Laura Lavelle: WOW lends a hand for needy school kids |

Laura Lavelle: WOW lends a hand for needy school kids

My aunt was raised in the Ozark Mountains on a 100-acre truck farm. The tomatoes, strawberries and string beans the family grew were driven 30 miles into town to sell. What was not sold was canned, and surplus produce was fed to the hogs.

She and her nine brothers and sisters walked three miles to a one-room schoolhouse, the Black Oak Church and School, where her cousin taught then preached on Sundays. He instructed as many as 80 students at a time, and “you could hear a pin drop” in the classroom.

Disruptions would be punished in a couple of ways. One, a circle would be drawn on the blackboard and the offending student would stand on tiptoes to reach and press his nose to the circle for an extended period of time. Two, the teacher would administer a whipping with a switch taken from the peach tree in the schoolyard.

At school, they drank water from a bucket at the well or from cupped hands dipped into a nearby creek. At home they carried buckets of water from the spring at the bottom of the hill, then drank from dried gourds. The gourds had been prepared for this purpose by cutting off the tops.

Back-to-school shopping consisted of purchasing one or two pencils per child per semester and one Big Indian Chief writing tablet. Backpacks did not exist, and the biscuit sandwiches for lunch were carried in recycled tin lard buckets. Her family was poor, but she didn’t realize that because everyone was poor.

For my uncle, going to school during the Great Depression was different.

He was raised in the Bay Area and would sometimes carry a sandwich made with leftover lamb from Sunday’s dinner. Other times, he spent 15 cents to buy a hot dog and a Coca-Cola from the snack bar at his school.

During leaner periods, he and his brother would share a 10-cent package of cinnamon rolls and eat behind the tennis courts so classmates could not see their meager lunch.

After school, my uncle would sweep the wood shavings from the floor of a shop near his home. He made 30 cents an hour, and managed to save $45 to buy his first car, a 1929 Ford Model A roadster.

Life today is much different.

In a few weeks, children of the Lake of the Pines area will be starting back to school. Most of them will have new backpacks brimming with supplies. My son needs a graphing calculator that will probably cost more than a 10-year supply of pencils and tablets for the students of the Black Oak schoolhouse.

Still, some children in our community cannot afford school supplies.

Fortunately, Women of Worth has been collecting new backpacks, notebooks, pencils and folders for needy students for six years. WOW supports family members who have been victims of domestic violence, but have expanded their efforts to help more children in need during this “Way Cool Back to School” supply drive.

WOW also funds school sports programs for at-risk teenagers, so monetary support is always welcome.

Rose Johnson, assistant director for WOW, has helped many needy families in Nevada County and quite a few here in LOP. Rose enjoys seeing her clients returning to school on the first day “looking like the rest of the kids.”

The local collection sites are at Shear Madness on Combie Road and Curves Salon in the Holiday Market shopping center. For more information, contact WOW at 268-1131.

Laura Lavelle’s column is for Lake of the Pines area residents to share thoughts and information. Contact her at or leave a message at 477-4230.

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