Sioux County -- SCHOOLS
History Of The Public Schools
Taken from the book, “A Pocket Of Civility” A History of Sioux Center 1891-1976
(Article retyped from original and pictures that accompanied the article are included at the end of this text.)
Shortly after the sod huts were completed by our early settlers, most of whom had been denied much book learning, they cast about for a means of educating their children. The first school was built shortly after 1872 on the northwest corner of section 16, one mile south of the present First Reformed Church. Miss Annie Jensen (orJansen), later Mrs. Ten Broek, was one of the first teachers. At that time there were no stringent requirements for teachers. Rather teachers were chosen by common consent.
During the early 1870’s three school house were built in West Branch township west of the West Branch of the Floyd River. These schools were furnished with home-made desks and chairs. In 1872, Jacob Koster had several of his children in attendance. Thinking the children might become snow bound during the winter, he stored some dried bread, bacon, and cornmeal, and also a skillet in the school’s attic. That very winter they experienced a severe snowstorm. The children of Koster, Jansen, VanBeek, Wandscheer, and Wayenberg were already in school and stayed there during the storm. They first lived on the contents of their frugal dinner pails, then melted snow to get something to drink, then ate the attic supplies. Even though the bread was as dry as hard tack, it appeased their hunger. Some of the girls knew a little bit about cooking, so they made some cakes with the cornmeal and bacon. Fortunately their fuel supply was adequate. The teacher having gone home to his family, the children were left alone. They felt very creepy as the daylight faded away and they had no light but the flicker of the fire in the stove. Fortunately all survived.
Another of the first country schools was built two miles east of Sioux Center. Most of the children from the township attended this school at first. The older boys could attend only during the winter months. When the time came for the crops to be planted and harvested, they were needed at home. Consequently, their formal education quite often ended with the fourth or sixth grade. One young man came back to school in the winter when he was 21 years old. He asked the teacher if he might attend. She said he might, but that if he misbehaved, he would have to leave. He behaved, and said he learned more in the three months that winter than he had in the four years he had attended earlier.
These country schools were one-room schools. Some were set up so that the boys entered a door on one side of the teacher’s desk, and the girls entered the door on the other side. The teacher had to teach all eight grades, all the subjects, which could have meant 48 class periods a day. The average attendance during the winter months was 25-30 pupils. This caused some discipline problems, since there was no principal to send kids to; teachers corresponded directly with parents to good effect.
A pot-bellied stove provided the only heat for this building. The teacher was the janitor and had to get to school early enough to have the schoolroom warm when the pupils came. On cold days those sitting near the stove were very warm, but those farther away from it were very cold. Many of the children would wear their overshoes in school to keep their feet warm. The custodial duties of the teacher were to keep the windows clean, the floors swept, the black-boards washed, the erasers cleaned, and the furniture dusted. The drinking water was usually brought from a near-by farm. Usually a water pail with a dipper in it stood on a stand at the back of the room. Later covered stone crock drinking fountains were provided. The students carried their lunches – usually in a gallon syrup pail. Their lunches consisted of brown sugar and jelly sandwiches and occasionally an apple or an orange.
All the children played together and the games that were played were pump-pump-pull away, drop the handkerchief, hide and seek, and tag. In some schools, the whole student body would walk through the prairie grass, looking for wild flowers at noon or recess. In one of the schools, two of the boys decided they would rather not have school the next day, so during the evening hours they went to school and plugged the chimney with old clothes. When the teacher tried to start the stove the next morning, the school house filled with smoke. It took a few hours to determine what the trouble was and also who the culprits were. The proper punishment was administered.
At another time a German police dog decided the school house was a proper place to give birth to her pups. She crept under the porch and had eleven puppies. This caused a great deal of excitement for both the children and teacher.
A much used school was the one located two miles east of the present First Reformed Church. Settlers who lived within a five-mile radius of this school used it for their church services, with Rev. S. Bolks, pastor of the Orange City Reformed Church, conducting the services.
By 1876 , there were 53 non-graded country schools in the county. There were 38 female teachers whose average pay was $30.42 per month, and 29 male teachers whose average pay was #31.13 per month. Teachers could begin teaching at 16 years of age. Some of these uncertified teachers were paid as little as $17 per month. If certified, a beginning teacher usually was paid $25 per month at first.
Some of the early teachers were Tommie Latta, Jane Kosters, Charlie Sawyer, and Fred Van Zuyden. Fred was strict, and taught the children that since Adam, all boys had 23 ribs and girls had 24, their full quota.
The school day was usually begun by singing some hymns, accompanied by a pump organ, which was played by the teacher. On Friday afternoons there was a time set aside for catechism, or question school as it was more often called. Either the teacher taught the lessons from different books or an elder from one of the churches came in to teach the children.
As the population increased the question arose as to the number of schools necessary for a township. At election it was decided to have nine. These schools first served the village as well as the rural children.
When the town was formally incorporated in 1891, it was decided the town should have its own school. In 1891 the Independent School District of Sioux Center was established. Henry Wayenberg, W. F. Nieland, R. Borgman, and Peter Egan served on the first Board of Education. On June 8, 1891, a bond issue for $3,000 was approved for the purpose of erecting and furnishing a new frame school house in Sioux Center. Thirty-six votes were cast, all in favor of the bond. Classes convened in the fall of 1891. Mr. A. D. Hayes served as the principal at a salary of $60 per month. His assistant, Miss Allie Yokie received $40 per month for the seven month school term. The small rural building they vacated was sold at public auction for $68.
In 1896, the enrollment increased to 200 pupils, making it necessary to employ two more teachers and to add two more rooms to the building. There were two grades and one teacher in each room. One grade had their study period while the other had class, or recitation, as they called it at that time. At this time, the free textbook program, the first in Sioux County, as adopted and is still employed by the city’s public schools.
The ninth and tenth grades were added to the curriculum in 1897 and again two additional teachers were hired. The first graduation exercises were held in the spring of 1899. Mr. George Siemen had completed the required amount of work in 1898, but since he was the only graduate, the board thought graduation exercises were out of order. So he continued his education and graduated with the class of 1899. The class consisted of John F. D. Aue, Joe Spinden, Dick Wissink, Johanna Mouw, and Jacob VanderZee, who later won renown in the field of education. While studying at the University of Iowa, he was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to study in Oxford England. After he returned from England, he joined the faculty in the University of Iowa as a professor of political science. A class has graduated every year since, except in 1900 and 1903.
In 1900, the eleventh and twelfth grades were added to the school program. The first students to be graduated from the twelfth grade were Edward Siemen and Lena Mouw. The school became fully accredited as a four year high school in 1910. Lee Kiel was valedictorian of the 1910 class. He recited his address in Latin. The title was “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”
As long as the old building was in use, there were no facilities for athletic activity. But students did do exercises in the classroom. Extra-curricular activities consisted of debating teams, elocution contests, plays, and operettas, but with no auditorium, the programs were usually in the rooms for the lower grades and in the town hall for the high school activities.
Health problems and epidemics were probably the worst worry. Since attendance in the grades came from the town, families with children had them vaccinated for small pox, but chicken pox, whooping cough, scarlet fever, diphtheria, measles, and mumps came along every year. Daily school sessions lasted from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. with an hour off for lunch since everyone went home.
In 1907, a literary society was formed in the high school. Just what was the focus of their study is not clear, but they did prepare programs to be given every Friday afternoon. Judging from the commencement program of that year, these programs stressed speaking as much as singing. Here is the program for the high school commencement that year: Chorus, high school; Invovation, Rev. B. De Jong; Oration, “Alfred the Great,” by Gertrude Jansen; Oration, “A Life Worth Living,” by Cynthia DeHaan; Solo, Ann VanderZee; Oration, Expansion of the American People,” Johanna Borgman; Oration, “Astep forward,” by Lydia DeMots; Music, Sioux Center Band; Presentation of the Diplomas. Clearly the graduates were to exhibit their newly imparted wisdom.
Sioux Center was a thriving town and the growing population made necessary a larger school. A special election was held on April 30, 1912. A $25,000 bond issue was passed to erect, complete, and furnish a new school house. All seemed in order until July, when the George M. Bechtel & Co., from Davenport, Iowa, who were carrying the bonds, issued the decree that no cash would be forthcoming unless another election be held. The reason for this was that upon examination of the Board’s proceedings, it was clear that the action taken was illegal because the notice of the election had been published in the local newspaper in a foreign (Holland) language. Thus another election had to be held. Many citizens felt that both their mother tongue and the local newspaper had been insulted, and some who had previously supported the issue, now turned against it. However, in September of 1912, the bond issue was again approved and an attractive carefully planned brick building was erected.
On June 26, 1917, an election was held on the proposal to form a consolidated Independent School District to include sixteen sections. Although approved at the election, it was discontinued after on year’s experiment.
Home Economics was introduced into the school’s curriculum in 1913, taught by Miss Leila Haeback. Because of the interest manifested by the students, the board provided a well-equipped room. The department offered two courses: Domestic Science, which included cooking and food theory; and Domestic Art – sewing. The laboratory for the Domestic Science was furnished with a gas stove, work table, and utensils for each girl. The girls wore long white aprons to cover their long dresses, and small caps to cover their hair. The girls entertained the school board members and their wives at a luncheon and had an exhibit for practical experience. The Domestic Arts Room included individual tables, a dressing room and two sewing machines. The future efficiency and usefulness of the homes represented by these girls will demonstrate the wisdom of this course. In 1915 it became a state law that all high schools should teach Home Economics.
There being a desire to improve the education in the rural schools, a Normal Training Course, to better train the future teachers, was introduced in 1913. The Pedagogy course comprised a study of elementary psychology, school management and methods, and was taught by Nellie B. Mitchell. During the first year the students observed classes in the lower grades and during the senior year they were given the opportunity to do actual practice teaching. After graduation they were qualified to teach the first eight grades in the rural schools. In later years the course was dropped as state requirements for teachers became more rigid, requiring two years of college education.
Manual training found its place in the curriculum in 1914. This training took into account the natural demand for physical activity as well as for mental development in the child. Its purpose was to instill in the pupil’s mind a respect for manual work, a love for the artistic and useful in every day life. It encouraged accuracy, neatness, precision, and carefulness. Useful articles were made for the homes and the boys cooperated to construct some school equipment. Exhibits of the year’s work were held. Karl A. Hauser was the teacher.
It was not until the second semester of the 1914-1915 school year that a regular music teacher was employed, Miss Frances Hawkinson. She was the school’s first full-time vocal teacher. A Mixed Glee Club was organized, and the school’s first operetta was presented. Since that time music has become one of the outstanding extra-curricular activities, with Girl’s and Boy’s glee clubs, Mixed chorus, small groups, and soloists participating. In 1917 a ‘gra fanola’ was purchased through the efforts of the music department, to introduce music appreciation in the grades and high school. The first state superior award our school received was brought home in 1927 by James Wandscheer as a tenor soloist, and also the boys’ quartet, composed of James Wandscheer, John Wesselink, Benjamin Vermeer, and Joe Wandscheer. John E. Groendyk was the director. The girls’ sextet likewise won superior rating in the divisional contest at Paulina, in that year, but school authorities found it impossible to send all to the state contest at Iowa City. Since that time there have been many county and state superiors won by various groups. In 1927, William Rozeboom won national honors in the baritone solo event. A Boys’ quartet, all members of the class of 1961, earned the right to participate in the Ted Mack Amateur Hour, a program on National T.V. network. Members were, Norman TeSlaa, Eugene Bonnema, Wilbur Sandbulte and Michael Oelrich.
Sioux Center School claims the honor of being the first amateur group to produce Meredith Wilson’s “Music Man” in the state of Iowa in 1962.
Track was introduced in 1916, but discontinued in 1928, later to be participated in again.
During the 1913-1914 school year both boys and girls basketball teams were organized. The boys team won 11 out 13 games in competition with neighboring cities and Sioux City. Team members were: James VanderStoep, William Winters, George DeRuyter, Andrew Van Beek, James Doornink, Herman VanderMeulen, Jacob VanEk, John Wassenaar and Matthew VanderPloeg. Their coach was Supt. Thomas McDonald. The only high school team to defeat Sioux Center was Rock Valley. A large enthusiastic crowd witnessed the game, when Sioux Center played their first game, Sioux Center winning 35-23. In 1915 the boys team were privileged to go to a state tournament where they played Fonda – but lost by a score of 16-12. Though defeated, they had played a hard fought game. In 1918-1919 Sioux Center captured the north west Iowa Championship.
In 1913-1927 the girls team played six games with no defeats. Supt. McDonald was their coach. The team members were: Florence Balkema, Sade VanderStoep, Margaret VanDonselaar, Mina Jongewaard, Joanne Ellenbroek, Jedidah Ossewaarde and Eldora DeMots. Before they had their own gymnasium they played on an outdoor dirt court. The loyalty of the boosters was a big factor in the team’s achievements.
In 1926-1927 the girls basketball team was privilege to go to the state tournament (the second year of state competition for the girls) held at Centerville. After playing four games in a round robin tournament the girls lost their final game with Newell by one point – 38-37. Thus they were runner-up in the state. Miss Harriet Walker was their coach. The team members were praised for their good sportsmanship. Forwards Harriet Grotenhuis and Gertrude Dieters were chosen for the all-state team. The girls wore middies and large pleated bloomers of wool serge which came to below the knees. They also wore long stockings so no bare legs would show. Girls basketball was discontinued in 1928.
Forensic activities of different kinds were encouraged in 1915. That year declamatory work was introduced. Jacob VanEk was the winner of first place in the home contest and placed second in the district contest in LeMars. At the quarter-state contest William Rozeboom won first honor and placed third in state competition in 1917.
High school plays were a large part of the school activities. For several years the plays were presented in the town hall. They were all-school plays.
Because the value of clear expression was realized, work in debate was begun in 1916. Real orators are made not born. Supt. Lester Ary organized a debate team, namely Rena Schutt, William Rozeboom and Raymond (Bud) Balkema. The subject for debate was “Resolved: That the several states should adopt a schedule of minimum wages for unskilled labor, constitutionally granted.” It took three months of hard study and coaching, preparing to meet Storm Lake. Five days before the eventful night. Rena was taken sick, so Gerrit Kempers, who know nothing of the question took over, taking the negative side of the question. The outcome? – A unanimous vote for Sioux Center. Later, However, they encountered Fonda, who took them into camp.
The senior class of 1914 served a banquet for its members and their teachers in the Nick Balkema home, because to date there were no banquet facilities in the school.
In 1916 the junior home economics class served a banquet for seniors, making such preparations so that they could be seated at the table to enjoy the meal with the seniors and faculty. In 1917, the banquet was called the senior-junior banquet which took place on St. Valentine’s Day. The facility were the guests. They engaged in hunting hearts which were hidden about the physics room. After hearts were exchanged each one wrote a cupid’s message to be read by someone else. After this a love story with missing words was presented to each – prizes were awarded for those filling in the most correct words. Then they went to the gymnasium, where the tables were beautifully decorated in a Valentine theme. Dainty refreshments were served. Toasts were given by Mr. Tostlebe and Supt. Ary. All went home, fully convinced they had had a splendid time. Quite different from the banquets of later years.
The operetta “On Plymouth Rock” was the first operetta presented by the high school. It was given in Nov. 1914 in the city opera house, directed by Miss Hawkinson.
In 1918 the Y.M.C.A. state secretary asked the high school to send a few delegates to an “Older Boys Conference” to be held in Sheldon. Ten boys accompanied by Mr. Hersey, took the train from Hull to Sheldon. Inspired by the spirit of the conference the boys decided to organize a group of boys to study the Bible under the leadership of Mr. Hersey for one hour each week for the remainder of the year. They started a Hi Y club the next year. A similar organization was started for girls called Hi-Tri.
By 1925 the need for a high school building was very evident, due to overcrowded conditions. On April 29, 1925, a $45,000 bond issue was approved and a brick high school was built north of the 1913 erection. This building had two important features: an auditorium gymnasium, the first in Sioux Center, and a music room. A central heating plant was erected between the two buildings, thus joining them. The 1913 building then became the grades and junior high school, including the 8th grade in the junior high. In 1936, in order to relieve the congestion in the high school, the ninth grade was moved into the junior high department. The increase in enrollment was caused by the influx of students from the rural areas. Records reveal that 38.9% of the high school graduates, at this period of time have attended or are attending college, and 25.2% have graduated from college. More than 10 % of the graduates have become farmers, 12.9% have entered professions, and 67.2% are still living in Sioux Center or immediate vicinity.
Some teachers may have been rehired or fired on the basis of the custodian’s recommendation, for Mr. Gerrit Boeying was custodian from 1913 – 1943. He suggested that after cleaning the teacher’s room for a year, he could tell the good teachers from the bad, so he thought the board should ask hem concerning a teacher’s ability.
In the early 1930’s women teacher were absolutely forbidden to smoke. All teachers had to stay in town at least every other weekend. They were not allowed to be married. If any female teacher did marry during the school year, she was immediately fired. One of the grade school teachers had dated one of the high school boys once, but this was frowned upon. Then, when she wore his sweater to school one day, she was fired.
Excursions of various kinds are more common today, but on excursion for the high school students took place in the middle of the depression, 1934. As the ‘Sioux Center News’ of that time reported, 45 high school students, the superintendent and one teacher, plus another man as chaperone, piled into the big Boone semi-trailer truck and the bus of the Northwestern Junior College to go to Iowa City. The trek started at 5:10 a.m. A stop was made at Marshalltown where a good many cards were sent home.
On Thursday morning the boys’ glee club sang and were rated excellent with three other clubs from Coon Rapids, Cedar Falls, and Estherville. No one received a higher rating.
On Friday the girls toured the famous state hospital worth $4,500,000., while the boys roamed the city, sight-seeing. In the evening the whole group was taken to the airport. A big bi-motored transcontinental plane did not land but flew directly overhead. The airport officials were kind enough to light up the field for the group so they might see what it looked like at night. All field light was furnished by a single carbon lamp about five feet high. It cost $1.65 to run the lamp for four minutes.
Saturday afternoon the group left for Pella where they stayed until Monday morning. Part of the group sang in the First Reformed Church Sunday morning. Monday the group traveled to Des Moines where they had the honor of singing in the State Capital. They toured Des Moines until 5:00 and then left for home. During the day the boys and girls were allowed to ride together on the truck, but at night the boys rode the truck and the girls rode the Northwestern College bus. Chairs were in the bus during the day, but at night the chairs were removed so the boys could lie down to sleep. At 5:00 a.m. the bus and truck arrived in Sioux Center and were greeted by a large number of people.
In the early 1940’s, neither teachers nor girls in school were allowed to wear slacks or shorts in school. However, on a school picnic near the end of the school year, two grade school teachers wore knee length shorts to the picnic. As a result of the daring episode, they lost their jobs. Substitutes for the teachers had to be obtained for the last week of the school .
But the dress problem did not end in the forties. In the early fifties, girls were not allowed to wear slacks in many classes in school. A girl in one class was having a had time sitting still. The teacher kept her in after school to find out what the trouble was. The girl confessed that she had worn slacks to school but since they were forbidden in this certain class, she had removed the slacks and put on a scratchy wool skirt.
The school’s jurisdiction over the dress of students obviously carried over to the cheerleader’s outfits also, and in the early sixties, a committee of teachers decided the cheerleading outfits for the girls should not be any shorter than four inches above the knees. It was also debated whether a senior boy with a beard could be in the school play.
After World War II, busing in the kids from the country began in earnest. In 1945, Bernard VerHoef sold three buses to the Sioux Center School District. The State paid one-half of the bus fare and the parents of each child paid the other half. Today (1976) there are 14 buses which also transport the Christian School children.
In the late forties, the school still had corn picking vacation since many farmers still picked their corn by hand or with single row pickers shared with a neighbor. At this time, 1947-1948, there were 12 teachers in the junior high and high school and eight teachers for the kindergarten and first six grades. Mr. Kinsey, the superintendent, also taught classes and took charge of the band. There were 47 graduates in 1948. Seniors that year played “Follow the Arrow” and “Blind Man’s Bluff” at their class parties. Sioux Center’s athletic teams have appeared in the state tournaments many times. The girls basketball team was runner-up in 1927, losing out to the champion by one point . The boys basketball team competed in the state tournament nine different times, winning third place in 1948 and 1960, and first place in 1959, under Coach Paul Muyskens, all in one-class tournaments. Then in 1967, they won first place in the Class A tournament, with smaller of two classes, under the coaching of Ron Juffer.
The football team won the state football championship for its class in 1972 with Mel Tjeerdsma as coach. Mel also coached the boys track team to state runner-up spot in 1971 and in 1975. And the girls volleyball team made it to state tournament in 1973 and 1974. The baseball team got to the state tournament in 1948, and was state runner-up in 1973.
Conference championships include two in basketball (66 and 67) and two in baseball (65 and 67) in the Sioux Empire Conference. Sioux Center then joined the Siouxland Conference in 1967. In this conference they were undefeated conference champions in basketball the first three years , and co-champions in 74-75. They were conference champions in baseball in 1971, 72, and 73, conference champions in football in 1972 and 73, conference champs in boys track in 1971, 73, 74, and 75, and conference champs in boys golf in the summer of 1971, and in the spring of 1972 and 73. The boys golf in the summer of 1971, and in the spring of 1972 and 73. The girls were conference champs in golf in the spring of 1974.
Cumulative records in the various sports are as follow: Boys basketball since 1946 won 574 and lost 163 for a percentage of .779; boys baseball since moving to a summer sport in 1961, won 202, lost 79; football since it began in 1964 won 50 lost 33, and tied two for a .602 percentage; boys golf begun in 1965 has won 306, lost 129 matches for a .703 percentage; girls volleyball complied a 26-17 record, girls golf begun in 1972, has a 38-41 record, and girls softball, begun in 1975 had a 17 record. Girls basketball will begin in 1975.
The fifties and sixties saw many other firsts. The National Honor Society was organized in 1957. The first high school dance was held in 1959. Also in 1959, there was finally a separate room for the library. Before this, it had been combined with a study hall. The first exchange student was here in 1967.
The country schools passed into the realm of history in the late fifties. Although there were still 49 schools operating in Sioux County in 1958, they closed rapidly after that. They had served a worthy purpose when roads were muddy and cars were non-existent. But the era of the school bus and the consolidated school led to their sure demise.
The percentage of graduates from Sioux Center High School who graduated from college is usually high, and so is the number of college graduates who come back to make Sioux Center their town.
In the fall of 1975, the junior high school moved into their new facilities, the finest around. Obviously, fine facilities alone cannot guarantee quality education, but they establish a stimulating atmosphere within which students and teachers can explore the humanities, probe the sciences, and home their skills.