When I was little, I was taught all sorts of old-timey songs. I didn't question it, I just did what I was told. I recently listened to "School Days" and it occurred to me--I sang the words, but I had no idea what they meant.
The song was written in 1907. Here's the chorus--the only part anyone knows--followed by my comments.
Dear old Golden Rule days 
Reading and 'riting and 'rithmetic 
Taught to the tune of a hick'ry stick 
You were my queen in calico 
I was your bashful barefoot beau 
You wrote on my slate "I Love You So" 
When we were a couple of kids
1. I'm not sure if I knew what the Golden Rule was when I sang it. When I look at it today, I don't just see a strained rhyme, but a line that doesn't make much sense. Since when is school about doing unto others what you'd have them do unto you?
2. I think even as a kid I knew what the three R's were, so this is one of the few lines that actually meant something to me.
3. I'm certain I had no idea what a hickory stuck was (or was for), much less what its tune was. Looking at it today, it reminds you that corporal punishment was a part of life for kids a century ago--not just at home, but potentially from any adult who had any say in your life.
4. I had no idea what calico was. I don't think I tried to find out. When you're a kid, some words are just sounds.
5. Not sure if I knew what a beau was. More important, just how often did kids around the turn of the last century go to school with no shoes on?
6. According to the internet, the line is "I love you, Joe." Maybe, but I sang "I love you so." I prefer my version--what if you're not named Joe?