Elgin No. 6, Seney School

School Daze Memories from former students and teachers!

Dear Santa Letters by Little Room pupils, Dec. 1956(don't miss this link)


Following are various memories shared by former students. These are being shared unedited, except for spelling corrections to clarify. Several generations of Seney students have already written their memories. If you are reading this and you are a former student at Seney, please do share with all of us. Use this email link to reach Linda Ewin Ziemann with your stories and/or photos. THANKS.

By Loren Sowers, written April 4, 2001

We lived 2 miles north of Seney when I started to school in the 1st grade at 5 years of age in 1913.  We walked to school through sticky gumbo mud.  During the spring breakup, it was especially hard to walk as the ruts in the road would be filled with water and ice and we would slip and slide down into them.  I remember getting home from school many times at dark or after.  My mother had bought me 4-buckle overshoes to wear.  One day I came home without them, and she demanded to know what I had done with them.  I told her I had given them to Harley Buss because he didn’t have any.  Several notes to the Buss family did not get results, so my mother took me in tow and we walked to Seney, crossed the old iron bridge across the Floyd River and went on to the Buss farm.  We got the overshoes, and by the time we got home I was completely worn out.  I also got a firm lecture about giving away my overshoes.

My 1st grade teacher at Seney was Marie McKnight.  She was a spinster with a very stern manner.  She wore her hair in a tight wad at the back of her neck.  She wore a blouse with high, detachable cuffs and a high collar that caused her to hold her head erect.  Every morning she would appear with stiff, freshly starched collar and cuffs.  We had a room on the ground floor of the old wooden school house. Miss McKnight had a switch hanging on the wall behind her desk. It was there for a purpose, and on occasion she would wake one of us up with it.  On this particular spring morning I was not performing as she would like, so she turned to get the switch.  I jumped out the open window and ran across to the church barn and hid in a manger.  Every church had a barn where the driving horse could be put while the people were in church.  I could see the school house from my hiding place, and watched for my sister to come out.  After a long wait, she finally appeared and I joined her and went home.  She did not tell my mother what happened and neither did the teacher, and that was the end of the event. 

In each buggy people carried an iron weight with a ring attached to it.  When there was no hitching post hand, they would lay the weight out and tether the driving horse to it.  These weights were a cast iron disk about 10 inches in diameter and about 2 inches thick.

During noontime in the winter, the older boys at the school took me to the bridge over the Floyd River to have me test the ice for them.  They had me crawl out on the ice to see if it would hold me. I saw cracks running from my knees out in all directions and I could see grass on the bottom weaving about in a current.  There was about 2 feet of clear water running in the river below the ice.  My Guardian Angel being near, the ice did hold me, because I am still here today to write about it.  I was only 5 years old at the time.

~Loren Sowers, former student at Seney School, Seney, Iowa
   Born 29 Jan 1908
   Died 2 Feb 2005
~Teacher, Miss Marie McKnight later became the wife of Walter Baldwin, Fredonia Twp. They were married on June 19, 1914.

Memories from Linda Ziemann's Dad...attended at Seney 1931-1937

"Our family moved to LeMars in the summer of 1937 from Seney. The Seney school only went through the 8th grade. In those days there was no school bus service to pick the kids up at Seney to get them to LeMars. So my parents felt we needed to live in LeMars so we could attend school."

My Dad also told of an incident that he always heard about through the years. It seems that our ancestor, W. D. Kennedy (my Dad's maternal grandfather) also went to Seney School. Without offering any explanation, Dad just stated that Watson David Kennedy kicked a panel out of the Big Room door. The reason for such behavior is still a mystery to the family.

Dad went on to tell a story on himself.

"I was in the eighth grade at Seney and our teacher was Miss Gabel. She was very stern and not at all well liked. All of us students knew that she did not like the boys. One day my younger sister was opening a small perfume bottle at her desk. Miss Gabel did not like this display of femininity. Miss Gabel walked up to her and slapped her on the hand with a wooden ruler."

My Dad went on to explain, "I saw this happen and got up out of my seat outraged that the teacher would do such a thing, especially to my sister. I grabbed the ruler out of the teacher's hand and threw it out of the open window. There were no screens."

"I stood my ground with the teacher until she ordered me out of the room so I went out the door and went home. I remember hearing Miss Gabel yelling something to the effect that she would see to it that I never came back."

Dad went home. He faced the music with his parents explaining just how it all came about with the perfume, the slap and the ruler. That evening my Dad and his parents got a visit from the president of the school board. After a short discussion, my Dad had to promise to watch his attitude. My Dad was allowed to return to school despite the fact that the teacher had hoped he wouldn't. But then, we all guess that the teacher did not bank on the fact that the president of the school board was my Dad's Mother's first cousin!!

LeMars Globe-Post
Dec. 23, 1937


Seney, Ia., Dec. 21, 1937
Dear Santy:  I thought I would remind you what I want this year. I would like a cake baking apparatus and a new dress, a wrist watch. Will you remember my brother, Bill, and bring him a little toot-toot train. Will you bring my little friend, Ethel, a dy-dee doll. That will be all. Also some candy and nuts. Your friend, Lois.

Seney, Iowa, Dec. 21, 1937
Dearest Santy: How are you? I am fine. I would like you to send me a little set of dishes and a new dress and a wrist watch. Will you also remember my little brother, John, and bring him a little popgun and a little car. I hope you won’t forget me. Also bring us some candy and nuts.  Your friend, Marcia.

Seney, Iowa, Dec. 21, 1937
Dearest Santy: Well how are you by this time? I hope you are fine. I bet you hope the weather stays this way. I hope your reindeers are real peppy so that by Christmas night they will start out in a hurry. Well, I’ll tell you what I want for Christmas. I want a Betsy-Westy doll and a few diapers with it. I want a doll buggy, too. Oh, yes, I want some candy and nuts. Also remember my brother, Art, and bring him a pop gun and a little car. That’s all for this year, remember another year is coming. Your little friend, Dorothy.

Memory excerpts shared by Frances (Berkenpas) Leonard to Linda Ziemann:

I am Frances Leonard. I grew up in Seney and Jake Berkenpas was my father. I attended the Seney school.

I remember so many of those teachers but some of them were "little room" teachers and the others were "big room" teachers. When I went to the Seney school the kindergarten through the fourth grades were taught in the little room and the fifth through the eighth grades were taught in the big room. I remember some of my favorite teachers were Miss Janssen ( Martha) who was being courted at the time by a very handsome man in military uniform . He would stop by the school occasionally to see her, and I must have been around 7 or 8 years old then and thought he was the most handsome man I had ever seen. That was during the 2nd World War days. I think his last name was Vandertieg or something like that.

They eventually got married and I believe he operated a TV repair shop in LeMars for a while. We would try to look out of the school house windows when he would leave to see him kiss her, and then we would all giggle.

And I also remember Helen Albert who later married Herman Schultz and she was such a very nice teacher.

Now Miss Forbes was known as the big room crabby teacher, and all the pupils were a little more behaved around her. She once caught me standing up on one of the school swings and even though it was after school and school was finished for the day, she reported this to my "little room" teacher. I had to stay in for recess the next day. I cried and cried when I got home as I did not think the teacher could do that as school was out for the day. But in the end it taught me to not break the rules no matter why, where or when.

Now Miss Hoyting was the best I think, and I learned so much from her method of teaching. She would start each day by telling us a story about her "cousin" that had so many adventures in so many different places in the world. She would sometimes draw illustrations of maps on the black board or other pictures to demonstrate to us what she wanted us to imagine. I doubt if her "cousin" ever existed but she would tell us these wonderful stories every morning until the first recess time at 10 o'clock. Even now when I have answers to things I have no idea where I learned the answers I think, "I must have remembered that from Miss Hoyting's stories about her cousin." She lived in LeMars and in the winter months she would always get to school early to get the fires started in the pot belly stoves that were in the both rooms and when we got to school the rooms would be nice and warm. And we all got our drinking water from a bucket that had a ladle with a long handle and we all drank out of the same ladle. And we all lived to tell it! If we needed to use the rest rooms we had two outdoor toilets that was the "boys" and "girls" toilets. We would have to hold up 2 fingers to let the teacher know we had to go. And Dean Wills was a diabetic so when ever we had a special occasion where sweet foods were involved she would always make sure she had something Dean could eat. I remember once she gave him a bag of peanuts, and I wished I could have had some too instead of candy. She was the typical "old maid school teacher," but she was wonderful!

I do remember the playground equipment very well and the only thing the school yard had when I started was the "chains" as they were called then, and exactly as you described. Judy Nanniga used to come to play with my sister Alice and I in the summer time and she would clang the chains against the pole to let us know she was at the school yard and ready to play.

The flagpole also existed on the same spot for many years until it fell when you were in school. And I believe we had the same school chores as you had when I went to school. I don't remember having to go after the drinking water but the other chores are familiar.
The big excitement for my years was when we got the swings. If I can remember I believe there were 2 swings on each end and a trapeze type bar in the middle. We had to take turns on the swings and sometimes I would miss my turn as recess would be over and when the teacher rang the bell we had to come in.

Frances Hartog was a pupil when we were in the little room, and she very often would have a bag of candy. I never wanted any of her candy when she would share as she carried the bag in her bloomers. Those were the days when girls bloomers had tight elastic around the legs, and I guess she put her candy there when she didn't have pockets. Her dad ran the Seney elevator then, and his name was John Hartog.

There was time when Jake Mulder lived right across the street from where your grandparents lived, and across the street from the Frank Becker place there on the corner and they had an out door toilet. One Halloween Jake Mulder was going to "out smart" the Seney boys when they would come to tip over his out house. He used to get his toilet tipped over every Halloween. So he decided he would sit in his out house all night and catch the boys when they tried to dump over his toilet. Well, of course the toilet got dumped with Jake inside and the Seney boys thought that was the best Halloween prank ever. ~by Frances Leonard, student at Seney School in the mid-1940's.

~Another excerpt of memories by Frances about her "favorite" teacher, Miss Janssen:

One of the wonderful Seney school teachers was Miss Martha Janssen. I got a letter from her just a few days ago and what a great surprise! She was my teacher from 1941 to 1945, during my first grade through my fourth grade. She was a teacher that made sure all of her students learned. I had an awful time learning how to tell time on the clock. She would ask the pupils ,"When the big hand is on four and the little hand is on two then what time is it?" Well, I would say, " Four minutes after two." And some of the others would laugh and I was so embarrassed. Miss Janssen could see this troubled me. I was so worried I would never be able to tell time. Then that wonderful teacher drew a picture of a big clock.

She put little marks on the clock for the minutes. Then she sat down with me and showed me how easy it was to count the minutes. I was so happy and relieved because now I understood how to tell time.

Martha (Janssen) VanderTuig is 86 years old now and I have sent her a letter telling her how her teaching enabled me to go on to become a licensed nurse. The early days of school are the ones that make children become good future citizens. Thank you, Miss Janssen and other caring teachers like you. ~by Frances Leonard written on July 29, 2007

Seney School Memories by Linda Ewin, student at Seney 1954-1960

[I wrote to my brother and sister to solicit their help in remembering the times at Seney.]

Any fun things you guys remember?  And special happenings….or interesting things we did….please type away. 

Here are some events I remember:

Playing softball on the school ball field--

Playing SKUNK at the basketball goal--

Building snow forts in the winter--

Remember the WORK DAY in the Fall?  We kids helped the teachers rake the grounds and then we built a bonfire and roasted marshmallows.--

Playing Hide N Seek--

We all had “chores” to do….and these chores changed every week...carrying water, putting the flag up and taking it down each day, cleaning the chalkboard erasers--

HIS and HER outhouses--

The PLAYHOUSE / storage shed--

Sledding on Jake Berkenpass’ sloped field behind the school……I broke my tooth in a sled accident ….oh me--

The Day the Flag Pole fell...what excitement that was for all of us students! --

Stoves in the classrooms that had to be stoked--

I remember the cold days....the stoves in each room....and the fact that there were no screens on some of the windows--

Getting new playground equipment….monkey bars and a merry-go-round....but my favorite thing though was an older piece of equipment and rather dangerous. It was the best thrill really. What was that called? It was a pole with chains on it. We kids would stand in a circle around the pole and hold onto our own individual chain. It had a bar for grasping. One kid would walk around the entire circle of kids on the outside....and then somehow get to running faster and faster around the circle and that would make all of us in the circle hanging onto our chain/bar get airborne. What a thrill it was to be apart of the circle of flying kids with their chains. It was usually one of the bigger boys that did the running around in the circle, because he could get us all to going very fast. One time I remember being airborne with the others and then my hand slipped, letting go of the chain bar. I fell to the ground with a THUD. The blow knocked the wind out of me. I remember the older Reinders boy coming to my aide first. I know everyone was relieved when I started breathing and coughing!! Looking back now, I see that it was quite dangerous really. I do remember the school sometime later calling it "out of bounds." We were not allowed to use it and eventually it was taken down. On windy days, especially in the winter, I remember those CHAINS clanging heavily against the thick inner pole. It was very common to hear the clanging whenever the wind blew as we sat in the classrooms trying to study. --

Playing JACKS on either the school sidewalk or inside the school on the wood floors--

Each of us had our coat hook in the inner middle hallway--



Miss Hoyting taught in the Big Room--

Mrs. Arie Bomgaars taught in the Little Room--

Mrs. DeBoer taught in the Big Room after Miss Hoyting left.--

End of the YEAR School Picnic on the grounds--

School Parties….Halloween, Christmas, Easter--

Please expound on these and whatever else you can recall. I know you guys were there at the end….or at least Dee was that last year.

Look forward to what you two might add.   Love ya…..LINDA

Now about good ole Seney. Things that I remember:

I went there through the 6th grade and started 7th in LeMars.

I know we used to have to carry water to drink. So two kids were chosen to go get it. I know we used to go to Jake Berkenpas farm until the school district stopped us because he raised hogs. We then had to walk over to the Dorothy's house to get it.
We played softball and some basketball and pickup sticks and hide'n seek. In the winter we made fox and goose in the snow. Along with snow forts and snowball fights. I remember the work days and picnics. I know Dad may have a movie or two about that. I remember the teachers names that you mentioned but if there were others they weren't there very long. I remember Mrs. Bomgaars daughter sub'd there some. Her name was Mona.

We used to sled down the hill in the pasture but we also used to sled down Mower's hill. I guess that was when we weren't in school.

Those were the good ole days. Remember the picture of George Washington that no matter where you were in the room it looked like he was looking at you? I remember going over to the school to shovel the snow off the side walks when it was my turn.
I would bet that Mom has pictures of those times around Seney school. What was the name of the game where you threw the ball over the roof and yelled something? If someone caught it everyone ran around the building, and if you were hit by the ball you had to stay on that side. Until there was only one left on a side. I am not sure what the real objective of the game was but we had fun at it. We used that old barn between the school and the city hall. Then the hall was moved and filled with alfalfa.

I remember the ladies from the Methodist church would make creamed turkey and biscuits in November. That was the best feed of the year.

Received from Dave Ewin, Sat. August 26, 2006. Dave was a student at Seney through the Spring of 1962.

Memories from our younger sister, Dee:

My first year in town was 4th grade.  Spent 5th grade in LeMars, too.  To my recall.........Mrs. Bomgaars was my teacher when the school closed.  And...Mrs. Seige was in the Big room!! I never got to that room.  Ya know what I remember is the teacher reading the Bible in the morning...........and then...........remember when she announced that she could no longer do that.  Remember singing from those song books.........which I know you know what ones they were....but their titles escape me now.  We use to have them..........a red one and a brown one.  Remember the water cooler in the foyer?  Big gray ceramic thing.  We played "Annie, Annie Over" on that building out back.........not sure what the building was........it had desks in there though.  Man those memories have faded, but then I did not spend as many years there that you guys did.

I KNOW...................TOGETHER WE SING!!  That's the song book!

Received from Diana Ewin Applegate; August 27, 2006. Dee was a student at Seney through the Spring of 1962.




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