Waterford Twp Dist 6 School

DeWitt Observer, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 1989
By Mary Lou Hinrichsen

Two photos lost, currently looking for replacements.

Sixty-two years melted away in Charlotte on a recent Saturday afternoon as seven long-ago country school classmates and three of their former teachers relived the times they spent together.

Only two of the nine pupils who attended Waterford Township District 6 School in 1927-1928 were absent. Helen Voss Cook is deceased and Christina Christiansen Elsner, DeWitt, wasn't feeling well.

All four Rickertsen siblings were present: Donald, who hosted the reunion, brothers Alfred of DeWitt and Arnold of Elwood and their sister Louise (now Diercks) of DeWitt.

William McDevitt, whose most vivid memory is of getting lost on the way home the very first day at the Rickertsen school, came from Bernard.

And LaVerne Christiansen, who was immediately identified by anyone you asked as a great baseball player, interrupted his viewing of that Saturday's televised baseball game to put in an appearance.

The reunion was rounded out by Veronica Diedrich Determan, now of the Sugar Creek area, and three former teachers: Ruth Kane Clifford, Algona Hoffmann Andresen and Inga Christiansen Fier, all of whom still live in Charlotte.

Among the memories that flooded back:

Donald Rickertsen remembered when the pupils planted an evergreen on the school grounds in observance of Arbor Day. "We got it out of the field with a wagon and we tied a jar of pennies on the roots and buried it with the tree." He wasn't too sure about the purpose of the pennies was, except the whole project was supposed to be a memorial.

Arnold Rickertsen remembered when the coal bucket got empty, the students would hold up their hand to be chosen to go fill it up again. "We'd get a star for that chore and if we didn't get into trouble for a week we would get a package of gum or something."

Veronica Diedrich Determan remembered one teacher also "gave us a star if we were early enough to carry the water. We all hurried to carry it. But after they took the stars away, it was hard to find someone to carry the water."

If the weather was rainy, recess often brought a game of musical chairs.

In the winter, sleigh riding was a favorite recess activity, but Arnold remembered the frostbite that sometimes went along with that bit of fun.

"And it would itch!" he could still recall.

The Rickertsen children's father was a director of the school and part of that job included getting the classroom cleaned up for school to start in the fall. Arnold remembered when "We had to go and clap the erasers out" but he wasn't sure any more whether that was a treat or a punishment. McDevitt said he will never forget his first day at the Rickertsen school.

"I suppose Papa took me up there, you know, and dumped me" that day. He was just in first grade and since he was the oldest of the McDevitt children he had no older siblings to show him the way home.

"I started the wrong direction, he still remembers. But Veronica straightened me out."

Having the teacher read to the pupils was a treat they all still remembered.

But Dierks said "Sometimes (the story) would be real sad, and the teacher would quit reading." When the students asked the teacher to finish the story, she couldn't do it and would tell them to read it themselves if they wanted to.

Mud roads and blizzards were a common experience, but the school bell still rang.

Andresen remembered one blizzard when her father brought her as far as he could by car before the way was blocked by snowdrifts. And then she started walking. "If it hadn't been for Mr. McDevitt-he was bringing the children to school and he picked me up-I wouldn't be here talking to you," she said. "It was 30 below zero."

When Andresen got to the school and found someone had started a nice fire in the stove, "I was dumb and went over to get warm. That was the worst thing I could do." Thawing her frozen ankles too fast caused burns, and she had to wear bedroom slippers until they heeled-but she kept on teaching.
Fier remembered walking to her teaching job at the school, too, when the snow was deep and had a crust on it. "Every step you took you went through the crust."

And she remembered when the fire hadn't been started in advance and "we all sat around the stove with our coats on."
Still, "Every teacher ought to teach in a country school," she declared.

It was Fier who remembered Donald Rickertsen as "a little monkey" who could climb the highest to hang decorations for the Christmas program.

At first Fier only attended one summer school session to qualify as a teacher. But with another summer's work she earned a "standard" certificate and her pay went from $60 to $80 a month. "Then I had $25 to spend" after she paid for her room and board.

Andresen said she didn't intend to be a teacher, but her sister coaxed her to attend the three-month extension course being offered in Clinton by Iowa State Teachers College in Cedar Falls.

She told Alfred Rickertsen at the reunion she still remembers the time she asked him to name the principal parts of a flower. Rickertsen, in the summer of 1989, remembered the correct answer: pistils and stamens. But Andresen said the answer he gave her more than 60 years ago was "pistols and revolvers!" "He knew the right answer," she said. "He was just saying that."

Ask Alfred what comes to mind first when you mention the Rickertsen school and the answer comes quickly: geography.
He said he had good teachers who made geography and history interesting for him.

Alfred also recalled that there seemed to be a practice of hiring a Catholic teacher one year and a Protestant the next year.

Clifford shares the other teacher's memories of the bad roads and the times she had to walk home because of the mud. But one family whose place she had to pass was rumored to be bootlegging liquor (these were Prohibition days) and they kept these great big dogs. "I tell you I prayed when I came to that corner." So sometimes she cut across fields, but "in later years I wondered what would have happened if I had fallen. Nobody would ever have thought to look for me out there."
Clifford credited her grandmother with insisting that she be sent for teacher's training. "She was pretty far-sighted."

But after Ruth had finished her 12 weeks of instruction there was a shortage of jobs. "I can tell of some incidents where some would swap a horse to a director and get a job that way."

But the next year, Ruth got the job at the Rickertsen school and started a career that lasted many years, building memories for her and for pupils like those who met in the Donald Rickertsen home in the summer of 1989.

According to the abstract for the land on which Waterford Township District 6 School stood in section 16, William Blanch purchased 640 acres for $1.25 an acre in 1865 with the understanding that the land was to be set aside for a school.
The school opened in 1886 and closed in 1932. Then Joe Hoffmann purchased the building for $300, tore it down and used the lumber to build a hog house.

  Submitted By: N.L. <e-mail link removed>