Thursday, January 19, 2012

Celebrating Arbor Day in Morganton, 1916

“Arbor Day in Public Schools,” by A.C. Kerley, Morganton, N.C., published in the January 1916 issue of The Southern Planter

Recently, the schools here observed Arbor Day, and I believe it will be of considerable interest to your readers to know what was actually done.

A great paper like the Planter is doing a great deal as a medium through which men exchange experiences and are helped by what the other fellow is doing.

While this observance was expected to be of interest to the children in the town and older people as well, the influence has extended to the rural districts. The object was to inspire the children along the line of beautifying the school grounds and as a direct consequence their home grounds. The influence has spread and later on, the school grounds, yards, and in fact the appearances of communities will be changed.

We have a large ground which needed more trees. In order to have the trees properly cared for and not injured, as has been too often the case in all communities, we decided to have the school children do the work. We planted 18 beautiful young maples and two magnolias. But before this was done the entire school of 760 pupils and a large number of townspeople met in the auditorium where a program consisting of songs, recitations, readings and stories pertaining to Arbor Day, its origin, observance and influence, prepared them for the planting. These exercises lasted for some 40 minutes, after which the entire school marched in order to the school campus, where the trees were planted.

How many children in the average community ever saw holes made by the use of dynamite? Well, that is part of an education. We hunted up a man who knew how to use the dangerous explosive—dangerous in the same sense that a gun is dangerous by careless using—and had the holes “blasted.” It is all very simple and any one with intelligence and care can do it. Dynamite usually comes in half pound “sticks.” A quarter pound will do the work. Cut the stick in two with an ordinary knife. You then “crimp” about two feet of fuse to a cap and the cap is inserted into the end of the dynamite and tied, so as not to pull out. The dynamite is then put down in a hole some two feet, which can be made with a crowbar. The charge is then tamped in lightly with a broom handle or something similar. The fuse is lighted an the hole is mad. In a few minutes the dirt can be removed or have mixed with it rich soil. This work is quickly and inexpensively done and will make a tree in less than half the usual time. A tree should never be planted without a hole or the ground deeply broken. All this was arranged, and the holes were all made at once.

Now came the planting. Each class was to plant a tree, name it and dedicate it to some noted person, real or fictitious. One tree was dedicated to Woodrow Wilson and the others to Christopher Columbus, Robinson Crusoe, Benjamin Franklin, the last Senator Vance, Charles D. McIver, a former governor, prominent educators, superintendents of schools, members of the board of trustees and others. This gave the trees an individuality. They will be protected and cared for by the children. They are living, personal beings and will therefore command respect, and get it.

These exercises will have a great tendency to do away with the idle boy’s knife, which has left scars and destruction wherever it has been. Schools are conducted to teach children, not merely “book learning” but how to live and what they do at school will have a great influence on what they will later do at home.

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