Friday, May 26, 2006

District #42 by Don O. Bush

Donald 0, Bush
l032 South Fancher Avenue
Mt. Pleasant, Minnesota 48858

District #42 was one of about 200,000 school districts scattered, throughout the United States to provide educational opportunity. These one-room country schools called “common schools” were probably the most American of all the institutions ever founded. For more than two hundred years, these schools were an important part of every community.

At a time in our history when the frontiers were being populated and developed, many of the first citizens were uneducated and did not speak English. The country schools provided those first families an opportunity to learn English and become American citizens. This was especially important in the early days before the development of technology for travel, telephone, radio, and news media. In fact, it was the common school that contributed to the invention of this technology and provided the educated citizenry to use it.

These schools were established by the early settlers out of some inner urgency and resonsibi1ity to their children and their future welfare. The pattern of locating a one-room country school wherever a dozen or so families settled as repeated in every state and county from the east coast to the Pacific shore. The earliest sett1ements in Nebraska followed the pattern and one—room schoo1s were established across the state. They were a part of frontier life. Those in eastern Nebraska date back to the early 1800’s - those in the western part of the state followed. Those in Dundy County probably date from the l880’s to 1900 depending on when homesteaders claimed the land.

District #42 probably had its beginning in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s. It was typical of all the other 200,000. It was a simple rectangular frame building large enough for one teacher and space to seat up to 20 students ranging from age 6 to 18. Some school buildings were smaller and there were some large enough for 50 to 60 students with one teacher.

Nebraska, being a more rural and agricultural state, provided a base for more one—room schools than most of the other states. The early settlers in Nebraska established more than 7,000, which persisted as school districts until the 1950’s. By this time, many areas of the state had become depopulated, which, along with improved travel and communications, resulted in many districts with no students or very few. These were closed because of no students or excessive operational costs. The 1950 decade saw the school districts in Nebraska reduced from 7,000 down to about 2,500.* District 42 was one of those K—8 districts reorganized into Haigler, a K-12 district. The schoolhouse was sold to David Bush who moved it to his farm where it continues to be used for storage. The land reverted to the original tract which is owned by Forrest Scrivner.

I remember the first day of school in September, 1925. We lived one mile east of the schoo1. It was haying season and that fall, Oren Bush, my father, was putting up wild hay on a piece of land about one-half mile north of the schoolhouse. He dropped me off the hayrack at the corner east of the school with my lunch pail, pencil and school tablet. I walked the remaining one-fourth mile up and over hill to school. The teacher, Miss Lunstede, met me and assigned a desk near the front by the north windows. I don’t remember much about that day except when it was over, I walked the mile down the trail through the pasture to our house only to find no one home. I sat on a corner post and waited for what seemed like hours. It as getting dark when Mom and Dad came over the hill with a load of hay.

The teacher was always busy processing the students through the various subjects in all eight grades. I remember we took our turns being called up to the front at the side of the teacher’s desk to sit on a recitation seat. There were three first graders——Catherine Allen, Charles (I don’t remember his last name, only that he moved after a couple of months) and me. Although there ere several others who joined our class for a short time or several years, Catherine and I graduated eight years later in 1933. There were periods during those years when the enrollment was as low as five or six and other times when there were twelve or fifteen. Some of the other students I remember were Max, Emmor, and Sie Allen; Oscar and Eugene Tibbett, Ralph and Alene Gies, Lyle and Irma Hoffman, Eugene, Bernice, and Maxine Kraus and others who were in attendance a few months or years. Then in about 1928, the Meyers moved into the community and for several years, Velma, Opal, Grace, and Gerald were in attendance. My brother, Dale, started in 1927, sister Dorothy in 1929, and David started after I had graduated.

In 1926, Alice Meyer was hired as the teacher. At Christmas time, she resigned to marry Cary Hill, and in time they provided six or seven students. Edna Clements finished out the year. In 1927, Elizabeth Johnson was the teacher and in 1928, Helen Jackson; in 1929 Edna Andres, 1930, Evelyn Meyer, an older sister of the ‘Meyer students, and then in 1931 and ‘32, Edna A Andres, who was teaching when I graduated.

It was a practice for teachers to board with neighbors. These included the Andres and Jenkins. Since the automobile at that time was not too reliable or available, the teachers usually walked to school. Some of the students did ride horseback. There was a barn in the northwest corner of the school property which probably served those in the earlier years. A garage was built in about 1930 but I never saw it used.

School board members included Cary Will, Carroll Jenkins, Jake Walter, Oren Bush, Frank Allen, Roy Tibbetts, Henry Krause and several others. It seemed that Oren Bush was a board member from 1926 to about l949. It was his responsibility to keep the schoolhouse open. Each fall before school started it was necessary to clean and repair the building. He always needed help, so it was my lot to help. In August, it was hot and the wasps had taken over inside and out. It was my job to knock down the nests and clear them out. Usually the inside was painted and the floors were cleaned and given a coat of linseed oil. The weeds on the school grounds needed to be cut and cleared away so the children could play. The coal bin attached to the front of the building was filled.

There was no water available so water had to be carried. If the teacher had transportation, she usually brought the water, out much of the time students carried it. The school provided a tall three gallon pail with a lid. The several years that Da1e and I carried it we were paid 50 cents per month. We dipped it from the reservoir on the Bill Johnson place. Each student had a tin cup. The water left in the crock water holder each day was drained into a bucket to be used for washing hands and faces.

Lunch was always a fun time. Half-gallon syrup buckets were the most popular dinner pails. Some students were always ready to exchange food. It seemed that what other mothers packed was better than their own.

In the spring and fall, recess and noon was a time for outdoor games. All the students were included in games by having the two best take turns choosing until all were on a team. Anti-over, pump-pump-pull away, ring-um, and softball were popular. At times hide and seek was played in order to extend the recess time by not finding everyone. In winter, there was not much to do. The teacher would often go to the Haigler library and select an interesting book. We would prevail upon her to read to us if it was an interesting story.

The school was the center for a number of community activities. About once each month, there would be a P.T.A. type meeting with a program and refreshments. Christmas was always a big affair with a tree, a school program, Santa, and exchange of gifts. We worked for week making valentines for Valentine’s Day. In the spring the Haigler school invited all the rural schools so an activity day. We had academic contests in the mornings and field events in the afternoons. There were ribbons for the winners. These were motivation for much practice and preparation before and in anticipation of winning everything the next year.

In order to be promoted to high school, students must pass the county exams. Three subjects were taken as seventh graders then the remaining eleven as eighth graders. This was cause for serious study. The seventh and eighth graders seemed to spend most of these years working on the Warp Review books. These provided sample questions and answers used in the county exams. I think it was more important to the teacher than it was to the students that we score well.

There were many fond memories of the eight years in District #42. The small number of students in several grades provided ample opportunity for the older students to help with the younger students. It was much like a family where everyone had a place Parents seemed to realize that they were supposed to help their children with homework and discipline was never a problem. The teachers always seemed to have high expectations. If we didn’t get our lessons, it was because we didn’t work. With a little extra work we discovered she was right. No excuses.
Times have changed nearly everything around us. The future promises to change the world even more. The one-room “common schools” were an important part of life for millions of families while America emerged from a rural ,agricultural society to an industrial society which now faces the challenge of an information society. It was right for the time. Like most other inventions, the genius of people create new and better systems and the old ones are written about in the history books. The one-room schools deserve an honored place as a significant and most important American institution.

* In 1949 I was employed as a Consultant for School District Reorganization and School Building Planning with the Nebraska State Department of Education and spent 12 years working with school boards throughout Nebraska to provide adequate K-12 districts for the purpose of providing adequate financial support and new or improved buildings for an adequate curriculum,
---Don Bush

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Haiglerites 90+

Haiglerites 70+

Haiglerites 1 - 69 (Some of these have moved past the 70 mark!)

  • Aaron Irwin - May 7th
  • Bernice (Smith) Douglass - February 15
  • CD Samler - January 19
  • Cal Freehling - November 29
  • Claudine (Wiley) Sterner - June 8, 1940
  • Dan Leinen - September 10
  • Dick Gregory - May 29, 1946
  • Elaine (Adams) Corkle - July 29
  • Eunice (Gregory) Richard - December 14, 1951
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  • Glenda Smith - December 31
  • Janice Irwin - December 27th
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  • Joie Brown - December 4
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  • Karen (White) Lindell - June 13, 1946
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  • LaVern Smith - January 12
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  • Leone (Gregory) Carlson - January 27, 1943
  • Lloyd Douglass - March 18
  • Marlin Crouse - May 7
  • Mel Fisher - August 8, 1946
  • Paul Freehling - May 23
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  • Sherri Gregory - January 20, 1945
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  • Tim Steinbeck January 31

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