Teachers, Schools & That Old-Time Religion
Jobs were very scarce around the turn of the century, but this was no concern of the government in those days. Even the demand for ministers, doctors and teachers was far below the supply. We had eight one-room schools in South Bend Township, and often 24 candidates for them. All one needed to qualify as a teacher was to pass a written exaination held by the county superintendent of schools, and many were able to pass it after only an 8th grade education.
The starting salary was $30 to $35 a month for 6 or 7 months. After a few years experience a teacher might get $40 to $45. Of course, good board and room was obtainable for $2 to $2.50 a week. A Teacher Institute was held for a week at the county seat in Kittanning before Christmas, and the women teachers, at least, blew their savings to get new clothes for the week in town.
When we had an opening for a new preacher, I remember a long succession of candidates coming to preach a "trial sermon". We were allowed to have as many come as we wished before we took a vote, which seems cruel to me now, but then I thought it was all right, for we were quite choosy and demanded a good speaker, and indeed many of them had considerable ability, though our parish, consisting of West Lebanon, paid only $440 a year.
Elders Ridge got morning service and we had ours in the afternoon. Between the two services, the preacher had to get his dinner and drive four miles through mud and snow. Dr. Donaldson, who preached 50 years at Elders Ridge, and started our church at West Lebanon 39 years before he died, was a noted educator and started an academy to which many boys from the South came before the Civil War.
The Reformed Church at South Bend paid only $600 and a parsonage, and there were three churches in the parish. Yet a young man by the name of Frederick Stamm came there from the seminary, and later preached in one of the largest Congregational Churches in in New York City and wrote many articles for such magazines as the Saturday Evening Post and Good Housekeeping.
We didn't consider West Lebanon as walking distance in our day, although my father, uncles and aunts thought nothing of walking to church, so when the carriage and a buggy wouldn't hold us all, the overflow walked to the Reformed or Lutheran Church, where we felt more at home than in our own church.
My father met Mr. Alex Kunkle, a Lutheran, on the road one day and asked him if they had decided on a new preacher yet. He said, "No, these young men that come out from the seminary just preach about love all the time. I want to get an older man who will give us the good, old Jerusalem Gospel, about Hell and Damnation."
He acheived his goal, for I went to hear the minister they got, and he was so old his voice quavered, and he preached about Hell for forty minutes.