chalkboard 1917
Brittany Hambleton
Brittany Hambleton
December 16, 2023 ·  3 min read

School Stumbles Upon Chalkboards From 1917 During Renovation, Perfectly Preserved Lessons Provide Rare Look Into Past.

Museums and historic sites across the country allow us to get a glimpse into what life was like for people living decades before us. While these places are always interesting and informative, there is nothing quite like finding your own relic of the past, whether that be a grandparent’s old diary or a time capsule hidden by strangers several years ago.

The staff members at one school in Oklahoma uncovered their own piece of the past when they discovered perfectly preserved chalkboards from 1917 hiding behind their walls.

Uncovering the Past

Back in 2015 construction workers were at Emerson High School in Oklahoma City, removing chalkboards to be replaced with new Smart Boards, when they found even older chalkboards underneath.

These boards, which had been preserved with the chalk still on them, contained hand-drawn calendars suggesting that they were from the year 1917. English teacher Cynthia Comer described the boards as eerie, with the vibrant colors looking like they had been drawn that day.

“To know that it was drawn 100 years ago… it’s like you’re going into a looking glass into the past,” she said [1].

Principal Sherry Kishore was particularly impressed with the penmanship displayed on the boards, saying that handwriting like that is not nearly as common today. She also noted that the lessons, while essentially the same as what is taught today, used very different techniques.

One example of this is a wheel used to teach multiplication tables.

“I have never seen that technique in my life,” she said [2].

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There were three other classrooms besides Comer’s where old chalkboards were also found, all of them with a Thanksgiving theme depicting pilgrims, turkeys, and Mayflower ships.

“When you walk into these rooms it’s like they just left the lesson and they’re expecting to come back the next day and start again,” Kishore said [3].

One chalkboard appeared to have a “countdown to Christmas” calendar, one had student’s names written on it, and one gave us a glimpse into a music lesson from 1917 [4]. Another interesting lesson was what appears to be the pledge of allegiance, although the wording is different from the version written in 1892. It read:

“I give my head, my heart, and my life to my God and One nation indivisible with justice for all.” [1]

There was, however, one lesson that is no longer a part of our school curriculum, titled “My Rules to Keep Clean”, which included things like “take my bath often” and “clean my teeth” [1].

Keep Reading: Boy Accidentally Finds 66-Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Eggs

Preserving History

Principal Kishore called the discovery the “highlight of her career”, and began working with the school district and the city to have the chalkboards preserved. 

While there is no definitive proof that the boards are in fact from 1917, it is difficult to argue with the evidence. At the time of discovery, it was uncertain as to whether or not the boards would be too delicate to be removed from the walls, so attempts were underway to preserve the chalk without removing the boards [4].

The discovery in Oklahoma shows that while we often go looking for relics of the past, sometimes they are hiding right below our noses.

Keep Reading: Perfectly preserved ancient Roman mosaic floor discovered in Italy