Tuesday, March 22

Blue Backed Speller

He learned the three R's from the old blue backed speller while sitting in seats of hewn logs and writing lessons on slates. Jim Fields of Typo was born on March 21, 1876 on Big Creek (now Avawam). Young Jim's schooling was limited but he remembers his first teacher, a gentleman by the name of Mr. Smiley who taught the regular school term of three months.

The school building was made of hewed logs, and the seats were long benches, each made a half log, the split side was hewed smooth and the peg-like legs fit right into holes made from an old time auger.

Instead of tablets or notebooks, the students had slates on which to write and cipher (ciphering is now termed arithmetic). Slates at the time cost five cents each and pencils were just a penny. The buying of textbooks was no problem because there were none. The only book necessary until the 4th grade, when counting classes were organized, was the blue backed speller. The old blue-back served as speller and reader and from it many good, moral lessons were learned from characters such as "Old Dog Tray" who got into trouble because he was caught in bad company.

No doubt the school building on the point near Woodson Couch's store was an imposing structure and a passer-by resting there a moment could hear Mr. Smiley carefully pronouncing the words to be spelled. The teacher in those days required beginners to go through the book one time, pronouncing words by syllables as they were spelled.

This process required about two months and the remainder was used to spell off the book. Jim agrees that it was everlasting credit to the teacher to finally teach phonetics. By the time the primary class was ready for the advance class of 5th reader, every pupil could pronounce the words in the Blue Back Webster's Speller.

At an early age, Jim had great admiration for a certain little girl, Liza Jane, the daughter of Jim Eversole and granddaughter of Uncle Irvin Eversole, pioneer Regular Baptist preacher of Perry County. "Pon my honor Liza Jane was the prettiest brown-eyed, red checked girl I had ever seen," he said. The two were married on June 12, 1901.

Not long after the wedding, Jim recalls he was out with the boys one night and took one too many. He rode home on "Old Barney," the mule and at the gate, his loving wife helped him to the ground after which she gave corn and fodder to Barney. Then she spoon-fed her husband and the "old boy" fell asleep.

Next morning Jim was thinking of the kindness and gentleness of that pretty brown-eyed girl, when suddenly to his surprise, she appeared. Apparently in good humor, but with firmness in her voice, Liza Jane said, "Jim, I've have no drinking around here." Convinced by her manner that she meant it, Jim left off drinking ever since.

1 comment:

  1. Our house was blessed with the blue backed speller and I remember it well. I regret that along the way, it was lost and I really grieved for Uncle Matt used it for many of my spelling lessons as a youngster. Uncle Matt was a substitute teacher many years ago and it was his speller. We also had one with a brown back.