Learning ‘pie’ at 1-room school

Show caption

Many people have never experienced a one-room school, but my mother taught in several such schools in the early 1900s.

My siblings and I, except my oldest brother, went to a city school, since our farm was within busing distance of the town.

Mom’s schools were probably the same as rural schools all over. They took all the children from 5 or 6 years old to 20 or 21 years old. One year, Mom would teach first, third, fifth and seventh grades, and the next year second, fourth, sixth and eighth grades.

My wife, Mae, started in a rural school in Florida at 5 years old, since they were teaching the first grade that year and would not be teaching first grade again for two years. She simply went to school with her older sisters, all in the same school house.

As a child I visited Agee School, one of several schools where Mom was teaching.

What I remember most was the “pie suppers,” which were held to raise money for school necessities, such as paying the janitor or the cost of wood for the winter.

A lot of people turned out for the suppers. The school was lit up with lamps on the walls, pictures or paintings by the children. Sometimes they had a fiddler, guitar or a mandolin picker for entertainment. If not, Mom always brought her Victrola and some records.

Once the parents, children and any other visitors arrived, the festivities would begin. Games like musical chairs or fishing hole were played. Then came the big event of the program, and the reason why they called it a “pie supper.”

All the women and girls had prepared a pie to be auctioned off to he highest bidder. There had been a lot of giggling and peeking trying to find out who had made each pie, and what kind of pie it was.

If it was one of the ladies’ pies, it was generally the duty of the husband to buy it. If it was a special pie, one that everyone knew was made by someone who really made good pies, that was another thing.

If it was a girl’s pie, then many of the local swains were interested, particularly because you got to sit with the girl to eat it. The auctioneer was usually a member of the district school board, who would, with as much pomp and circumstance as he could muster, start the bidding.

Twenty five cents, 30 cents, maybe a half dollar — seldom did a pie go for more than a dollar, which was a full days wages for a working man at the time. However, if it was a special pie, or one made by a special girl or wife, the bidding could go up to $1.50 or $2.

My brother, Paul, who was about 15 or 16 at the time, was smitten by a girl named Lorene, who would later become a county beauty queen. The bidding on Lorene’s pie was hot and heavy — $1, $1.25, $1.75, $2 and so on. Paul had brought a friend with him, Eddie Sharp, who loaned him some money, and Paul finally got the pie for $4.75, which probably would have been a record if records were kept back then.

Both Paul and Eddie shared the pie with Lorene. But the one who married her in the end, was the guy who ran out of money and had to drop out of the bidding.

Advocate readers may submit stories of about 500 words to the Human Condition at features@theadvocate.com or The Advocate, EatPlayLive, 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70810. There is no payment, and stories will be edited.