Cana/Pino: Remembering the outhouses at Cana School

Published 7:56 am Monday, September 11, 2023

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By  Betty Etchison West

Cana/Pino Correspondent

Breakfast at the Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall is Saturday, Sept. 16.  Wesley Chapel is three miles west of Farmington, just off of NC 801 North on Pino Road.  We will be serving country ham, sausage, scrambled eggs, grits, sawmill gravy, red-eye gravy, baked apples, handmade biscuits, jelly, coffee, and juice from 6:30-10 a.m.  We hope you will come, enjoy breakfast, and spend time with friends. No set charge for breakfast, donations are appreciated.

There will also be a bake saleon in the fellowship hall during the same hours as the breakfast. This will be a good time to fill your freezer with baked goods for the coming holidays. The proceeds from the bake sale will benefit Tina and Brent Gobble, who were involved in bad accident.

I was saddened to learn that two of my former classmates at the old Cana School have died: George Woodward and his sister, Louise. I believe that the Woodwards were about the only people left beside me who attended that school, which closed in the spring of 1941. I am sure that George attended because I sat in front of him even though he was in a grade ahead of me. Louise may have gone to school at Holmon’s Cross Roads, but I believe that she also attended Cana.  If there is anyone else living who attended Cana School, please let me know. I am sad all over again every time I lose a Cana School Classmate.

The last year it was in operation, Cana School had students in grade 1-6.  There were 16 students and one teacher. I don’t know how one teacher, who by the way was my mother, Lola Sofley Etchison, was able to cover all of the subjects for students in six grades. She managed to do that because when students from Cana went to other schools they were not behind in any way and often were the top students in their new schools.

Cana School was a primitive place. There was no electricity, so there was no artificial light, no bathrooms, no water, and no steam heat. The lack of electric lights presented a problem on dark, rainy days because it was really hard to see to read in that west classroom. The big boys carried water from the house across the road so that solved the lack of water problem. The students drank the water from paper cups that they fashioned out of notebook paper.

There were two outhouses, one for girls, one for boys. I guess the outhouses worked pretty well because students certainly did not want to loiter there. In the winter, it was so cold, one was anxious to get out in a hurry, and, in the summer, the outhouse smelled so hard that one wanted to make a hasty exit. So much for outhouses, but I add that in-door bathrooms are a blessing. Just ask anyone who had to use an outhouse if you can find such a person. Most of the people who are living today were born after electricity arrived in the area in 1939 so they did not get to experience outhouses, etc.

The Cana School was heated with a stove that sat in the middle of the room.  A long stove pipe went from the stove to a chimney which was in the corner of the room. Occasionally some of the boys would get bored and shake the stove pipe which would fall scattering soot all over the room. The teacher would have to dismiss school so she could clean up the mess because the teacher was the janitor as well. Of course, getting school dismissed was the goal of the boys.

There was one more chore which was assigned to the teacher. The employees of the County Board of Education brought big chunks of wood and dumped them at the school. The teacher had to chop the wood into pieces small enough to go into the stove in the classroom. The Davie County School Board would not give the teacher an ax to chop the wood because they said she might let the students dull it. So, the teacher had to provide her own ax.

Have times changed during the last 80y years or what?