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“The Singing School”

And on the way home Laura sang… – ‘That’s why I thought you’d like to go,’ Almanzo said. ‘You’re always singing.’– These Happy Golden Years, Chapter 23, “Barnum Walks”

Words and music to “The Singin Skewl” (or “Singing School”) are by P. Benson, Sr. – “in which the Sr. stands for singger,” according to the sheet music. The song was published in 1869 by S. Brainard’s Sons, Chicago.

Full of nonsense and misspelled words, Laura Ingalls sang a portion of “The Singin Skewl” on the way home from an evening spent in singing school with Almanzo Wilder. In the existing manuscript for These Happy Golden Years, Laura sang the song after Almanzo invited her to attend singing school with him, prior to the first session. In the manuscript, more of the song’s characteristic misspellings and grammar anomalies were preserved.

There were two singing schools held in De Smet during Laura and Almanzo’s courtship. Laura Ingalls Wilder places the school she attended in the fall of 1884, after the opening of the new schoolhouse in De Smet (which was dedicated and occupied in January 1885). The first singing school classes in De Smet appear to have been held beginning in February 1884. In mid-April, the students gave a recital at the Congregational Church. Classes were not conducted by former teacher Frank Clewett, but by a Mr. Forbush. Frank Clewett moved from Kingsbury County in 1883.

A second singing school was held by George Westervelt beginning in November 1884. At the time, Westervelt was living in the Charles Ingalls building on Calumet, while the Ingalls family remained on the homestead for the winter. It is not known which – if either – of these singing school sessions Laura and Almanzo attended, and it is possible that there were additional classes as well.


1. O, childhood’s joys is very grate,
A swinging on his muther’s gate,
A eatin candy till his mouth
Is all stuck up from north to south.
& other things he likes kwite well,
That I hadnt time just here to tell,
But if he is sent kwite a phool,
He’d rather go to singin skewl.

[coarus] O, the singin skewl’s butiphool,
O, the singin skewl’s butiphool,
If you’ll have me for your teacher
I shall be a happy creecher
For I dote upon the singin skewl,
The sing-in skewl
(The singin skewl, the singin skewl
The singin skewl, the singin skewl.)

2. & it’s considered very nice
To skate upon the fris up ice,
Unlest you chance to fall kerwhack,
& thereby, cos your head to crack,
& hwen you go from home to dine,
A roasted Tirkey’s very fine,
But still I think it’s more joyfull,
To go-o-o tosingin skewl.

3. Sum thinks that nothing’s 1/2 so good,
As oisters roasted, fried or stood,
& others think, the pleasure’s more
A slidin on a smaller dore.
So sum thinks this & sum thinks that
But all agree there’s grater satisfaction to be always hed,
At sing singin skewl, as I hav sed.

4. O, sweet the breth of dosey morn,
A blowin sadly thru the korn,
While golden rays of mistic lite,
Is herd upon the dawn of nite.
But souperfine, extatick bliss,
You’ll always find, a nover night.
If you will only mind this rool,
& always go to singing skewl.

(from These Happy Golden Years)

Oh childhood’s joys are very great,
A-swingin’ on his mother’s gate,
A-eatin’ candy till his mouth
Is all stuck up from north to south,
But though I have to mind the rule,
I’d rather go to singing school!

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Click on the above images to view a copy of 1869 sheet music of “The Singin Skewl.”    


“The Singing School” (THGY 23; PG)
      The Singin’ Skewl
     “Oh childhood’s joys are very great”