Tuesday, August 10, 2010

In the Days before "Just Say No" Came to Our Schools

While researching whiskey and black strap and the drinking habits of settlers in the 1800's, Kate found a few interesting stories in The Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois, Volume 2 by Paul Selby.

In the chapter on Kendall County, the writer tells some stories about school customs in the first half of the nineteenth century. Until larger number of German immigrants arrived, Christmas was not really a big deal. The Charles Dickens version became common only after Queen Victoria took up the custom from her German-born husband and most early Americans celebrated Christmas like an ordinary Sunday.

By the 1840's, however, customs started changing, and one odd one was called "Barring Out." A few days before Christmas, the pupils at the local one-room school would bar the door against the teacher until he promised them a treat for Christmas Day. Apparently, some students went even farther by throwing the teacher in the river, tying him up, or burying him in a snow bank. A few teachers resigned their positions rather than face the mob of students, but at least one "was forced to treat his pupils to 'blackstrap' and all the boys became drunk."

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