Hazy Days … Memories of Hazelton School still
live strong in Eleanor Peterson
By Jared Fiel. Originally published Aug. 1998, Weld County Past Times, Greeley Tribune
She was 7 years old and was struggling with making an F in a handwriting lesson.
“I kept putting the curly part of the G on it,” she said.
Her teacher, a stern man named Mr. Bishop, came into the profession before the days of developmental standards or positive reinforcement. His solution to her learning problem was a sharp smack to the back of her neck with a 2-foot switch.
Eleanor Peterson, 92, said she can still feel that smack which sent her reeling backward, forced her to fall and strike her head on the hard desk behind her.
“It knocked me out,” she said. Fortunately, Bishop was only at Hazelton School for another year. “He wouldn’t last long now.”
Despite this rude awakening to school life, Peterson remembers her seven years at Hazelton – from 1913 to 1920 – with fondness. She was the oldest of five children and she started school a year later when her brother, Wesley, was old enough to go with her.
For the first few years, Peterson and her brother (and other siblings, later) had to walk 2.5 miles to school every morning. Both she and her brother sat in the first row, because that was where the first-graders were. The eighth-graders towered in the back of the one-room schoolhouse.
The school is currently at the intersection of 10th Street and 71st Avenue. But that was far from anywhere back in 1913.
“Nobody lived out there,” Peterson said. “We all had a long way to go.”
The commute to school got a little easier over the years when Wesley became old enough to drive a horse and buggy to school – about third grade, she said.
Peterson remembers one time when she had to stay later after school and Wesley left her one of their horses, Daisy, to ride home through the cold and sleet of winter.
“Wesley had big, thick mittens,” she said. “I didn’t. It was so cold, I couldn’t hold on to the reigns. Lucky for me, Daisy knew the way home. She brought me home safely.”
Fortunately for Peterson, not all her teachers were as strict as Bishop and not all the months were as cold as that one on the back of Daisy.