School Discovers Chalkboards From 1917 During Renovation, Perfectly Preserved Lessons Give Rare Look Into Past

Oklahoma City Public Schools

Renovations are fun and exciting for many reasons. There’s the obvious “you get to make something new again, just the way you like it” fun, but, oftentimes, unexpected surprises show up when people start tearing out walls and cabinets.

And that’s exactly what happened when Emerson High School went under the knife for a routine updating.


Workers on the Oklahoma City site were tearing out chalkboards in order to make room for modern Smart Boards when they stumbled on older chalkboards underneath the more recent ones. They stopped and looked closer, startled by the realization that they were actually much, much older – like, they were from 1917, old.

Not only that, but the 100-year-old boards had been covered up, lessons and all, with drawings from a century ago still bright and undisturbed.

The result is a pretty cool peek into what went on in classrooms in the middle of the 20th century.

The dates on the board range from late November to early December, and the majority of the illustrations seem to be teaching about the celebration of Thanksgiving, says English teacher Cinthea Comer.

“It was so eerie because the colors were so vibrant, it looked like it was drawn the same day. To know that it was drawn 100 years ago…it’s like you’re going into a looking glass into the past.”

Principal Sherry Kishore says that she loved getting a look at how much things have changed – like an outdated method for teaching multiplication – but also how other lessons have remained fundamentally the same.

They were surprised to find, however, a slightly different version of the Pledge of Allegiance, one that read “I give my head, my heart, and my life to my God and One nation indivisible with justice for all.”

Strange, especially considering that the Pledge, as it is said today, was established in 1892.

It also contains a lesson on hygiene, which is no longer taught in schools (though I’m sure some teachers wish that it was – especially in middle school!). The lesson came with a list of rules like “take my bath often” and “wash my teeth.”

Principal Kishore called the surprise the highlight of her career, and both she and the school district are working to ensure the boards are preserved for generations to come.

As nice as technology is, I don’t think a Smart Board could do that.