Christena Rose Martyn Fulcher has a New Year’s resolution. She is determined to hold the street sign “Carters School Rd” and then see it replace the current sign, “Bears School Rd.” There used to be a Bears School a few miles away, on what is now the Loudoun County Parkway. (Loudoun road signs eschew apostrophes.)
Fulcher and her daughter have been trying to correct the mistake for 20 years, writing letters and speaking to officials, to no avail. I recently told them the correct procedure.
They have written the two other landowners on the dead-end road, not a mile in length, requesting the change. With their approval and that of the county supervisors, Fulcher’s resolution will be realized.
Fulcher should know the correct name. She lived on the road from her birth in 1924 until 1958, when construction of Dulles International Airport took the family farm of 36 acres and demolished its homestead. She attended one-room Carter’s School on that road for first through seventh grades, from 1930 to 1937. She knew Robert Carter Jr., on whose land the school stood and who brought firewood to keep students warm.
Fulcher is the survivor and youngest of the 11 children who grew to adulthood. Her father, William Henry Martyn, built their four-room frame house shortly before he and his wife, the former Rosie Nell Kidwell, had their sixth child in 1914. Water came from a well, and a wood stove provided heat.
Her only teacher at Carter’s School’s school was Mary E. Hemsley. “She’d always give us [about 30 students] a Christmas present, a little snap-case with three pencils and a little ruler and an orange. My older brothers would cut down a Christmas tree and put it up in the school and help trim it, and she would also give them a Christmas present.
“When it snowed, Daddy would take us in a wagon pulled by a team of horses.” Sometimes her brothers and father would clear the road with a sled pulled by a team of oxen. “They would make sure that every school child had a ride,” she said
“During one big snow, a small boy was too small to walk the three miles [to school], so my brothers made a basket with their arms and carried him to school and back so he could have a perfect attendance record.”
Many children walked several miles to school, and as the Depression lessened family resources in the 1930s, the county School Board required that hot lunches be provided: soup Mondays, cocoa Wednesdays and salmon loaf Fridays. “My father brought the food in a wagon, and it was warmed up on the school wood stove,” Fulcher recalled. “My mother purchased a set of silverware with the money she got for cooking.”
A favorite winter recess game was “clap in, clap out.”
“The boys went out in the cloak room and the girls would sit down and name a boy they wanted to come in and sit next to them. The boy didn’t know what girl called his name, and if he sat by the right girl, he stayed. If he sat by the wrong girl, they’d clap him out.” Eventually, all the boys would be sitting next to a girl. Then it would be the girls’ turn to go to the cloak room.
Everyone looked forward to every third Wednesday evening, when the school league held an open house. Families brought box suppers, bought by the boys for as much as a dollar so they could sit by their favorite girl. (Farm work paid them 50 cents a day.) Mothers sold homemade cakes, and the teacher sold peanuts and soft drinks for a nickel each. Children put on skits, and everyone could take part in the spelling bee.
For her 1937 graduation, Hemsley gave Fulcher, one of two or three students in the Carter’s School Reading Club, Gloria Dienen’s “The Story of Jesus.”
She proudly handed me the copy.
Eugene Scheel is a mapmaker and historian who lives in Waterford.