History was always a very special subject to me back in my schooling days. It was never about the dates, famous figures, or ancient architecture, rather, I found the ins and outs of everyday life to be truly magical and fascinating.
That’s why I absolutely love this story. This discovery isn’t something that you’d find at the Smithsonian or the Louvre, but it perfectly captures the essence of American history.
In the autumn of 1917, the year jazz was released and Ford Model Ts ran the roads, a classroom in Oklahoma City received rand new blackboards. It’s what they did on these blackboards that is truly amazing.
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When contractors started working on Emerson High School classrooms, they knew that the remodel would improve education. But they never expected the impact on local history.
Looking to upgrade the whiteboards in classrooms with new smartboards, the workers first had to remove the outdated, old chalkboards. That’s when they made a startling discovery.
Beneath the current chalkboards lied another set of chalkboards, that were untouched for nearly 100 years. Protected and undisturbed, these century-old writings and drawings look like they were made just yesterday. Here a November calendar rolls into December. A turkey marks the celebration of Thanksgiving.
A multiplication table shows us a slice of the curriculum and methods taught in 1917. In regards to the multiplication wheel, Principal Sherry Kishore says, “I have never seen that technique in my life.”
Oklahoma City school officials are shocked not by what is written but by how it’s written. This sentence reads, “I give my head, my heart, and my life to my God and One nation indivisible with justice for all.”
The subject matter and lessons in the classrooms were very similar. In 1917 there was an “aligned curriculum.”
Although the board’s style and subject matter is unfamiliar with the millennials, it certainly resonates with older generations. Principal Kishore showed her 85-year-old mother the board: “She just stood there and cried. She said it was exactly like her classroom was when she was going to school.”
But these boards are older than Principal Kishore’s mother by 13 years. Two dates were marked on the board. November 30, 1917, and December 4, 1917.
Some of the writings and drawings were student-made, while others were drawn by the teacher, but it’s not clear whose is whose.
Regardless, the work is a striking glimpse into the old days.
English teacher Cinthea Comer states, “It was so eerie because the colors were so vibrant it looked like it was drawn the same day. To know that it was drawn 100 years ago… it’s like you’re going into a looking glass into the past.”
Built in 1895, Emerson High School has undergone many renovations throughout the years, but nothing like this has been uncovered before.
In the past, contractors have only found broken pipes and wires, so this is a shocking surprise.
The school district and city are working together to preserve these boards. Who knew that scribbles on a chalkboard could become a wonderful part of history.
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