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Chalkboards With Lessons From 1917 Uncovered at Oklahoma School

by Harry Smith /  / Updated 

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This is a real lesson in history.

Educators in Oklahoma were overjoyed this month to uncover a blast from the past: Chalkboards full of lessons, pictures and notes that hadn't been touched in nearly 100 years.

"It’s like I walked into a time capsule," said Sherry Kishore, the principal of Emerson High School in Oklahoma City. The school is being remodeled, and contractors taking down chalkboards in four classrooms discovered another set of blackboards hiding underneath.

The bottom sets seemingly haven't had eyes on them since 1917, and while some of the teaching methods are dated, many of the pictures, words and numbers are in near-perfect condition.

"I was shocked, first of all, that the colored chalk was so vibrant and still very colorful," Kishore said. The pictures, probably drawn during November/pre-Thanksgiving lessons, show pilgrims, turkeys and children. A calendar is in the process of transitioning into December.

And a note from a custodian leads many who work at the school to believe that the preservation of the boards was intentional:

"We this day give this room slate blackboards," says the note, signed R.J. Scott, custodian.

"We don't know if anybody knew about the plan, but now we get to reap the rewards of his plan and get to see this beautiful work of art. That's all I can call it, a work of art. It should be in a museum somewhere," said Emerson teacher, Cinthea Comer.

Wherever the chalkboards end up, Robert Neu, the superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools, said they will definitely be preserved, no matter what it takes. "It may mean we have to delay the start of school in these classrooms, but we’ve got to preserve these," he said.

In addition to figuring out how to keep the boards in their pristine condition, school employees are also looking forward to the next phase of restoration on other floors, in which they hope to unearth more of the historic boards.

"We are all just like holding our breath because we don't know if there's going to be anything behind those boards," said Comer. "We're so excited to see and have all this wonderful history come to life for us."

Image:  chalkboards untouched since 1917

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