Louella Wentz Hansford, six years a student in the now-closed Mt. Nebo School, gives a most insightful interview to Allia Shaver, journalism student and me.
Lou: I lived a most abundant life on a family farm between Buckhannon and Elkins attending a one-room school for six years. Mt. Nebo community was the center of the world to me.
Doc: There is an important sociological concept—ethnocentricity— whatever circle we are in, we believe that is the best circle. It could mean our family unit is the best family or our school is the best, our church is the best...You become very partial, which is normal.
Lou: I agree. Mt. Nebo simply was the best place to grow “in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man,” As Jesus grew as recorded in Luke 2:52.
Allia: Did your teacher help you grow academically and help you with plans for future education/work?
Lou: I would say yes, yes they did, because that teacher that was teaching six grades at the same time in that one-room school, that teacher was very intelligent. She had to have your undivided attention and he, whenever it was Mr. Baxa, they were teaching you what you needed to know. I believe we got a good start. I believe to this day that children that go to school now, wherever they go, their beginning years, their success can be due to their teachers.
Allia: Is Mt. Nebo School still open for the public to visit?
Lou: They tore it down, the building is no longer there.
Allia: That is sad. We plan to visit these building sites for the book Dr. Almond is writing about one-room schoolhouses in West Virginia.
Lou: I have tried to find a picture of the Mt. Nebo School and so far haven’t found anyone that has it. I have tried with Noel Tenney, with the Upshur County Historical Society. He does not have any that he is aware of. My only hope would be that the students’ families may have a photo in their album.
Allia: Did you have any relatives or friends that attended schools with more than one room with teachers for each grade?
Lou: Yes, my sister attended Mt. Nebo school before me. Also, I had friends that did go to another one-room or two-room school, Sand Run School in Excelsior.
Doc: Not only was school very engaging, but your abundant life involved church, too.
Lou: Yes, my spiritual growth flourished. For example, our church had Christmas programs too and revivals. That was where I gave my life the Lord, it was through a revival. I had a good childhood.
Lifelong friendships developed in those Mt. Nebo years. There were friends that would have sleepovers. I had a very good life.
Allia: You have told us about supper time being family time. And you shared your father-daughter bond.
Lou: Indeed, my growing up has been blessed. I was loved by my mom and dad and my sister. I worked hard on the farm. After a hard day in the hayfield helping Dad with putting hay, I was taught at a very early age how to drive the tractor and how to drive the truck to haul in bales of hay. When I became 16, Dad threw me the keys and said let’s go get your license. I just had a good childhood.
Doc: Did you make haystacks?
Lou: Audrey, my older sister, did and Dad said he would put her up against anybody in the county for her ability to top a haystack. Dad said she was the best topper he ever had.
Doc: It is a real skill. A person must stay way up on top of the hay and dance up and down. All the while fellow haymakers kept heaving hay up there.
Allia: From your idyllic childhood it was probably a shock to go to Buckhannon-Upshur Junior High School though, wasn’t it?
Lou: How wonderful to begin my education in Mt. Nebo one-room school. What a big step in the seventh grade joining more than 1,000 students. How chaotic with so many students changing classes. It was a big step; the seventh grade was for me. From the center of my world being a one-room school to a multi-floor school with many rooms where kids are racing up the hallways! I believe I maximized my learning at Mt. Nebo.
Allia: Ethnocentrism for sure. I agree with you, Mrs. Hansford.