By Elmer Hills
Sidney is a town one mile from the exact center of Fremont County, Iowa. In the days of my youth it had a population of 1000. According to the standard of that time, Sidney had a good four year high school. It was also the school my mother had attended.
Prior to the summer of 1899, my parents, Lewis and Hannah McClusky-Hills, decided to move to Sidney from their rural home near Percival. Dad’s parents, David and Esther Hills, lived in Sidney and desired more visits with us. My parents also wanted their children to have a better education then available in a Country School. An acre lot was purchased and a new house was started in the summer of 1899.
Dad made many trips to Sidney to help with the house building. At the same time he kept the farm work going so the rest of us had more chores to do. When September arrived, our house was not yet finished, so my sister Myrtle and I went to live with our dad’s parents in Sidney, for about six weeks.
On the first day of school we went to the Superintendent’s office for his decision on what grade we would be placed in. We brought some books we had used to give him some idea of what we could do. At that time, I was just under 12 and Myrtle was18 months older. We were assigned to Eighth Grade.
The transition from country school was difficult but Myrtle and I soon adjusted. She was particularly fortunate because there was an organ at school and Myrtle was quite good at it. The kids were enthusiastic about the singing because there were no radios, televisions, or picture shows yet.
The school work moved along easily for me. I participated in some of the school games, but did not join the football squad until the following year.
My mother started a boarding house. She had no hired help, so the rest of the family had to help. There were no supermarkets then so we relied a great deal on our large garden and the fruit from the farm. There was also no local dairy so we had cows to milk. Dad was still very busy with the work on the farm, the farm animals, harvesting the crops, and preparing the farm for a renter. There was also an apple orchard of 22 acres which required a lot of attention.
There was sixty acres of farm land near our lot which Dad rented, where we planted corn Being the only boy on our street of workable age, I was in much demand to milk cows, mow lawns, and other odd jobs. I usually made enough to buy my clothes while in high school.
The next four years were in high school. There were two courses; college preparatory which required four years of Latin, and non-preparatory which included German, bookkeeping, and geography. I took both courses. I was not a book warm but I did have enough interest in each subject to get good grades. At the end of the high school, I was second in my grade. I had participated in declamatory contests, debating, and was a regular member of a the high school football and baseball teams.
Our athletic contests were with neighboring towns, 10-15 miles away. Transportation was a big problem, for the railroad did not run to the other country towns from Sidney. We had a team and carriage which I could use. I charged two to four other boys for rides and this paid my way. The going wage then for a boy (or man) was 10 cents an hour. I worked many a day pitching hay or plowing for $1 per day and was the church janitor.
Those were years of growing and learning. I appreciate my teachers, family, and everyone that helped me along the way.
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