The Folks

Folks on the Home Front: Letters from the First World War by [Griffin, Margaret Porter]

I wish I could have known the grandparents on my mother’s side of the family like I did on my father’s side.  Having older relatives to mentor and dote on you as a child is something that can never be replaced.  But I came close to getting acquainted with their lives, at least a part of them, when I transcribed and typed around 400 letters they wrote to each other when they were courting.  I thought, “This is a wonderful story.”  So I’ve edited and published their correspondence in a new book.

Its working title was “Miss Maggie and the Captain.”  The era was World War I, and he (Jesse) was in a Mississippi training camp while she (Margaret – yes, I’m named after her) taught school back in northeastern Indiana.  But I thought it should be called something to do with the times, so I settled on Folks on the Home Front: Letters from the First World War.  The term “home front” was actually first used in 1917.

As I say in the synopsis on the back cover, things took more time then: corresponding, cooking, cleaning house, and traveling.  But we do much of what they did, one hundred years later.  We work at home and school.  We look at the new cars coming out (although these were really the new cars, the first that families bought).  We like to watch baseball games as they did.  And we get together with our friends, eat, tell stories, tell jokes.

There was a frightening World War in progress, and the United States was gearing up for the effort.  Everyone was concerned, pro or con; and many like my grandfather involved directly as soldiers.

To make more sense and to connect my grandparents’ story to what was going on around them, I researched World War I events for quite a while.  In the library there are many books on the Civil War and on World War II, but not so for World War I.  I hope that this book will help fill in a bit of the gap.  And that readers will enjoy their expressions, their experiences, and their devotion to each other.

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The young family at home on the farm in the late 1920s.  My mother, who is the baby in this picture, would save all of their letters; Jesse and Margaret had ten children in all.

Folks on the Home Front (175 pages; Dogear Publishing, Indianapolis, 2017) is available by ordering on Amazon or contacting me personally.

I am available for presentations on the book in general and have compiled activities for classrooms on locating primary source material.  I’d love to tell you more about my Folks on the Home Front.

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Room for Learning, Part 2

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Here are some glimpses from inside the Collins Schoolhouse on SR 120 in northeastern Indiana.  After being used from 1877 to 1943, it stood vacant for 20 years.  Then June Collins began its restoration.

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More desks fill the room now than when it was operating, to accomodate the number of students who come on tours.  Miss Collins’s nieces and nephews say there used to be an open space between the two sides, where activities and games took place.

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“It’s not the books that are on the shelves, but what the teachers are, themselves,” according to an old poem.  Visitors here see an array of vintage books.

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The original Google: a large dictionary sat on a stand for students to reference.

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Hornbooks, which preceded textbooks, displayed the alphabet and the Lord’s Prayer.  They were covered with a thin layer of cow horn to protect the surface.

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The school’s weathervane now overlooks its interior.

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The daily schedule was all about reading!

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You could get a drink of water from the stoneware cooler, or lunch from your tin pail.  For the other kind of break, the privy was out back and remains there, still fully functional.

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Photo of students in first through eighth grades in the school’s heyday.

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A complete record of teachers of the school is posted on a wall.

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Miss Collins hit the nail on the head.  Thank a teacher for where you are today!

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The Collins School is open to the public on Sundays 2 to 5 p.m. during the summer beginning June 5.  A traditional ice cream social will take place there on July 31.

Room for Learning, Part 1

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In the last half of the Nineteenth Century and beginning of the Twentieth, many pupils were educated in a one-room building where eight grades all learned together.  For some it was the place their school days began and ended.

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While some of the iconic structures have been torn down and others repurposed as homes or businesses, a few have been made into living history museums.  The Collins School in Steuben County is one.  It rests in a green grove of trees, across from a cornfield on State Road 120.

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The brick schoolhouse was built in 1877.  It succeeded a log structure which remained on the property for many years.

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To whom do we owe gratitude for its restoration?  Well, it was someone I think would be proud I used the object pronoun in that last sentence.  Her name was June Collins.  Miss Collins’s family owns the property on which the school sits.

She was a pupil here and a teacher here, at the beginning of her long career in 1939.  She moved on to work in town schools with multiple rooms (including my sister’s second grade class).  When the old building was auctioned, Miss Collins bought it, and with the help of family, colleagues, and former charges, fixed it up.  She lovingly filled it with artifacts from days gone by.

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June Collins herself was its first tour guide.  Today her great-nieces and nephews carry on, during June, July, and August on Sundays from 2 to 5 p.m.  Next week I’ll show you what this room for learning offers visitors who continue to climb its worn steps.

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