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School Days Exhibit

New exhibit in La Grange
focuses on teacher Carraco

She taught for 41 years and her
scrapbooks are on display

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

(December 2010) – When Ruby Carraco began teaching in 1931, there were still one room schools in the county. Along with a career that spanned almost four decades, she kept a scrapbook of her experiences which is now part of a new exhibit at the Oldham County History Center in La Grange, Ky.

School Days Exhibit

Photo by Helen McKinney

The Oldham County History Center
will present the School Days exhibit
through Jan. 15. Some of the books
that make up the exhibit on the
history of schools in the county.

Carraco was born Dec. 25, 1910, to Howard and Sarah (Sallie) Carraco and died in 2005. “There were eight children in our family,” recalls sister Dot Carraco, Genealogy Coordi-nator for the Oldham County History Center. The family grew up on a farm 21/2 miles from Crestwood, near Brownsboro, said Dot Carraco.
Ruby and her siblings went to the Brownsboro school, a one-room school house. It is there that Ruby finished the seventh grade before transferring to high school in Crestwood. She graduated from high school in 1929.
The Carraco children walked to school until they attended high school in Crestwood, which was too far to walk. In an oral history tape made for the History Center, Ruby said, “We had a horse and a surrey because there were five of us going to school, so Daddy had gotten a surrey for us to drive in. And we had a barn at school for us to keep our horse in.”
After graduation, Ruby went to Bowling Green, Ky., to attend Western College for a year and a half and received her teaching degree in 1931. She was lucky enough to get a school in Oldham County to teach in even though, “in those days you could teach without a college degree,” she said in the oral history tape. Ruby taught school while taking courses during the summer months.
Ruby Carraco’s career is incorporated into a new exhibit at the Oldham County History Center titled, “Dear Old Golden School Days.” The exhibit opened Sept. 15 and will run through Jan. 15.
The exhibit chronicles the county school system, beginning with the pioneer period and following its development through the 20th century. There were once 15 one room schools in Oldham County, and the system was consolidated in 1953. On display are texts, photographs, school albums, oral histories, musical instruments, old desks, a section on African American schools, and even a school house pump and outhouse replica.

School Days Exhibit

Photo by Helen McKinney

Various school room items
are on display in the exhibit.

Artifacts of books and school items from a pioneer school held at Hermitage Farm during the 1840s are included in the exhibit. Visitors can take a public school eighth-grade exam given in 1929 for students to take before entering high school.
During her long teaching career, Ruby taught at several different schools, the first schools being one room rural schools. Her first teaching job was at Brownsboro, which was heated by a potbellied stove in the winter months. It stood in the corner with “a big jacket around it that would help throw heat over into the far side of the room,” said Carraco on the tape.
She recalled a stage about a foot high, where the teacher’s desk sat. A recitation bench sat on the edge of the stage so the children could sit there and be close to the teacher’s desk. There teacher also had a good view of students sitting in the back of the room from her raised desk.
The Brownsboro school was lucky enough to have slate blackboards. “They were so much better than these old cardboard boards that they have now,” she said. A bell hung in the balcony that could be rung by the teacher. Ruby also had her own small hand bell that she would ring when the students were to go out for recess and she often “would go out and play with them,” she said.
When she began her second year of teaching, there were no positions available. The school superintendent knew of a couple wanting a tutor for their children, two girls ages 8 and 11.
This job in eastern Kentucky became one of her most unusual teaching experiences. She was employed for a year as a private tutor for the children of an L&N bridge repairman who actually lived in a passenger car of a train. Ruby lived in half of a box car, while the cooks lived in the other half. She had a bed, dresser and little coal stove.
She went on to teach at the Covington Ridge and Hebron schools, near Westport and the Ohio River, and finally Buckner Elementary. Ruby had to live with one of the student’s family while teaching at the Covington and Hebron schools. While teaching at Covington she stayed with Ruth Clifford who had two young girls in school.
When she taught at Hebron she lived with the Perkins family. “I always went home on the weekends. I didn’t have a car, but my brother would drive out and get me,” she said.
Her next teaching experience came at Liberty Elementary. This school was a big brick building containing eight or ten rooms. “I taught third grade in a small building behind the school. There was also a Teacherage where I lived at Liberty,” said Ruby, who taught at Liberty for 16 years.

The late Ruby Carraco

The late Ruby Carraco

The Teacherage was a house next door to the school where the teachers lived. The principal and his family lived downstairs, while the singly teachers lived upstairs and had the use of a small kitchen, bathroom and four bedrooms.
Ruby was lucky enough to be able to go home over the weekends when she taught at Liberty Elementary. The house was owned by the Board of Education and the teachers paid approximately $12 a month to live there.
Elsie Roberts is a former student who remembers attending the third grade in the small building behind the main school. “There was a big round stove in the corner to keep us warm,” she said.
As any third grader might, she remembers Ruby as being “fairly strict. There was a window in our room that looked out on a field with horses in it. She would fuss at us for looking out the window.”
In winter, the students had to play inside at recess time. While tossing a ball, Roberts accidentally tossed it at the window and broke it. She was terrified, as the principle was her mother’s friend. But she got through the third grade, as did all of the students, and even has an autograph book that Ruby signed.
Roberts’ picture is one of many that are hanging in the exhibit at the History Center. She labeled the exhibit “very detailed” and said “everyone at the History Center did a super job on it.”
After her time at Liberty ended, Ruby taught at Crestwood Elementary for 20 years before retiring in 1969. “Although I would rather teach just one grade, it wasn’t too bad in rural schools, in the one room schools, where you had all eight grades,” she said.
One of her third grade students at Crestwood Elementary was Keith McDonald. “She was a good teacher,” he said. Ironically, his mother was good friends with Ruby. “I had to be good in class,” he said.

• For more information about the exhibit, contact the Oldham County History Center at (502) 222-0826.

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