MEMORIES OF SHOEMAKER RURAL SCHOOL DAYS
LOGAN TOWNSHIP DISTRICT 2
by: Dudley L. Jans
Years ago, my family came from Minnesota to visit my parents on their home farm, three miles south of Hawarden on County Rd K18. It was a beautiful sunny day and it was a great treat to drive through the countryside and see how the crops were flourishing and to reminisce about “who lived here and there”. As we drove East on the mile road just North of the Jans property, son Tim noticed that there were no buildings on the North side of the road and simply asked, “Grandma, who lived on that corner of the road?” He had curiosity after hearing our conversation for the past hour. Grandma said, “Oh, Tim, that is where your Daddy’s school house was and where he attended grade school”. “Oh no, Grandma. My Dad said he had to walk five miles up a steep hill to school every day when he was little and your house is right down there!” And so the truth came out.
My recollections of my school days that began 60 years ago are few but I do remember some. I started first grade in 1944 (we did not have Kindergarten in our Rural School). I would turn six years old later that fall. I was the only student in my class who graduated from Eighth grade. There were others that I recall who were in different grades with me, but they had moved away before Eighth grade. So, I heard the same lessons year after year and I am not sure if they all sunk into my hear or not. The teacher had a big responsibility in teaching every grade in our school, and of course, being it was a small classroom, we would hear teach each student over and over again.
Not only did she have a great responsibility in teaching students, but she had to make sure the stove was in working condition and to keep coal burning in it so that the class room was toasty warm for all of us. Then, we had to have water in the school, so she would pick out two students each day to walk down to Kemmer’s farm place to fill the buckets with water. Sometimes we had to get water twice a day as there was no way to keep water cold in the school house. I suppose it was about a quarter of a mile away from the school. When it was time for her to choose who would go, we all were anxious to be picked, (waving our arms high in the air, hoping she’d choose us), because then we got out of school for a few hours. I really think she picked kids that were restless that day and she wanted them out of the classroom. But, on occasion, I was chosen, and we would take out time, sauntering here and there down the gravel road to Kemmer’s to get water from their outside pump located at the well.
I recall riding our favorite horse, Babe, to school now and then. We would tie her up to the barbed wire fence west of the school house. Several times I’d go out to ride her home and she was gone. Seems someone untied her and gave her a swat to go home. She’d be there when I arrived, standing at the barn door. I, of course had to walk home; (five miles, remember?). My brother Marty and I took turns riding Babe to school, and the other one would then ride the bike. I often wonder who untied Babe…..I have a hunch!
One year we had a teacher who unfortunately had a misconduct on her record, and my dear mother was on the school board that year. She said the Board met and had to dismiss her. I do not recall the teacher’s name, but she wasn’t there very long.
Teachers at our school had complete charge of all that went on. They had to prepare lessons for all eight grades, teach each student, grade the papers, do report cards (there was no clerical help for the instructor), did all custodial work (she did let the students put down sawdust compound once in a while and help her sweep the hardwood floors), was baby sitter, coach, umpire, referee, nurse, musician, artist, play director, and you name it. She decorated the classrooms with the children’s artwork during season changes and holidays. She had to answer to the School Board of our District and we certainly know that compensation could not have been her only reason for teaching; it had to be the desire and love for children and education. Teachers would get to school by 7:00 a.m. to stoke up the stove so it was warm when students arrived. She had to make sure the stove was out at night before she left the school for safety purposes. Twelve to fourteen hours a day was very normal for teachers. Now people worry about working 40 hours a week!!
There was no telephone, and no inside plumbing. We had two white outhouse buildings: one for the girls and one for the boys. Students took turns cleaning out the out houses with soap and water and rags provided us.
The teacher had a globe on her desk and we had pull down vinyl maps on the wall behind her desk. The maps were of the United States and the World and we used them during History and Geography classes. Of course there was the hand bell that sat on her desk and she would ring for us to come in from lunch and recess.
Fathers of students would mow the school yard and road ditches around the school prior to school starting with their horse drawn sickle mowers and later on, tractor drawn sickle mowers. Children kept the prairie grass matted down during the Fall and Spring playing ball outside! Mothers of the students would clean and tidy up the school just prior to school starting so it looked nice for the teacher; during the school year, the teacher was responsible to keep the school/classroom clean.
For a Fund Raiser for the school, we had a Box Lunch Social about twice a year. Mom’s would prepare a box lunch for themselves and their daughters and one of the Dads would be the auctioneer. Men and boys would bid on the best decorated lunch box and just hope they’d get to eat lunch wit the cutest girl!! I remember getting Carol Kemmer and Shirley Noble’s lunch boxes. What Fun!!
Students would perform plays on stage in front of the classroom for our parents during the holidays. The teacher would practice the play and singing with us. We had a piano in the classroom also. All students participated in the play and it was a big deal! We would get ready for plays, changing costumes for the play (had to be quiet back stage) in the storage room that was located next to the Coal Bin room in the back of the school house.
We carried our lunch boxes to school and would set them on the floor by our coats hung on hooks in the cloakroom. This room was located in the front of the schoolhouse. In the winter time when it was so cold, we had to bring our lunch boxes and water into the partitioned classroom so they wouldn’t freeze.
We started every school day saying “The Pledge of Allegiance” in front of the American Flag and then we all sang “God Bless America” as our teacher played the piano. No questions asked and no controversy!
When it was so cold, the teacher would get assistance from the children and have them go to the Coal Bin room located in the back of the room and we’d bring out a bucket of coal for her to stoke up the stove.
The partition I spoke about previously was put up in the classroom in the late fall and taken down in the sprin when the weather was nice. It made it a very small one room schoolhouse in the winter time, but the purpose was so that we would stay warm. Often times we had to wear out coats to keep warm. I do not recall ever having fans in the classroom on hot days.
There was an underground cellar with steps going down to it, located outside the rear of the schoolhouse. The safety purpose of this was for students during adverse weather (tornadoes, etc.). I don’t recall having to use this escape while attending Shoemaker School.
Softball was our main sport and we played it every day, weather permitting, during lunchtime and recess. We had tournaments between the two school Districts nearby: one located approximately two miles East and the other one was located about two miles South. All students played, and of course, we always won!!
All of the kids that rode bike to school would gather during recess and race their bikes around the schoolhouse. We made a real racetrack around the school and that was such fun. It kept the prairie grass down too!
I don’t recall ever having a crush on any of the girls in our school, but then, I was very young. It was kind of scary leaving Shoemaker Rural School and going to the Big High School in Hawarden when I was a Freshman. I always feel fortunate that I had the opportunity to attend Shoemaker Rural School and of course it’s really a memory being my dad, Lowell Jane and his sisters, Joyce Jans Youngstrom, Lorriane Jans DeLorenzo and Hope Jans Brown also attended the same school! May Grandmother Hazel Jans was a daughter of Gilbert Shoemaker and she too attended Shoemaker School.
Aunt Lorraine and Aunt Hope have enlightened me with information as to how Dictrict 2 was dubbed the name “Shoemaker School”. Their Grandparents, Gilbert and Clara Ford Shoemaker saw a need to have a school near their home as they had eight children, so Gilbert was instrumental in having a school built nearby. In 1865 District 2 was erected and the beginning of the Shoemaker School. Their children, Arthur, Maude, Claude, Daisy, Mae, Hazel (my grandmother), Lucille and Harold all attended Shoemaker School. Aunt Lorraine goes on to say that Arther was so homely as a kid and man and so odd that students called him “Soccer Eyes and Donkey Ears”. Kids teased way back then! He certainly proved that “looks are only skin deep, as after he graduated from Hawarden High School, he taught classes at the Shoemaker School for years, and then went on to Law School and became a Lawyer.
All of the Shoemaker children completed the 8th grade at Schoemaker School, except for Daisy. Lucille also taught classes at the Schoemaker school after High School and later went to two years of college in Val Parezo, Indiana. Aunt Lorraine goes on to say that Lucille and Hazel (Grandma) drove horse and buggy to high school in Hawarden. In the winter time they would take turns warming their hands: one would sit on their hands while the other drove the horse and buggy. My, how times have changed! Aunt Lorraine also taught at the Shoemaker school for five years, and Aunt Hope and Aunt Joyce were school teachers in other school districts.
After Grandma Hazel married Grandpa Grover Jans, they moves to “our Jans farm” , where we presently reside, just south of the Shoemaker School site. All four of their children, Lowell, Joyce, Lorraine and Hope attended Shoemaker School. It is interesting to not there, that my Dad and Mom made the Jans farm their permanent home, and their children, myself, (Dudley), and my brothers, Marty and Scott also went to the Shoemaker School. So three generations of the Gilbert and Clara Shoemaker family all attended Shoemaker School; Gilbert’s children; Hazel’s children and Lowell Jans’ children.
Of personal interest to me, because of being friends all of my life, is that the Wasser farm, just North of the Shoemaker School is where Charles and Ida Wasser lived, and their children, Warren (Hazel'’ husband), Lloyd, Evelyn (Trieber), Hobart (JaNohn's husband) and Hayes (Ann’s husband), and Maxine all attended Shoemaker School also.
Thanks for the memories Shoemaker Rural School, District 2! And special thanks to everyone who have so diligently worked hard to restore our beautiful Shoemaker School house.
written by: Dudley L. Jans
(A note from the transcriber of the this article, Wilma J. Vande Berg of the GSCGS)
The Shoemaker Schoolhouse building now stands on the ground of Calliope Village in North West Hawarden Iowa. The inside houses a museum with many antiques and momentos of the early days. The Scott School originally from just west of Hawarden in Union Co. SD, also on the grounds at the Calliope Village is furnished as a typical rural school of the day.
The History of Shoemaker School
District #2 Logan Township
by: Lorraine Jans DeLorenzo
The land around Shoemaker School was covered with the original prairie grass of the west, and one unusual plant that flourished there was called the ‘Buffalo Bean”
It clung close to the ground and was covered with oval shaped beans of a wine or purplish color. The beans grew to the size of a large olive but tasted bitter and were not edible. We, as children, would pick them in the fall to play with as they were so colorful.
Born in 1870, Arthur Shoemaker completed the eighth grade here. He was the oldest son of Gilbert Joseph Shoemaker, and the family lived on a farm Located four miles south of Hawarden.
The school was situated on a high hill about a half mile south of the Shoemaker residence, and later on Arthur taught in the school for three years. Lucille Shoemaker, the seventh child of Mr. Shoemaker also taught here.
For this reason and possibly because all eight of Gilbert Shoemaker’s children attended and completed the required eighth grade in this school, it gradually became referred to as the “Shoemaker School.”
Lowell Jans, now 86 years of age, recalls his first grade teacher was a gentleman named Cecil Garret.
Then I, Lorraine Jans DeLorenzo, a sister of Lowell Jans, entered first grade in the school and my teacher’s names was Francis French. After Francis, the teachers following were:
By 1838 I had completed the academic requirements necessary for teaching, and when Florence Uphdahl had finished her term and was to marry, I applied for the teacher’s position and was accepted. I continued to teach at the Shoemaker School for five years, and during those time it was great fun!
When it turned cold the Seibens and Tone brothers brought a giant all wire toaster for me to use. It had very long handles which opened wide, and we placed out sandwiches on the bottom wire, toasted one side over the coals in the stove, --and then turned it over to toast the other side. The results wer perfect and especially delicious because of our home made bread and sliced liverwurst filling!
It was a requirement for the teachers at that time to put on a program by the children once a year, and to invite the people of the neighborhood to come and enjoy an evening of entertainment.
Dates chosen for the program were around Christmas, Thanksgiving or Halloween, and I was especially lucky as the school had a stage across one complete end of the building. At other times the teacher’s desk sat upon the stage making it easier to view the rows of students in the room. However, during practicing and the presenting of a program, the desk disappeared and we had stage curtains to draw between each act as the students performed with songs, plays, and other dialogue.
Often Superintendent of Schools, Charles H. Tye, along with his wife and other county officials, traveled quite some distance to enjoy the school program.
Our school boasted a piano as well, and my mother, Hazel Jans, accompanied the children as they sang their songs and then would play between acts for the audience.
Coffee and a lunch of sandwiches and cake would be served after the entertainment, but at one of my programs my mother made cake doughnuts for the entire audience, each person being served two or more.
One year I included a Major Bowes Contest in the school program, and Robert Norberg, singing a version of a Chinese song, brought down the house! Edna Mulder and Hope Jans, my eighth graders, were dressed in Gay Nineties clothes, with footballs for bustles tied under their long shirts. Their song and bouncing bustle dance had Mr. Tye in stitches. Harold Lubben’s Hillbilly Group ended their play by singing “Coming Round the Mountain”, -- where he shot off a long barreled gun and raised listeners off their seat.
Mrs. Tye was noted for her oratory in those years, and her recitation of humorous declamatory pieces would receive a wild round of applause from the crowd as well, Mr. and Mrs. Tye were held in high esteem by all the people throughout the county, and Mr. Tye was superintendent of schools long before I started in first grade and also many years after I had finished teaching and moved away.
When I first started to school in 1924, the enrollment was up to 32 children in the school. I well remember the lard and peanut butter pails that we carried our lunch in, and since no water was available for some reason, each family had to bring their own pail of water to drink for the day.
Woe to the ones who forget or neglected to bring a pail of water on a hot September day! It happened in my family when I was quite small and I remember breaking down and crying in abject misery until the Lubben girls took pity and shared their water with me.
During my brother Lowell’s eight years of school, -- at one time a skunk made its home under the schoolhouse. he doesn’t remember how they finally got rid of it, --but it made a strong and lasting impression, for he recalls it still today.
Shoemaker School was the largest in the county, most schools being about half its size, -- and the front door opened onto a short hall before one entered the main part of the schoolroom. On either side of the hall was a cloak room, one for the boys and one for girls, with a shelf built around the wall of each room to hold our dinner pails. To save on heat, I understand that in later years a section of this front area was closed off.
The school took a long time to warm up, as a great, black stove stood in the middle of the room, and around the stove itself was a black metal jacket to act as a safety measure. The jacket was bolted down about a foot away from the stove and no one was ever burned, -- but neither could the children get very warm on cold winter mornings. Adding to the problem was the long length of stove pipe that ran way to the end of the room before ‘draw’ in the pipe, and to start and keep a brisk fire burning was difficult for some teachers.
Often on bitter winter mornings the teacher would sit us cold and crying little ones around the stove jacket with our feet under it to get as close to the heat as possible.
The children who must walk a mile or longer to school often found their fingers or exposed part of their face had turned white from the cold, and the solution to this was to put snow on their hands and face. Almost everyone wore a scarf or two wrapped around their neck and up over their face, leaving just their eyes peeping out. The Lubbens lived about a mile and a half from school and their son Harold would arrive with long icicles hanging from his lashes due to this warm breath rising from the scarf.
The wall in the front of the schoolroom was all blackboard, and one never dared wash the blackboard in the morning as it would remain covered with a film of ice until noon, leaving it of no use.
For the playground there was a teeter-totter and s small merry-go-round that one pushed and then jumped on for a ride, but baseball was everybody’s game, and even the little one had a chance to become the coveted batter.
Around 1930 a storm cave was built that we might hurry into should a violent storm suddenly bear down. But to my knowledge it was only used for that purpose once, and finally fell into decay.
When my sister Joyce was in eighth grade and I in seventh, my mother Hazel Jans, held the office of director of the school. The director’s duties were to hire the teacher, pay her monthly salary, do any purchasing that was required, and order done all needed repairs on the school. For thirty dollars the school was painted, (paint included) by the husband of Myra Liston.
There were two outside toilets for use behind the schoolhouse, one in each corner of the schoolyard. The boy’s toilet was situated in a corner beside the road and was an easy target for pranksters on Halloween. Almost every year they would be upended. and a few times the boy’s was carried quite some distance away.
For modesty’s sake, each toilet had an “L” shaped heavy wooden screen attached to the front and side of the building, -- and fairly close to the boy’s toilet grew an especially tall cottonwood tree, -- which gave us older kids ideas!
Soon a long rope was brought to school by Hayes Wasser who was in my grade. Then a large feed or gunny sack filled with straw was tied to one end of the rope. The boys then managed to climb high in the tree and secure the other end of the rope to a stout limb that grew about ten feet away from the toilet, and we had a bag swing for all to enjoy.
However, to get a really thrilling ride we needed to jump on the bag when it was high off the ground, and for this accomplishment the sturdy toilet screen gave us perfect access. We’d crawl along the frame, boost ourselves to the top of the toilet, and then shinny up to the roof. Six of us could sit up there at a time, straddling the point and waiting our turn for someone on the ground to toss up the bag swing. Then grabbing the rope and circling the bag with our legs, we’d leap out into space and swing into the clear blue yonder. It was great! It was thrilling! Glorious! The nearest thing to flying a country kid could ask for.
Then one day my mother, the director at the time, drove past the school and saw us perched up there. Aghast at seeing us lined up on that peak, in a flash she stopped the car and went in to have a talk with Miss Taggert.
Our bag swing was no more.
Every winter we children brought our sleds to school with a dual purpose. One was that we could slide way home when school closed for the day. The other purpose was more questionable.
As long as there was snow on the ground, teachers and students had always assumed it was the right and privilege of students to be permitted to slide their sleds on the road. The road in front of the schoolhouse was perfect to slide on, and we went whizzing down in record numbers. However, as the time neared to the point of having to return to class, one of the smaller children would be stationed by a window to sound the alert when teacher came out to ring the bell. At his signal everyone with a sled tore off down the hill before the bell could be rung. That last ride was oh such a triumph: And along with the ride down and slowly, very slowly pulling the sled back up, -- we could cut about twenty minutes to a half hour from our studies”. Oh the poor teachers!
Nevertheless, during school hours discipline prevailed.
Throughout the years I went to school there and also while I was teaching, there was order. Only if one raised their hand were they permitted to speak. Can anyone recall the teacher’s command “Put away your books. Turn, Stand, pass!” It was a method of control that fell out of use when country schools ceased to exist. Except for a class being held on the recitation benches in front of the room all was comparatively quiet while the students concentrated on their assignments. Order was everything.
Quite a number of teachers taught at the Shoemaker School after I moved away, for by then my brother had a family and all three of Lowell’s sons finished the eighth grade there. Scott Jans, Lowell’s youngest son, was one of the last students to complete eighth grade before the school was closed for all time, and his teacher’s name was Kathleen Ronan TomJack.
It is my understanding that the corner of land on which the school and playground stood, belonged to the Charles Wasser family. With the school’s removal, that portion is once again a part of the family farm.
There are so many memories. Attached to the front of the school was a long flagpole from which our nation’s flag was proudly flown. Before school began, weather permitting, all students stood in a row beneath the flag and recited the pledge allegiance to the flag, and then sang Iowa’s state song. I can hear their voices still, singing “That’s Where the Tall Corn Grows!”
by: Lorraine Jans DeLorenzo
~This article was retyped by Wilma J. Vande Berg, the original is in the Schoemaker Museum building at Calliope Village, which houses a general museum.
Notes from Florence Johnson
The Life of Schoemaker School 1936-1937
~As told to Mary E.Schiefen in August 2003
Florence (Opdahl) Johnson taught beginning fall of 1936 to spring of 1937. She received around $60 for that year of teaching.
Students in school were Harold Lubben, Hope Jans, Hobert Wasser, Robert Norberg, Irvin Mulder, Lawrence Mulder, Curtis Mulder, beginner; Ila Mae Mulder, Vernon Eilts, beginner; Edna Mulder, Roger Siebens and Norman Siebens. Hope Jan’s mother, Mrs. Hazel Jans was the director.
Girls wore dresses to school and boys wore overalls.
During Penmanship students wrote with a pen that was dipped in ink and the ink was kept in the inkwell on each student’s desk. Florence taught all the classes – reading , arithmetic, language, history, geography, spelling and music. After recess on Friday afternoon art was taught.
Florence said that students had some workbooks but she said “if I wanted them to have workbooks in art I bought them myself”.
Florence had a jell type duplicator which was a tine pan filled with a jell substance. You would have to take your master and rub it on to the jell then you would make copies one at a time. It would probably make up to twenty copies. You then had to wait until the ink would settle to the bottom of the pan which would take over night. Then start the same procedure over again to make another worksheet.
The school had a cistern for water for washing or mopping but you couldn’t drink it. Students brought water from home or went to the neighbors and got water. There was no basement so the coal and cob bin was in the west end of the building. The furnace was started with cobs and the waste paper that was collected and then coal was added.
Neighborhood picnic was held at the end of the school year. The children had a school program sometime during the year.
At recess the students had 15 minutes to go out and play and go to the toilet. Toilets were outside. The boys and girls each had their own separate toilet.
School day started at 9 a.m. but Florence was there generally at 8 a.m. At non the students had an hour break. Students all brought all their own lunches generally in gallon pail which were syrup pails.
Florence stayed at Lawrence and Emma Eilts. Billy Eilts was about three and wasn’t old enough to go to school. The Eilts family was very good to Florence and many nights the Jans family would come over and play cards.
Florence’s job was to put up and take down the American Flag and sometimes the kids helped and wanted to help.
Most of the kids walked but parents came and picked them up when it was cold.
The students had a recitation bench for their lessons in front of the room.
Florence’s husband, George Johnson, finished the eighth grade in the same school, also their children Paul Johnson and Carolyn Johnson Battrick also attended and graduated from the eighth grade from the Shoemaker School.
~Note: The transcriber of this article for placement on-line is, Wilma J. Vande Berg of the GSCGS, The Shoemaker School is now located on the grounds of Calliope Village in NW Hawarden. It is a general museum inside at present. A typical School museum in located on the same grounds in the Scott School house.