The Smells Of Going To School In The “Old Days” At Pond Springs.

Our 7th grade classroom was the principals office which also doubled as the administration office. Mr.Scotty Pyle, the Principal, taught us.

Ditto Machine

A Ditto machine like the picture below was kept in that room. In the days before a Xerox Machine, methanol and isopropanol was used in the duplicating process. That smell was always present in that room.

Paper cutter

It being a 3 classroom school, each teacher taught 2 grades, so 3 teachers, the principle (he was our teacher), the lunchroom lady and her helper. There may have been a janitor/maintenance man, but I don’t remember one. The kids swept the floors and took out the trash and other housekeeping duties.

We sprinkled an oiled sawdust around the wooden floors, that help absorb the dust. So the smell would go from a dusty musty smell to a scent of the oiled sawdust, which is imprinted in my mind, but I can exactly describe it. It was red in color, so most likely it was red cedar sawdust. So whatever scent red cedar mix with an oil smelled like was it.

The principal kept the commodes unstopped, so my bet is we didn’t have the luxury of the 7th person on staff. That 7th grade year left us unsupervised much of the time, as Mr. Pyle wore many hats. The commodes were often stopped up. They surely dumped into a septic system, as I can assure you that was no wastewater facilities in Jollyville at that time. The ground there went from clay soils to layers of rock, which didn’t have very good leeching abilities. (i have the benefit of knowing this all now, because Ive dug ditches on every side of that school property over the past 50 years).

Therefore there was always a bad smell coming out of those restrooms. The bathrooms were in a separate outbuilding. That building was native flagstone rock, The walls were just solid rock inside and out, to which you couldn’t find a colder enclosure anywhere in the state of Texas. But as cold as it was, kids didn’t linger for long in that frigid enclosure. I remember it didn’t get hot in those restrooms during the other seasons either. Those rock walls made it more of a cave like environment.

Back to the 7th grade class. While it had always been a 1-8 grade school, the year I went into the 7th grade, the 8th was sent on to Round Rock. I think that soon thereafter the 7th was also transferred to Round Rock.

There were only 8 or 10 of us in that 7th grade class. Since the copies were mostly done each morning before school started, when we would first walk in the strong smell of ammonia greeted us. I think it did a good job of getting us awake, since it’s basically what they used back then to jar football players awake when they had their bell rung. So I guess we weren’t harmed, but for some reason the rest of my life I’ve had an extremely keen sense of smell.

All this said, I wouldn’t take for the memories of going to school in that small country school. But not so much for the bathroom smells.

My mention of Mr. Pyle wearing a lot of hats, made me think of the hat he always wore. He was balding so you saw him more with a hat than without. His hat was one like I would later come to associate with Tom Landry. In fact he had a striking resemblance to Tom Landry. I always remember Mr. Pyle with a scent of Old Spice After Shave.

I’m not making an accusation, but perhaps due to all the stresses of the job, he had to sneak off and partake of a flask through the day, covering up the alcohol smell with after shave. However, he never appeared to be drunk. So I bet he just like putting on after shave and cologne.


2 thoughts on “The Smells Of Going To School In The “Old Days” At Pond Springs.

  1. I remember the smell of fresh “ditto” papers in school. The print was deep blue or purple. But I don’t recall it being ammonia. it was alcohol! Mimeograph stuff came out black, and was used at church for the bulletins. Nobody sniffed at those.

    Fearing that my memory was incorrect, I dug around a little and found this: “The smell came from the ditto machine’s duplicating fluid, a mix of methanol and isopropanol. The school office staff typed announcements, and then ran them through the ditto, for students to take home.” I used a mimeograph a lot when, in 1975, I was training materials NCO at an Army Reserve school all summer.

    Liked by 1 person

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