Rules for Teachers €” 1915
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 PM and 6 AM
unless at a school function.
4. You may not loiter downtown in any of the ice cream
5. You may not travel beyond the city limits unless you
have permission of the chairman of the chairman of the
6. You may not ride in carriages or automobiles with any
man except your father or brother.
7. You may not smoke cigarettes.
8. You may not dress in bright colors.
9. You may under no circumstances dye your hair.
10. You must wear at least 2 petticoats.
11. Your dresses may not be any shorter than 2 inches above
12. To keep the classroom neat and clean you must sweep the
floor once a day, scrub the floor with hot soapy water
once a week, clean the blackboards once a day and start
the fire at 7 AM to have the school warm by 8 AM when
the scholars arrive.
This list of rules for teachers has long since been proved apocryphal by Snopes.com. It’s one of those things of dubious veracity which get passed around via e-mail, or printed on pseudo-parchment paper and sold at Cracker Barrel for an exorbitant amount. It’s always pulled out to illustrate how you-may-think-it’s-bad-now-but-look-how-bad-it-was-back-then. (Although, it seems some politicians would have public teachers go back to those days.)
Even though the list is fake, there is more than a grain of truth to it, and I’ve even found some photographic evidence. I was browsing through the South Carolina Online Archives, specifically, through the old school insurance photographs, and I came upon a term I’d not heard before – teacherage. Similar to the word “parsonage”, it was a house or lodgings provided for teachers, most often unmarried females.
Life in the teacherage was probably not too far removed from what was described in the fake list above. One North Carolina resident had these reflections of the teacherage in the town of Mebane…
During the 1940’s and early 1950’s women who graduated with teaching degrees were scoffed-up at graduation by most of the schools in North Carolina. In my hometown, this was no different. One drawing card for our school was the availability of a teacherage.
This two story home was built in 1910 and it originally the home of the principal and his wife along with the unmarried teachers. The teachers lived on the second floor while the principal and his wife used the first. In the early 1940’s, with the change in school administrators, the home became the teacherage….
My mom and dad moved to Mebane, NC in 1943 and I was born only a few months later. I entered the first grade a Mebane Public School in 1949 and I have vivid memories of the teachers who lived in the teacherage across the street. Very few of the teachers had cars and their entertainment was limited with this town of less than 2,000, at the time. There was a theatre for movies (which my dad managed). The teachers also attended most all of the school’s ball games, and church attendance was required on Sunday….
The principal at the school was a strict disciplinarian on both the teachers and the students. He required the teachers to wear an appropriate dress every day with stockings and heels. On Sunday they wore hats. The teachers had the advantage of a cook during the week, but they were on their own on the weekend. There was a small rent paid and they had to pay for utilities and groceries. There were from seven to fourteen living there at any one time….
From “The Teacherage, A Home for Young, Single, Beautiful Teachers“
Brooks Gardner, The Partial Observer
I found several references to teacher housing for our school district in the archives. The one that first caught my attention was this photo of the “Duncan Teacherage.”
These buildings were listed as being in District 75, which was the Duncan township proper. The townships were consolidated into the present District 5 almost 60 years ago, but prior to that Reidville was its own little district, and had its own teacherage.
I knew that the “Reidsville Teacherage” was still standing next door to the current Reidville Elementary School. According to our director of finance, the district owned that building until just recently, when it was deeded over to the Reidville Historical Society. It’s now a dance studio. Here’s a photo I took when I was by there yesterday…
I was curious about the other houses, though. I knew that Duncan High School was long gone, now replaced by Stoneledge Park. However, I wanted to know if the teacher residences remained. I drove over to the park, and, sure enough, I was able to find two of them. The old “Duncan Professors House” still looks almost unchanged from the old insurance photograph:
Next door to it is a house that I suspect is the former superintendent’s residence…
While it looks similar, it’s hard to tell. I couldn’t find anything that looked like the old teacherage. Both of these are now private residences.
I showed our current superintendent the archival photo of the superintendent’s residence, and in jest asked if he wanted to move into a district-owned house. He said that in District 2 in Boiling Springs, until just recently the superintendent DID live an a district-owned house right on the high school campus. That house doesn’t show up in the archives, otherwise, I would have posted a photo here.
The South Carolina Archives has 141 entries tagged as “teacher residence” in the insurance photo collection. Some of these are for county collections, but, regardless, that’s a large number. Some of these look like they were in pretty sad shape, and I couldn’t imagine living there. Especially run down are some of those listed as “colored” in the archive. Once again, the phrase “separate but equal” was given only lip service. There was quite the disparity between housing for blacks and whites, even among teachers.
Since I was able to find some of these old buildings in our own district, I wondered how many might still be around throughout the state. This gets a bit trickier than just finding old schools. Usually there is not the distinctive “school architecture” – these places are just houses, and look like such. If they do still exist, they are often now private residences, as were the two I found in Duncan.
There are a few notable exceptions, though, such as the Reidville Teacherage which now belongs to the Reidville Historical Society. References to the Cheraw Teacherage can be found here and here. This house was built around 1780, and used as a teacherage in the early 20th century. As with the Duncan houses, it’s now a private residence.
The Great Branch Teacherage, however, has a different fate. Built in Orangeburg County in 1922, it was associated with the Great Branch Rosenwald School.
Unfortunately, the school itself was destroyed by arsonists in 1950. However, the teacherage survived. The house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and in 2006 Lowes awarded a grant to restore the teacherage as a community center, and work was completed in 2009.
Even though it would be nice to have housing provided, I don’t think I want to go back to the days of the teacherage.