School also participated in the church socials and Sunday school activities. However, unlike today, rehearsals for church plays or Grange Hall spelling bees were conducted in school. The girls good naturedly matched their wits and wisdom with their friendship during these events. There was little connection to the townships seven other elementary schools because of the distance between schools. Even a few miles were considered a hindrance to travel at that time.
Once a year in the spring, a county wide school festival was held at the Flemington Fair Grounds. Then, Miss Dora Hoppock, their teacher, would load as many pupils as possible into her open touring car to make the trip. There the children participated in games, activities and academic contests. Edith and Louanna considered it the single social event highlight of the year.
Because of the high school district division, Edith and Louanna were separated during school time. Louanna, who lived north of Rt 604 in Sergeantsville went to Flemington High School on Bonnell St. Edith, residing south of Rt.604 attended Lambertville High School. Both women said that making friends was difficult in each school and no one could take the place of each other. Country kids were not accepted by the town children. To say the least, they missed each other’s companionship very much, but managed to call on one another as often as possible back at home.
By their sophomore and junior years, both young ladies had experienced high school dances. For Louanna, staying overnight at friend of her father’s house in Flemington was a requirement to attend the dance. A man servant of the friend, Judge Adam Robbins, escorted her to and from the dance. He then waited for an allotted one half hour for the after dance ice cream treats at a chocolate shop, before picking her up. Edith recalls attending the first Garden Party dance at Lambertville High School. “They tried to make a garden and pond out of rocks and such, but didn’t do a very good job at it,” Edith says. She clearly remembers the boyfriend “Frank” who escorted her.
Both young ladies achieved great academic successes in their respective high schools. Edith and Louanna both went to Rider College, when it was in downtown Trenton and majored in business and clerical studies. Both give credit to their families for giving them the impetus and encouragement for their successful completion of high school and college. At the time, many other children quit school with the approval of their parents. Boys in particular went to work on the farms in the area and did not continue their education. In general, girls liked school more than the boys because of the sociability, according to the women.
“It was automatic that I go to Rider’ said Louanna. “My brother had gone there to be an accountant. ..I just followed him”. Edith later went on to Ashland College in Ohio and also credits her family with promoting her higher education.
“And besides, I didn’t want anything to do with chickens on the farm!” she exclaims.
Edith’s mother had attended Normal School and was a teacher in Kendall School in from 1913- 15. She knew the value of education for her daughter. There were no guidance counselors to help you plan or pick schools, both women acknowledge. Families made such decisions together or by edict to the child.
The only thing that Louanna disliked about Kendall School was the mice that scurried in the corners. One particular corner was reserved as the designated place for punishment of errant students. Louanna and Edith would commiserate on the unappealing thought of spending quality time with mice and vowed to avoid that corner at all costs. To this day, they feel that the mice were fortunate to get an education, but still want nothing to do with their descendants.
Due to a lengthily illness Louanna was absent from school for nearly a whole year. Her teacher, Miss Hoppock visited the house and brought her homework every few days. As a result, she passed the required end of year county testing and was promoted to the next grade. During another year the Chamberlin family temporarily moved to Arizona for several months. Her teacher again provided school work for her to accomplish. This time the work was mailed to her each week in Tuscon. Under the tutelage of her parents, Louanna successfully kept up with the lessons and was promoted to the sixth grade. Connections between pupils, parents and teachers were very strong.
After high school and college Louanna married Mr. Burenga and lived in East Amwell. Later they owned and operated the Black River and Western train in Ringoes in which Louanna served as business manager. Edith met and wed a U.S. Air Force pilot and frequently moved around the country. During one residential stay in Virginia she worked for a United States Congressman. Ultimately both women moved back to Delaware Township where their close connection and fondness for their friends and family continued to bond them together today.