Round Valley Unified Schools
An Era of Unusual Rules
 

Page 4B – NavApache Independent – Thursday, September 17, 1987

Ida Burgess taught school during an era of unusual rules

By DONNA HALL
EAGAR  -  In 1918 Ida Slade Burgess rode horseback, in a split skirt, to the Colter one-room school house located on the hill just below 26 Bar Ranch and began her days as a teacher.
Burgess, now 89 is the last living person who taught at the Colter School.  She taught during an era when teachers were expected to live up to certain rules, rules that might seem ridiculous today.
Many school districts at the time forbade any activity that might even hint at immoral behavior, Burgess says, including riding horseback in a split skirt.
One set of rules commonly in use during that time set the following limits on teacher behavior:

  • You will not marry during the term of your contract.
  • You must be home between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless attending a school function.
  • You may not loiter downtown in ice cream stores.
  • You may not travel beyond the city limits unless you have the permission of the chairman of the board.
  • You may not ride in a carriage or automobile with any man unless he is your father or brother.
  • You may not dress in bright colors.
  • You may under no circumstances dye your hair.
  • You must wear at least two petticoats.
  • Your dresses may not be any shorter than two inches above the ankle.
  • To keep the schoolroom neat and clean, you must: sweep the floor at least once daily; scrub the floor at least once a week with hot, soapy water; clean the blackboards at least once a day, and start the fire at 7 a.m. so the room will be warm by 8 a.m.

Obviously, these rules did not apply to Burgess.  The area around Eagar in 1918 was a rough and tumble place.
According to Burgess, “Those silly rules wouldn’t have done us any good."
“Sometimes the only way to get to the schoolhouse was on a horse.  Many times I remember belly deep snow and having to forge my way to the school.
“A terrible thing happened the fall of that year.  We were hit by the “flu epidemic”.
Ida continued, “I had to close the school down.  We were in such dire straits that we rode around selling liberty bonds to help those who were affected.”
Bonds were sold and the school remained closed for almost four months.
When Burgess returned to the school, she had 14 of the 15 students she had started with.  None had been lost in the epidemic but one had decided that school was not for him.
Burges broke another of those rules when she married.
She remembers a friend who was a teacher at the school when it was still called Amity.  Her name was Edith Peach Martin, from Strawberry.
In 1919 it was determined that there was no need for two schools in the area.  The Colter District was incorporated into the Eagar District, and Burgess retired at age of 19.
All that remains of the Amity-Colter school is a rock chimney.  Shrubs and wildflowers grow where desks used to sit.
Ida’s birthday was celebrated last week.  All her students have grown.  Some have moved, others have stayed.  She is pleased to have contributed to their growth.
Burgess now lives with her daughter, Thayla Hall, in Eagar.