Saturday, March 23, 2013


Written by my grandma, Hazel Florence Browne Curtis


Very soon after I came home from Tancred, California, I started teaching again; at a little school ten miles north of Cloverdale. The people in that area lived on ranches quite far from the schoolhouse so they had school in the summertime and took a long vacation in winter when it was stormy.

We rented a horse and buggy and mother and my sister Louise took me out to Hermitage to the home of the Ledfords, who lived a mile or more from the schoolhouse. I was to board with them. Mr. Ledford was the clerk of the school board and Mrs. Ledford was a nice, motherly person. They had six children, two away from home, working; two still in school and two big boys at home working with their dad.  Each morning Mrs. Ledford would fill three, five pound lard buckets full of lunch for Mabel Rodney and me and we started off to the schoolhouse.

All the pupils were good and we got along nicely. There were two brothers, Max Hiatt, in the eighth grade and George Washington Hiatt, a little fellow in first grade--they called him "Washy". They were cousins of your neighbor in the Capay Valley, Shelford Wyatt.  One big boy, Charlie Gard, walked four miles to get to school. He was in the eighth grade.

It used to get very warm in the schoolhouse as there were no trees around it. So we used to move across the road in the afternoon. There was a big, flat rock over there on the bank of a little creek. under the shade of the trees. So we took our lunches and our books over there and had school out of doors.

Often I would go home on Saturday morning. A stage drawn by horses made the trip back and forth from Cloverdale to Booneville. The man who drove it was a cousin of the Ledfords and his wife's folks lived across the road from us in Cloverdale. I often got to sit up on the front seat with him. On Monday morning, mother would rent a buggy and take me back to school.

One of the big boys, Russell Ledford, lost his life in World War I. The American Legion Post in the area was named for him.


The little school at Hermitage closed in October for their long winter vacation and I was at home again. But not for long. We bought our home in 1902 and now in 1913, the folks had decided to sell it. We would miss it, the first home we had ever owned. Almost all of our other homes had been train depots.

A new postmaster had been chosen and his daughter was to have father's job as postmaster's assistant. My brother, Lloyd, was attending university at Berkeley, so the folks were to move there and father would try for a job around the San Francisco Bay area. Due to his age he had no luck, so he bought 40 acres of unimproved land at Chicago Park, Nevada County, California in the Sierra Nevada foothills; and in February 1914, they moved there and camped on the hillside until their home was finished in July of 1914.

A teacher who had been working at Preston, two miles north of Cloverdale, was leaving and asked me to take the job. It was a bigger, harder school; but paid more and was nearer town, so I resigned from Hermitage and went to Preston to live with Mrs. Howard, a very nice lady with a big black cat. Mrs. Howard lived on one side of the Russian River and the school was on the other side. I had to go across on the old, covered bridge twice a day. The school was larger and, with all eight grades, was harder than my former position. But I was able to do a satisfactory job of teaching there. Some of the seventh and eighth grade pupils were larger than I was, but we didn't have too much trouble, so I stayed until June and then went to my new home: the camp on the hillside in Nevada County.

There was a large country school there with about thirty pupils and all eight grades. The teacher was leaving and the clerk of the school board asked me to take the job. I was to work there for four years in all, but did leave for a year for two temporary jobs.

During World War I, I decided that I would train to be an army nurse and sent to San Jose for my credentials and made an appointment with a Sacramento lady doctor for the required physical examination. She convinced me that I would be better as a children's nurse and advised me to go to the Children's Hospital in San Francisco to train. When I did so they told me that their term had started about a month before and it would be hard to make up the work and would be better if I waited for the next term to start.

I decided to go to Cloverdale and visit my friend Emma before going back home. Emma had married by then and was now Mrs. R.M. McClelland. Her husband was a partner in a grocery and hardware store: Emrie and McClelland. All the young men had left to serve in the war so they were short of help. They asked me to be their bookkeeper. So for several months I had a different kind of job. I boarded with Emma's older sister, Mary Haehl.
In the fall there was a vacancy at Chicago Park and I went back to teach there again. I finished my fourth year there and the Nevada County board of education gave me a certificate of permanent qualification to teach in any elementary school in California.


I have forgotten just when, but at some time during those past years I taught for four months at a small school up on the top of pine mountain. I had gotten very tired and thin. My school at Chicago Park was large and I did alot of hard work at home, as well. Father had taken civil service examinations and was a gauger during the fall months. He went around the state measuring the wine tanks and figuring the taxes for the government. So I helped mother with the irrigating of the pear orchard and taking care of the garden.

I was to board with the Leavitt family. They met me at the train in Cloverdale and we made the trip to their home at the top of the hill, nine miles, in an old buck board wagon. On the way up the mountain, something about the harness broke and Pa Leavitt fixed it with a piece of cord from a grocery package. It stayed that way for many weeks until it broke again.

School was held in an old farmhouse two and a half miles from the Leavitt's home. The real schoolhouse was only a short distance, but all of the nine pupils; other then Bob Leavitt, who was the tenth pupil, lived too far way to come to it, so we met at the old farmhouse to hold school, and didn't use the schoolhouse.

It was a most interesting four months. The old home (Leavitt's) had a long living room with the biggest fireplace I ever saw along the west side. It was made of rocks and held immense logs. There were two bedrooms along the east side, very small rooms. I had the front one and Bert Leavitt and his wife had the other. A kitchen with a door at each end went across the back of the house; with no screen doors. The doors were usually left open and the chickens strolled in one door and out the other. The long dining table was in the living room and we shooed flies with one hand while we fed ourselves with the other.

Mr. and Mrs. Leavitt, Dolly and Bob slept up in the loft and climbed up there by a ladder nailed to the wall.
An old mother pig and her large family arranged themselves around the front doorstep and had to be chased away before one could enter the house.

There was an apple orchard with several varieties of excellent apples growing in front of the house, and a wonderful garden and strawberry patch on the east side. With deer meat (venison) available at all times, Mrs. Leavitt provided wonderful meals and school lunches. Before long my weight had climbed from 105 pounds to 135 pounds! And that, in spite of walking five miles a day, to school and back. Bob and I walked each day up to the old farmhouse where school was held (along the top of the mountain). We could look down the Russian River Valley and on clear days we could see the towns below: Cloverdale, Geyersville and even farther on very clear days. Sometimes the fog would be below us and looked like an ocean down in the valley; shrouding everything below.

Up near the farmhouse turned school, was a little pond at the edge of the woods and often a doe and her two fawns came there to drink. We held class in the front room of the house and on nice days left the front door and windows open; no screens. There were cows at pasture around the house and often an old cow would stick her head in the door.

With only ten pupils and four grades, it was a very easy job. Four of the pupils were the Johnson boys, cousins of Bob Leavitt. Three of them were Italian children, the Braccialini family. Little Annie, in the first grade, didn't speak any English when she started school and learned to read four books in English just in the short time I was teaching there. Annie learned English, and I learned to count in Italian. When they were at recess, her brother would want her to run and called our "Currie, Annie, currie!" And when I said "put your books in the desk" he would say "mete two libro inde two desks, Annie".

Bob and I took lemons in our lunch and stopped at a mineral spring on the way home and made lemonade.
My brother Cyril was married to his fiancee, Frances, in her mother's living room in Grass Valley, California, while I was away on Pine Mountain. I couldn't attend the wedding, but I went out in the woods and gathered a huge boquet of maiden hair fern and easter lilies from the woods and mailed them to Frances. I also gave them a place setting of silverware.

My grandma, Hazel Florence Browne (Curtis) in 1912 while attending San Jose Normal School in California; born in Boynton, North Dakota in 1892.My grandma, Hazel Florence Browne (Curtis) in 1912 while attending San Jose Normal School in California; born in Boynton, North Dakota in 1892.
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