Classic Tales of Old Dorp: Getting to school on Balltown Road could be perilous

Laura May Tolman Brown remembers facts about her early education at Niskayuna’s former Balltown Road

The Daily Gazette is reprinting excerpts of the late Larry Hart’s long-running column, “Tales of Old Dorp.” Spring has arrived, and so the school year will shortly come to an end. Today, Hart correspondent Laura May Tolman Brown remembers facts about her early education at Niskayuna’s former Balltown Road school. Tolman will return in future columns with more info; this excerpt originally was published April 17, 1979. “She has memories aplenty and we will waste no time in getting right to them,” Hart wrote of Brown. “Here’s what she wrote:”

said it was a two-room schoolhouse. That was true if it was not too cold, but when the very cold weather came, we often had eight grades in the one room, along with two teachers. There were not enough desks for everyone because the desks and seats were all screwed to the floor. Therefore, two of us often sat in a chair made for one.

“We did have another room, which many two-room schools did not have. We had a library in that third room. That room could also be opened to enlarge the 5 through 8 grade room, but books were early the friends of the pupils. At the end of the eighth grade, we had a graduation, complete with honors, etc. It was a January graduation at that time. Then we had to leave Niskayuna because there was no junior high school in the district.

“Sometimes Balltown Road was so slippery we had to ascend it on hands and knees. On one such day, one of the boys offered the teacher his sled for the downhill return in the afternoon. She lost control and crashed into the culvert recently unearthed behind the Craig (Allen’s) Hotel. Result: one broken leg and a new teacher for a while.

Trolley ride

“Leaving the Balltown Road school to go to Draper School in Rotterdam meant an early morning trolley ride because Niskayuna and Rotterdam were a long way apart. The town gave us school tokens because there was no way we could walk to these places. During my elementary days, there was a trolley strike. My father would collect several of us who were in the same neighborhood and take us to the house next to the school by 7:30 a.m., and we would wait for the school to open. At night, we had our nickel to ride the jitney home. These were old automobiles with ancient drivers who would get a jitney license. They were not always on hand. So once in a while, we would follow the Aqueduct Road back to our homes.”

Categories: Life and Arts

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