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My first day of Amish Vocational School.

Updated: Feb 7, 2023

Vocational school is the Amish version of high school. The fact that they call it vocational school is laughable because there are no vocations taught there at all. This is a very unsatisfactory substitution for higher education. A lot of plainer people don't want their children to go to high school, let alone college because they're afraid it'll lead them astray.


In the spring of 1965 I graduated from Newport School as I completed 8th grade. I would have loved to go on to high school even though I knew very little about how that would be. Of course that was not an option for me because Amish kids unfortunately do not have the opportunity to go to high school. However, there was a small bit of schooling required for us which involved meeting at an Amish schoolhouse with about 40 other 14-year-olds from various neighborhoods on Saturday afternoons during the next school term. I was eager to do that because at least I would get to meet a lot of kids from other neighborhoods and that would certainly be an interesting experience.

On the first day in September where school was being held, my buddy Ira picked me up at my house with his horse and buggy and we rode over to the schoolhouse about 3 miles away. Ira warned me there would be some "hard" guys there from the public school at Intercourse where he had attended. That term was often used for guys who were arrogant, rebellious and "gross-hensich" (elitist snobs). Indeed some did meet that description and were also dressed quite worldly and using rather risque language.

We briefly lounged around outside before classes started, engaging in idle chatter. One boy Elmer from Dry Hill complained about how much money he had lost playing poker with his friends the previous weekend. I thought I would just like to be IN a poker game or at least watch one. I didn't know the first thing about how to play poker. Another boy, Levi, from Hatfield told about how his older brother Abe who was no longer Amish had recently bought a brand new 1965 Pontiac Bonneville and had paid $4,000 for it. I marveled at that because it seemed like an enormous amount of money to me.

Suddenly the Amish lady teacher's horse got loose from where it had been tied at the hitching post. Still hitched to the buggy, the horse ran out through the open gate and bolted straight across the road, fortunately without getting hit by any traffic. Uncle Levi and Aunt Annie Fisher's farm was directly ahead and the horse galloped wildly down their long driveway with the buggy careening from side to side. Just as it went over the lawn and passed by the house, cousin John dashed out the back door of the house in hot pursuit. Soon both he and the horse were in the cornfield behind the house and running through the broken down corn stubble. That slowed the horse down considerably and John soon caught up and jumped into the buggy and turned the horse around. He saw us running in the driveway and we told him it was a teacher's horse and buggy so we brought it back to the schoolhouse.




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