A wide range of images show American boys coming to school in the morning and going home after school. Children before World war II mosly walked to school. Rural children often had long walks. Some came to school on horses. With the advantge of automobiles, walking in the cities became more dangerous. One
answer was the safty patrol. The older boys manned street corners around the school. The program was sponsored by the American Automobile Association (AAA). After World War II with the move to the suburbs, school busses became more common. Children both walked and took the bus. Some parents droive the kids. Many older children, especially after World War II had cars. The various images offer a view as to how children dressed at school over the years. Boys in the ealy 20th century wore suits to go to school. By the 1920s and 30s corduroy knickers wetre common. Boys in rural areas might wear overalls. In the image here we see primary boys and girls celebrating the last day of school and headed home (figure 1). Notice the boys wearing striped "T"-shirts and jeans. This was common school clothes at the times. Most high schools in the 1950s did not allow boys to dress in colarless shirts and jeans.
American children before World war II mosly walked to school. Elementary schools were generally built so most of the children could walk to school. The size of the schools generally made them local community fixtures. Rural children often had long walks. Some came to school on horses. With the advantge of automobiles, walking in the cities became more dangerous. One answer was the safty patrol. The older boys manned street corners around the school. The program was sponsored by the American Automobile Association (AAA). By the 1920s and 30s corduroy knickers were common. Boys in rural areas might wear overalls. Striped "T"-shirts and jeans were very common in elementary schools. This was common school clothes at the times. High schools had to be larger than elementary schools, in part because of the more varied course offerings. Thus not so many of the students were able to walk to school, although a number did live close enough to do so. Most high schools in the 1950s did not allow boys to dress in colarless shirts and jeans.
Most Americam children lived in rurala areas until the 1920s. This meanr that most children has quite a walk to school. It was miderated to some extent by Amerivan land policy which resulted in the creation of small schools all over rural America. Still some children has long walks, which was difficult for the younger children and could be quite taking during the wiunter, especially in northern states. One solution to this problem was the farm animals which the children could ride. Most farms had docile animal that the children could ride. If the distance was manageable, the children walked, but it was not uncommon for some children to ride buros, mules, and horses. This was pronably not more commomn because the animals ewquired care and pasturage while at school. Riding was more commoin as the Frontier moved West. Here many of the children has longer to walk than east of the Missisippi. This was especially the case as you got into mountanous areas with fewer farms. Here riding school in some instances was almost a necesity.
Some American kids came to school on bikes. We don't think this was important in the cities. For one thing city kids lived close enough to elementary schools that riding bikes had no real benefit. . And riding bikes in th cities with all the traffic was dangerous. I don't recall bikes at my city elementry school. As people moved out of the cities into the suburbs after World War II we see more children riding bikes, especially in elementary school. The distance from home were greater and the traffic less congested. It was, however, more of an issue than say a county like New Zealand where many children rode bikes to school. This varied from school to school, but was important at some schools. We do not think that bikes were important in many high schools. I don't recall bikes at my suburban high school. Hopefully our American readers will add their recollctions. Here the cool factor as definitly with cars and many students, or more precsely their parents, could afford cars. And of course students living more than a mile from school could ride the school busses. And given the weather such as rain and snow, the bus was often a prfereable option in many locations. Gender here was a factor. We think boys were more likely to ride their bikes to school than girls.
The United States from an early point wanted to create a free public school systemn for all its citzens. The Constitution reserved education to the states under the 10th Amendment eserved powers to the state unless specifically granted to the Federal Government (1789). This includes education among many other functions. But Congress even before the Constitution had acted to fund free public schools. The Second Continental Congress passed the Land Ordinance of 1785. This dividided the land in the Nortest Territory bedore extensive settlement into townships. And each townships were divided into 36 sections. This proivided the foundation of public land policy in the Northwest Territory which was establisged by the Northwest Ordinance (1787). Each bloc of territory included a school section. Part of it would bed the sure of a school and the land not needed for the school could be sold to finanace the building of the school. The idea was to provide small rural schools that were in walling disrtance of the children. At this time walking distance was much longer tha would be our modern concept. Many children walked several miles to school.
This for a century was basically how children got to school, they walked and there were small schools that were in walking distance for most children. School busses came into exitence almost exactky 100 years after the passage of the Northwest Ordinance. It is difficult to be sure, but the earliest school bus we have found so far is when Wayne Works in Indiana began making horse-drawn carriages (1886). They were known as known variously as 'school hacks'” or 'kid hacks'. About the same time we note another horse-drawn carrinage in Fresno, Californaia taransporting Kindergartners to school (1889). Most children still walked to school. None other than Henry Ford would change this. He put America on wheels with the Model-T Tin Lizzie (1909). And very quickly Ford was also producing trucks based on the Model-T. The United States did not have much in the way of weapons to offer the Allies. It did have trucks. The automotive business was booming. None other than Wayne Works back in Indiana saw an opportunity to motorize the carriages it had been making for three decades. Thus the motorized school bus was born. As far as we know, this was an American incention. The interior of the carriage was basically unchanged. The children sat along the sides of the bus and faced inward. There was also at first little protection from the weather, no glass windows at first. Still chikdren mostly walked to school. here were mo mahor changes until after World War I in the 1920. And the motivating force was economics. Rural counties began to reconsider the economics of small one-room school. School authorities began to realize that it was cost effective to close one-room schools and but a few school busses. By the 1930s this began to change the face of rural education. And as children attended secondary schools, busses were needed. Secondary schools had to be larger than primary schoools becuse of the many different sibjects that had to be offered. The move to the suburbs which became increasingly pronpinced after Wotld War II, school busses became more and more common. Children both walked and took the bus. The basic rule became kids living within 1 mile of school had to walk. The school bus became a major aspect of school life.
With the advebt of the model-T and mass automobile ownership, a new way of getting to school became available. Some parents drove the kids to school. This was not very common until after World War II (1939-45). It was most needed in rural areas, but not very common because of the time needed and cost. This changed somewhat with the move to the suburbs, but was not very imporatnt until rising afflience created the two-car family and mom could get the kids to school. . As secondary school attenance became basically universal, yoi have more and more stidents of driving age. Thus many older high school children began aquiring cars and dribing to school.
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