I recently came across some writings I had collected throughout my youth. Some were letters, songs and poems I had written, while others were pieces that were given to me. An elderly Old Order Mennonite neighbor, Roy Rhodes, shared the following poem with me when I was starting a significant journey in my life. What makes it even more special to me was hearing him talk about how this poem and others prayers sustained him during imprisonment when he was incarcerated for the sake of allowing parochial schools. (See a more recent article I wrote about my childhood school below the poem.) I keep this handwritten note as a treasure from my childhood, a memory from the special neighbor, and a dare to do right.
Dare to be honest
Dare to be true
The failings of others can never save you
Stand by your conscience, your honor and faith
Stand like a hero and battle ’til death
The following article was published in the Shenandoah Journal and the North Fork Journal in Sept. 2011
Memories of – Hick’ry Holler School – As Hickory Hollow Christian School raises funds for a new facility, former staff writer Regina Cyzick Harlow shares school-day memories after a summer reunion.
North Fork Journal (Broadway, VA) – Wednesday, September 28, 2011
DAYTON – Braided pigtails, plain homemade dresses, bare feet and the smell of musty books on the shelf; these memories flooded my mind as I pulled into the parking lot of my first-ever school reunion at Hickory Hollow School in Dayton. The once two-story chicken house had been converted into a parochial school to serve some of the Valley’s conservative Mennonites.
When I started first grade in 1984, there were 13 students enrolled in grades one through eight and five of those, including myself, were from my own family. High school was not yet offered. Aside from reading, writing and arithmetic, we were taught the foundation of our heritage and how to apply the commitment of our ancestors to our lives today. It was there I received a basic education in worldly terms, but gained values to build my life upon.
The curriculum was aligned with basic Mennonite doctrine. The art portrayed plainly dressed families and the stories centered on their practice of simple living and non-resistance. We were required to memorize and recite poems of great length such as John Greenleaf Whittier’s “Barefoot Boy,” as well as chapters of Scripture.
A typical day began with devotions that included singing-four-part harmony, of course-Scripture reading and prayer. Along with hymns, we often sang from folders that included songs of Stephen Foster and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, spirituals and Native American tunes. Devotions were followed by social studies, science, language arts, lunch, recess, math and Bible.
Our annual assembly program took months of preparation, memorization and study. We worked hard to present our families with poems, readings and songs about the Native Americans, stars and galaxies, our ancestors who lived during the Civil War and other topics.
Hickory Hollow History
The privilege of administering parochial schools, or schools offering religious education, came at a great sacrifice to our ancestors. Some spent time in jail for the sake of the cause and in 1972 an Amish case, Wisconsin vs. Yoder, went to the Supreme Court . The court ruled that due to religious beliefs, the Amish were only required a basic eighth-grade education and one that aligned with their theological views.
Hickory Hollow Christian School began in 1968 as part of Bank School. In 1972, it began operating under its present name in a “temporary” location, the remodeled chicken house that has served as the school for nearly 40 years.
I grew up next door to the school, so many of my childhood memories involve that structure now so precious to my heart.
There, I attended singing school and learned to read shaped-note music.
The school also housed the Country Village Bakeshop for a time. Mom was the chief doughnut maker and would get up at 2:30 three mornings a week, so she had fresh doughnuts ready when the doors opened. She mixed, rolled out, fried and glazed them by hand. Some mornings, I would go with her and sleep on the flour sacks in the corner. On those mornings, I would down a bowl of cereal for breakfast as she quickly combed my hair. Then I walked from the bakery kitchen through the door into my classroom.
Returning to the building for the school reunion, it was obvious the years of wear and tear had taken its toll. The school enrolls almost 100 students and offers high school classes.
Every crook and cranny has been turned into functional space. Classrooms and storage have spilled into additional outbuildings that eat up playground areas. While the remodeled chicken house served the school well for many years, it’s once ample environment has been exhausted and the need for a new school was clear to me.
The school board has purchased land on Limestone Lane, less than a mile from the current location. Construction has started and plans are to move in by the 2012-2013 school year.
I learned the value of teamwork, perseverance, commitment, and the fundamentals of my faith at my school. Although I have chosen a different path for my life, the core of what I believe and who I have become was established in that old two-story chicken house endearingly referred to by our family as Hick’ry Hollar.