School: White School History
Contact: Helen Vater Blaha
Hixon Township, Clark County,
(White School was located on the northwest corner of Section 11 in the Town of Hixon, at the corner of T and what is now Hickory Road.)
Bell tolls no more for students at one-room White School by Emily Rohland Fijalkiewicz - in the Marshfield News-Herald on February 21, 2011.
White School is no longer white nor is it any longer a school. It is a private residence located five miles north of Withee on Highway T. Many decades have passed since the big bell, which was suspended above the stairs, tolled for the last time to summon the children to their lessons.
Upon entering the classroom in the mid-1930s to the early ‘40s, one saw the rows of six desks, connected one to the other by wooden rails. Pictures of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln hung above a wall of slate blackboard on the north side of the room. At the front right side stood the teacher’s desk. To the right was the boys’ cloakroom and toilet. Except for door openings, the front wall also was covered with slate blackboard. A pull-down globe and a rack of pull-down maps were at the front of the room, readily available for geography lessons. The girls’ facilities were on the left.
At the back of the room stood the piano, a standard feature in every classroom. The teacher or a talented student played it during music lessons and school programs.
These rural schools often had as many as 50 children enrolled in grades one through eight, many of them the children of immigrants from European countries as were my parents, John and Caroline Rohland. In the countries from which they had come, people had to pay to send their children to school. Few families could afford this luxury. John’s family was able to send him to school for three years where he learned to read German. He often read from his German Bible to my mother and to any of his children willing to listen.
Free education was a miracle to them as well as to the other immigrant families. Thus, these parents had great respect for the school, the school boards who managed the school and especially for the teachers who taught their children. My parents sent 10 children to be educated at the White School. Should one of them get scolded by the teacher for a misbehavior such as whispering to the person across, ahead of or behind us or using a swear work, a punishment would follow, perhaps having to stay in at recess. On the way home, the miscreant would bribe his or her siblings by offering to do the chores, such as feeding the calves, throwing down hay or washing the milk pails—anything to prevent Ma and Pa from hearing that we had misbehaved in school. We feared their punishment much more than we did anything the teacher meted out to us!
An advantage of having eight grades in one room was the remarkable remedial learning that took place. Older pupils who had not completely mastered phonetic sounds did so as they watched the first- and second-graders in their chairs at the front of the room, practice these sounds. This was true for the older students who had not completely learned basic arithmetic processes such as fractions or long division. They had another opportunity to learn as they watched these being worked out on the board by other grades.
The basic subjects of reading, writing and arithmetic were learned well, and most of the children graduated from eighth grade quite proficient in these skills. The curriculum was enriched by the beauty of words from Longfellow, Whittier and other great writers, recited by the older students and the teacher. Picture study featured works by famous artists. These studies introduced respect for poetry, books and art. Phy ed was a subject not heard of nor was it necessary. Everyone, including the teacher, walked to school, and the children had many physically demanding chores to do at home. At school, they played vigorously at games of ball, on the teeter-totters or on the stride that had rings to which one clung and ran as rapidly as possible until enough speed had been generated to allow one to swing in a wide circle.
There are hundreds of people, now middle-aged and older still living in central Wisconsin who attended schools similar to the White School. Throughout the country, it is no exaggeration to say that thousands of people attended such schools and credit them with not only teaching them their basic lesson so well, but with also teaching the invaluable life lessons of personal responsibility, discipline, hard work, honesty and respect for authority.
The bell summoning the children pealed for the last time in 1960. The memories it holds tug at the heart strings of those who once responded to the tolling of the bell.
Ledger Legends from the White School by Emily Fijalkiewicz
They lie on the table before me—two large, black ledgers from the one room, rural school located north of Withee in Clark County. They cover the years from the inception of the school in 1907 until 1951. The district clerk meticulously recorded all items pertaining to the efficient management of the school, including the purchase of a broom for 35 cents in 1908.
The pages are brittle, the entries fading but legible, as is the ledger’s name stamped in gold on the spines of the books. Their pages speak to us of the dedication, responsibility and pride felt for their school by the board members and the people of the community they served.
Many of the children attending the school had immigrant parents, from various European countries, who could neither read nor write. In the countries from which they had come, only the well-to-do could afford the cost of sending their children to school so they were deeply appreciative and thankful for the free education their children were receiving and gladly paid the low taxes necessary for the operation of ‘their’ school. They greatly respected the school board members and the teachers responsible for educating their children.
Electricity came to the school and the area in 1939, with the school paying $4.00 for a membership fee to Clark Electric with the electric bill for the year $22.00. Income tax withholding began in 1943 with the school board paying the teacher’s tax. WWII brought a Victory tax in that year, costing the school $8.70. A subscription to the Marshfield paper in 1935 cost $2.00.
The school was filled to capacity for the annual meetings in July. Recurring expenditures such as salaries of school board members and teacher’s salary were determined but the items of greatest interest were the letting of bids for jobs necessary for the maintenance of the school. These included a monthly cleaning of the school room, supplying the fire wood, cutting the grass on the grounds plus other additional tasks with the bid let to the LOWEST bidder. Every extra dollar was very important to the successful bidder. (My seventh-grade brother, Edmond, arranged with his teacher to start the furnace fires for $1.00 a week, riding a horse to school very early in the morning, tethering his horse to the woodshed, starting the fire, returning home and stabling the horse, eating breakfast and then joining his siblings for the walk to school.) There was competition for every task but there was no competition for the necessary, vital job of emptying the toilet holding tank installed in 1933 after the outdoor toilets were sold for $5.00 and gravity, indoor toilets installed. It was a distasteful, malodorous, lengthy task and, from 1933 until 1951, the bid was always awarded to a German immigrant by the name of Sigmund Lentz. He was of medium height and build and very strong.
School over for the summer, Sigmund hitched his team to his stone boat, a wooden, low sledge designed for easing the clearing of rocks from a farmer’s fields. Onto this, he loaded four fifty- gallon barrels and a long pole to which he would attach a large bucket. This arrangement allowed him to manipulate and fill the bucket, raise it to the surface and empty the ordure into the barrels. Prior to beginning, Sigmund had to crank the agitator attached to the basement tank until the contents were blended, a strenuous job made much easier in 1939 with the coming of electricity and an electric-powered motor used to agitate the tank. Back to the stone boat, Sigmund lifted the heavy, cement cover of the tank, which was 36” in diameter, and began his reeking task. Once the tank was empty, he replaced the cement cover, drove home, where he attached 4” hoses to the drain plugs at the bottom of the barrels and with his tea, pulled the waste-laden barrels onto his fields were the effluvium was deposited. Sigmund was paid $10.00 for this work for many years, and by 1951, he received $20.00 for this very distasteful, but very necessary work. In 1951, a well was drilled, a septic tank and flush toilets installed, bringing a thankful end to 18 years of Sigmund’s foul, well-done duty.
(Acknowledgements to my brothers Emil and Edmond Rohland of Withee who supplied many of the details of this story, and to Edmond for seeing to it that these ledgers are safely preserved at the Withee library, and to the Withee library for the extended use of these ledgers.)
White School harmonica
band among best
His name is Emil. He is 6 years old and in first grade at the White School. It’s the early 1930’s.
His brother Albert is in eighth grade and belongs to the school’s harmonica band. Emil wishes nothing more than to become a member of the band.
Most of the schools in the county had such bands. School boards supplied the instruments to teachers, and band members paid 25 cents to the teacher for their harmonicas, a sum that often was difficult for parents to pay.
Emil loved his teacher, Miss M.
“Emil,” she said, “you make take this harmonica home with you. Learn to play two songs over the weekend and you will be in the band.”
Instructions for playing the harmonica were simple. Sheets for each song had symbols for “blow and suck.” Emil blue and sucked through the weekend. On Monday morning, he played his two songs for Miss M. He was in the band.
He still has the Marine Band harmonica his teacher gave him, as well as several other harmonicas (mouth organs), won as prizes or purchased.
Every year, competitions were held at the county seat at Neillsville to select the best harmonica band. Eliminations were held, and the White School Band was chosen for the county competition. This was especially exciting because the band would go to the “far-off” city of Neillsville.
The boys were to wear white pants and shirt with a red cape. It’s not certain what the girls wore, but it might have been white skirts and blouses with red capes. His teacher supplied the white pants for Emil and wanted to help him try them on. He was too embarrassed to have his teacher do this. His brother Albert and another older student, Paul, helped him into the perfectly fitting pants. The White School Harmonica Band won the competition that year as well as in many following years. The older members received beautiful chromatic harmonicas as prizes. Medals also were won, but their whereabouts at this time are unknown.
Miss P. (now Mrs. R.) recalls being in the harmonica band at the White School in the 1920s. She remembers the competitions at Neillsville very well for these reasons: the White School Band took first place, the rare and exciting ride to Neillsville and the deep disappointment and hurt she experienced because her parents had been unable to pay the 25 cents for her instrument and thus she could not be given a wonderful harmonica such as the others had received. Such hurts last for decades and still can bring tears to one’s eyes.
During the 1930s and ‘40s, we listened weekly to a radio program called “Let’s Sing.” It was a School of the Air program produced and broadcast from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Every fall, new song books arrived at school with notes and lyrics of songs from countries all over the world, including our own.
Once a week, the radio would be turned on and the theme song heard: “Sing, sing the whole day through, don’t let your troubles trouble you, a song will always see you through, so sing, let’s sing.” And sing we did. When this writer was in school, Professor Gorden was the wonderful host of the program.
Accompanied by students enrolled in the music program, these folk and other songs were introduced, their origins and meanings explained and then we sang for the half-hour of the program. We sang from these books daily. Reflecting on this program, it is so impressive, even awesome, to think of the research that was done about these songs, followed by the preparation of the books and their distribution to rural schools.
There was a period of time when phonograph records were used to introduce children to the various instruments of an orchestra. A record would be played by the teacher and the children would be asked to identify the featured instrument. The radio and the phonograph played a vital role in bringing musical knowledge to the rural schools of Wisconsin. The White School and music ended decades ago, but in the hearts and minds of those who were there, the memories and melodies linger.
Marshfield News-Herald, April 28, 2011
Contributed by Emily Fijalkiewicz of Greenwood. Emil mentioned in this column is Fijalkiewicz’s brother, Emil Rohland of Withee.
(Click to enlarge)
Row 1 (farthest to left) 1. Arnie Erickson, 2. Marvin Hanson, 3. Kathy Thompson, 4. Skip Klabon, 5. Judy Sphoffer, 6., Dennis Galarowicz, 7. Louise Rohland
Row 2 1.Terry Rohland, 2. Allen Stark, 3. Maynard Purgett, 4. Judy Rohland, 5. Duane Klabon, 6. Karen Erickson, 7. Dolly ?
Row 3 1. Jim Lencz, 2. Mike Purgett, 3. Cheryl Rohland, 4. Carl Thorne, 5. Tom Galarowicz, 6. Christine Rohland
Row 4 1. Donald Siggelkow, 2. ? Purgett, 3. Dennis Rohland, 4. Ginger Schopfer, 5. Janet Karol
Ella Zielinski, Teacher
Front Row (across) 1. Laurl Klabon, 2. Patty Rohland, 3. Mike Rohland, 4. Pauline Olson, 5. Elaine Rohland
Second Row: 1. Jimmy Schindler, 2. Greg Rohland, 3. Rodney Satonica, 4. Tom Rohland, 5. Arlene ? 6. Brenda Rohland, 7. John Topson, 8. Kenny Galarowicz, 9. Marvin Mengel, 10. Floyd Olson, 11., Jeff Bartosiak
Third Row: 1. Mark Klabon, 2. Teresa Rohland, 3. Gloria Rose, 4. Judy Rosco, 5. Frieda Stark, 6. Darcy Rohland, 7. David J?, 8. Carolyn Hines, 9. Gary Baum, 10. Wayne Satonica
Teacher: Mr. Briski
Special thanks to Emil and Ed Rohland for the above two photos.
Where did this photo come from?
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