Memories of Farm Hill Elementary School, vintage 1965

... And of Mrs. Sweetman, Mrs. Copeland, Mrs. Footit -- and, horror of horrors, a MALE teacher!

As I entered fifth grade in 1966, there was a crazy option: a male teacher.  Throughout my elementary school years at Farm Hill School at 390 Ridge Rd., there had never been a man in our daily midst, except the principal ... and at no time could I have told you who that was.

But in 1964, Wayne Kensel was hired as a fifth-grade teacher, and it was a pretty exciting event!  And I was completely terrified about the possibility of having a male teacher.

I needn't have worried. I was put in Miss Sweetman's class, and she became my hero and the object of all my adoration. I loved her. I truly wanted to marry her. I remember my mom and I even drove by her house down at the shore, just so that I could see where she lived.

I was quite surprised when I discovered that it was "Mrs." Sweetman, and she had a spouse already. Even that didn't seem to hinder my plans to marry her later on. When it was explained to me that I couldn't marry another girl, it seemed pretty stupid to me. I guess I struggled with the concepts of love and marriage. 

At Farm Hill School I also had Mrs. Copeland for kindergarten. She was the sweetest woman on the planet, and it was an honor to correspond with her when she was well into her 90s. I also had Mrs. Footit, who checked each child's fingernails every day! There was also Mrs. Dimock, Mrs. Morgan and Miss Cannata.

Recently, I've been emailing back and forth with Wayne Kensel, the fifth-grade teacher I didn't get assigned to. He sent me the greatest pictures of the interior of Farm Hill School from the mid-1960s. This school has since been demolished and replaced with a modern facility built in 1990.

The photos to the right brought back so many memories for me. I hope they do the same for some of you!

Lynn Herlihy March 07, 2011 at 01:48 PM
Oh Liz, Yes. I loved Farm Hill School, too. Although I am older, and knew that there was a male teacher before Mr. Kensel. He was Mr. Austen and he stood tall and straight and he was a little intimidating. He taught a 5th grade class once and it had 6 6th graders in it. Funny, he became less intimidating by a silly fact. We were all amazed that Mr. Austen ate a whole apple, core and all! He maintained that the core held more nutrients. Mrs. Copeland, also was a favorite of mine. I was lucky enough to have her for Kindergarten and the first grade, too. She caught my imagination in Kindergarten by bringing a horseshoe crab to school. What a wonderful teacher, warm and intelligent. Also, Mrs. Anderson was tops. Thanks for the memories.
Lisa Bush March 07, 2011 at 02:00 PM
You HAD to know that I would comment on this article! That classroom looks like it later became Mrs. Cohen's room, who I had in 1977. I never had any pictures of the interior of the building so these are great. Thanks for sharing! Mrs. Copeland and Mrs. Morgan were both my neighbors and also two of my all-time favorite teachers. Mr. Kensel was gone by the time I got to Farm Hill, but I do remember we only seemed to have female teachers until Mr. Hopkins came to teach 3rd grade. Like you, I couldn't believe that men could be teachers :)
Ken Hoffman March 07, 2011 at 02:01 PM
I also was at Farm School in the early 1940's, being a youngster I don't remember much . One thing I remember was being called into the principals office for being late coming back from our lunch break, (we use to walk home and back). The woman principal (Miss Witch) pulled out a strap from the desk and layed it on my hands ten times, ouch. Ahhh, those were the days, we were disciplined.
Elizabeth Warner March 07, 2011 at 02:20 PM
My goodness, Ken, that is awful!! Can you imagine that now? Having a disappointed tone will bring parents rushing in nowadays. Was her name really Miss Witch?
Elizabeth Warner March 07, 2011 at 02:20 PM
Yes, Lisa, I knew you'd love this one! Isn't it fantastic to go back inside. Many thanks to Wayne Kensel!
Ken Hoffman March 07, 2011 at 11:33 PM
I was six yrs. old when I began school (1941) in the first grade at Farm Hill. I skipped kindergarden because I was older then most of the class. I believe that was her real name, being age six we were taught respect and don't think we would dare to label the principal with anything but her real name.
Kathy Way March 08, 2011 at 09:49 PM
I was also at Farm Hill when Mr. Austin was there...I was in the same class as your sister...and my class had him for the 5th and 6th grades..We had one class with Mrs. Bailey in the 5th grade, too. 4th grade was Mrs. Dimmock, 3rd, Miss Footit (aka Mrs. Donahue), 2nd & K Mrs. Anderson, and 1st grade, Mrs. Blais...our principle was Mr. Aiudi...class of '62,
John March 09, 2011 at 02:37 PM
Some of these teachers names sound familiar. I had a Mrs. Bailey and Mr.Aiudi at Eckersley Hall school. Also the school rooms inside look the same.
Allwynne Bound March 13, 2011 at 05:43 PM
Wayne sounds awesome!!! The teacher you wanted to marry, about how old is she now ( if you don't mind me asking)? - Allwynne Bound
Allwynne Bound March 13, 2011 at 05:44 PM
One word: superb!!
Elizabeth Warner March 13, 2011 at 06:34 PM
Let's see... she must have been at least 28 in 1965, so she must be in her early 70s.
Michael Stielau April 08, 2011 at 04:17 AM
Thanks for this article! The photos bring back memories of those classrooms in the "old" school. And I like the photo looking out the window at the "new" building (as we called it). I had almost forgotten the layout of the playground and parking lot. I grew up in the house next to the school driveway, and I can see part of my parents' house in that photo. Thank you to Mr. Kensel for providing the photos!
Debbie September 25, 2011 at 01:22 AM
It was Miss Footit then she married and was Mrs. Donahue. I had her in 3rd grade. I had Miss Maureen Murphy in 4th grade but she left after one year to become a nun. I had Mr. Kensel for 5th grade and remember that he always smelled like cardboard, but now that I'm an adult I realize it was the smell of cigarettes! You, Liz Warner, were very mean to me in middle school and I will never forget that. I had never done anything to you. I am younger than you as well.
Elizabeth Warner September 25, 2011 at 10:56 AM
Debbie - It truly makes my stomach ache knowing that I was mean to you in middle school and I cannot apologize enough. I know what it feels like!! I have to admit that it surprises me that I was mean! All I remember is feeling very scared and alone. Thanks for all the clarifications on my elementary school teachers...
Lynn Herlihy September 25, 2011 at 12:19 PM
Liz, I am sad that Debbie had a bad experience, but I know that you are a caring and wonderful woman. Youth, we all make mistakes, it's how we learn, maybe that is why you grew to be so kind. Anyways, I am so glad that she wrote in, it reminded me to resend this to my brother Jon, who deleted the article before when he did not recognize Patch. I think Jon was in your class.
Elizabeth Warner September 25, 2011 at 12:26 PM
Thanks, Lynn, for speaking up for me. I teach middle schoolers and I always remind them that life gets better... We, generally, are not our middle-school selves for long... which is usually a good thing. But it does speak to our character, and I must have been desperate to be liked and I hurt Debbie's feelings along the way. I am sorry. Jon was a year ahead of me in school. Please send him my regards. And thanks, again, Lynn.
Debbie September 25, 2011 at 03:27 PM
Apology accepted, Liz. But I'm glad I finally got that off my chest! It is very scary to be bullied when you are not a bully yourself. I just took it and never said a word...until now. It doesn't really matter if you remember, but it does matter that I remember. I was so afraid of you! I can let it go now. There are pix of Farm Hill students on Facebook. Not any of my years but of years after mine. I think they have set up a page for Farm Hill School there. You can check it out.
Mr. Fixit September 25, 2011 at 03:33 PM
I attended Farm Hill School in the late 40s, grades K and 1. Kindergarten teacher was a sweet Mrs. Anderson. Can't remember the 1st grade teacher's name as I spent most of it at my desk in the hallway (I musta been disruptive) ! Bullies were alive and well at that time too. I had to walk from the middle of Front St to the school on Ridge Road. Every day on the walk home I was beset by a bunch of bullies (no idea why, even to this day). However, an angel in the form of a Mrs. Amenta (her daughter Betsy was in my class) allowed me to stop in at her home (near the corner of Russell St and Ridge Rd) to wait for the bullies to pass by. Her kindness will never be forgotten.
Elizabeth Warner September 25, 2011 at 03:40 PM
Yikes... bullying is such a strong word and I have no recollection of that being even in my realm of possibility. I cannot even remember disliking anyone. But it is in the eye of the one feeling it, so I will acquiesce to the perception. My current middle school students would be horrified (as I am) to have that word attached to mine and that I caused fear in someone... particular after Mr. Fixit adds his description of a gang harassing him. I am glad that you feel a weight lifted. Please be aware that I am not that kind of person today. I can be an idiot, for sure, but I am a softy and never mean-spirited.
Debbie October 01, 2011 at 05:12 PM
I just love the new pix with music! Thanks for putting them up. I was in Mr. Kensel's class '67-'68. "Mr. Pencil may I have a Kensel?" anyone remember that! It is a good memory, and we all used to say it!
Laura Larson Hughbanks May 05, 2012 at 12:33 AM
I had Miss Murphy in 4th grade too. I loved her Massachusetts accent. I remember she took me shopping downtown and bought me a charm bracelet with a charm of an apple for "an apple from the teacher". She was the reason I became a 4th grade teacher. I was in contact with her until I was a freshman in high school in Illinois. Special memories. Debbie, was your last name Goldman? I'm trying to remember the Debbies I knew way back when. I had a best friend, Carol Parmenter I wish I could reconnect with.
Laura Larson Hughbanks May 05, 2012 at 12:38 AM
Pencil, Kensel...yes, I remember that.


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