One Tank Trip: Kutztown Folk Festival's one-room schoolhouse

KUTZTOWN, Pa. - There's a new "old" sound at the 67th annual Kutztown Folk Festival in Berks County. You'll hear a bell-ringing twice a day, signaling school is in session. 

There's a replica one-room schoolhouse right by the big chair in the heart of the folk festival, in Central Commons. The exhibit is making a return. It was a popular attraction here in the 1970s and 1980s, and now it's making a comeback. 

Laureen Hoffman is playing the role of school marm. The schoolhouse and curriculum are modeled after life in the 1880s.

Hoffman was a teacher in real life for 37 years. She taught second and third grade and ESL in the Parkland School District in Lehigh County.

"Oh, it's wonderful," Hoffman explained. "It's my career as a teacher and my background as Pennsylvania German ancestry. My parents were both Pennsylvanian German and they would speak constantly in Pennsylvania German, so I would not understand it and that's how you learn it. You're immersed in it."

At the festival, she's passing that knowledge on. On the chalkboard, you'll see "My Country 'Tis of Thee" in Pennsylvania German, and next to it, the words to "The Pledge of Allegiance."

Map: Kutztown Fairgrounds

And if you're not paying attention?

"Come on over here and I'll just demonstrate what might happen if you talk too much," said Hoffman, pointing to a hook on the wall. "I might take your long hair and I might wrap it around that peg and let you stand there for awhile."  

Hoffman explained the punishments back then are most surprising for folks to learn, but rules weren't only for students. There is a long list of teacher's rules. 

"What a difference, and of course, the discipline. They love to hear about the old time discipline," Hoffman said.

And just like in the old days, a bell begins the lesson and a bell ends it.

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