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Who makes the rules?

The Spirit of Tehachapi

Our local museum has been closed since March and I miss doing a shift among Tehachapi's historical past. Some of the old timers I once knew and some are in the early history of the Tehachapi Valley area. It will be so good to see the doors of the museum open once again and be able to talk to people who come in. Often, when a visitor enters we find they, too, have interesting stories to tell us about their lives. We learn as well as the visitors.

One interesting piece of history that always brings a comment from museum visitors is a 1915 set of rules for teachers. This seems to be directed to women teachers. They were printed by the Board of Education in Cabell County, West Virginia.

1915 Rules for Teachers

1. You will not marry during the term of your contract.

2. You are not to keep company with men.

3. You must be home between the hours of 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. unless attending school functions.

4. You may not loiter downtown in ice cream stores.

5. You may not travel beyond the city limits unless you have permission of the Chairman of the Board.

6. You may not ride in a carriage or automobile with any man unless he is your father or brother.

7. You may not smoke cigarettes.

8. You may not dress in bright colors.

9. You may not under no circumstances, dye your hair.

10. You must wear at least two petticoats.

11. Your dresses must not be any shorter than two inches above the ankle.

12. To keep the school room neat and clean you must sweep the floor at least once daily, scrub the floor at least once a week with hot, soapy water, clean the blackboards at least once a day and start the fire at 7 a.m. so the room will be warm by 8 a.m.

– Cabell County West Virginia Board of Education

I think I might not have been sought after as a teacher in those days. The salaries usually amounted to about $30 for a three month term. I might have asked, regarding number ten rule, "Just who is going to check to see if I am wearing two petticoats?" Also, while we're criticizing, Board of Education, watch the double negative on number nine. Tsk tsk.

Teachers had their own set of rules for the students. Most of them applied in "yesterday's" classrooms, as in today, which is to have a well behaved and happy class. The primary classes have a few more rules because of their young age group learning classroom procedure.

The upper grades in both time periods were experienced students and "knew the ropes" of classroom behavior. I spoke to a retired middle school teacher who only had one rule for her students. It was enough for an experienced/no nonsense classroom veteran. The rule said, "Don't do anything that makes Mrs. Reynolds unhappy."

Most women teachers in the early twentieth century were in their teens. In spite of the first rule on the sheet, about marrying during her term of teaching, she may have "loitered" about the ice cream shop in a brightly colored dress and met a young man who took her for a ride in a carriage or automobile. Some rules were made to be broken.