Friday, July 27, 2012

Back to School Expedition

 Those businesses that sell school supplies are busy now reminding all of us that "back to school" time is approaching, so it is time to "stock up" on all the supplies needed to resume a life in the classroom.  The advertisements will often portray the idyllic setting of a one-room schoolhouse with it bell tower straddling the roof, calling all students back from their summer vacations.    Such  advertisements also reminded me of a "back to school" experience I had on my last visit to the capitol city of California. 
 Situated on the banks of the Sacramento River, with this bridge as its iconic symbol, is a historic district, known as Old Sacramento.
 One part of this district is the building shown in this photo, known as the "Old Sacramento Schoolhouse Museum".  This replica of a country schoolhouse was opened in March, 1977, to provide a "hands on" experience for visitors of all ages to take a peek into how students of the past received their education.  With such a scenic location,  it is not surprising that, just as in the 19th century when the schoolhouse was the center of community activities, the Old Sacramento Schoolhouse Museum can host birthday parties, weddings, family reunions, and other events.  For information on reserving the Museum for a special event, log on to   . 
 Since that time almost .5 million boys and girls from all over the world have had a taste of 19th century "book learning" in this little yellow building. 
 There is even a "photo op" cut out, where you can stick your head in the opening of the schoolmarm's silhouette, as she rings the hand bell to gather in her little flock of students.  Volunteers in the community serve as school master and schoolmarms for visiting students.  As with any organization of this type, there is always a need for more volunteers, and anyone interested in assisting can email for more information.
 The classroom is equipped with old-fashioned school desks, that are quite familiar to me.  Although they were not in use at the schools I attended, my parents had a business that sold school supplies, and sometimes one of these old-fashioned desks would appear in their inventory, as either a trade-in, or purchase they made to use as a display rack.  Based on what current students have written about their visits to the schoolhouse museum, this pot-bellied stove seems to capture their attention more than what the teacher is writing on the blackboard!
 There are different activities going on at the schoolhouse museum, based on the time of year.  For example, in the winter, they conduct "It's A Gingerbread Holiday".  For this competition, children, families, youth groups, and those in culinary programs can enter gingerbread-themed creation of any type they desire.  The entries are judged on creativity and imaginative use of candies.  Gingerbread-themed prizes are awarded by a panel of judges.  Then after being on display during most of December, selected entries are donated to local children's homes and hospitals for further enjoyment. 
 The schoolhouse is filled with books and photos from 19th century schools.  There are annual exhibits, such as Black History Month, Sports History, Coming to California, and American Traditions. 
 My mother was an elementary school teacher in the early 1900's, and actually taught from one of the editions of McGuffey's Reader that was in use during her tenure. 
 The school desk staples of the past look quite a bit different from the tools today's students use!  The students wrote on their "slates" (that is the black square with a wooden frame in the photo), using their white chalk.  Paper and pencils were much more scarce back in those days, and of course, computers had not yet been invented!
 Something that captured my eye on the grounds of the Old School House Museum, was this magnificent flower.  I photographed it, not knowing what it was called, because I thought it was the most beautiful flower I had ever seen in all my life.
 After a little research, I found out that it is called "Passion Flower", and there is quite a story that goes with in.  The legend goes back to the 1600's, when a monastic scholar, Jacomo Bosio, first saw drawings of the flower.  The symbols are said to depict the Crucifixion of  Jesus Christ.  The 72 radial filaments represent the Crown of Thorns.  The top 3 stigma represent the 3 Nails.  The leaves are in the shape of the Centurion's Spear.  The red stains represents Christ's Blood Drops.  The round fruit represent the world Christ came to save.  The lower five antlers represent the 5 wounds of Christ.  In fact, in some parts of the world, the flower is still called the "Flower of Five Wounds".  If ever there was an example of the words of Jesus in the New Testament (Matthew 6:28) that tells us to "consider the lilies of the field", this is it!   Who knows, maybe someone planted this flower at this location, for the sole purpose of reminding visitors, that the Creator of the Universe has made a beautiful world for us to enjoy!  What makes the passion flower  even more relevant in this particular city, is its implied reference to "The Blessed Sacrament", as remembered in the name of the capitol city of California.   If you would like to learn more about this and other Sacramento attractions in the same area, log on to for dozens of experiences that will bring you miles of golden smiles!  Tricia
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