Countless memories crammed into tiny, one-room schoolhouse

“School days, school days, good old golden rule days.” That ditty has been bouncing through my head recently. Perhaps it is because I ran across an old picture from the Marion Advertiser that appeared on March 4, 1993. It shows all of the students of Excelsior School, town of Larrabee, Waupaca County, with the teacher, Mrs. Gertrude Brietenfeldt. She is standing by a window, and all of the students are seated in desks.

I am not sure what year the photo was taken, or what grade I was in. Most of the students have some sort of smile. But not me; I am staring stoically into the camera. That one-room school was scary to me. The older students would tease me, and while they probably didn’t mean anything, I was shy and scared. I did have my brother as a buffer for me, and that helped.

I am not quite sure what happened to that shy, quiet girl. Grew up, I suppose — although, I can still be shy and quiet in a room full of strangers.

Getting back to the picture, the room looks smaller than I recall. I see a water pail in the back of the room, and remember using a dipper to get a drink of water. I can see the door to the cloakroom, where our coats and lunch pails were kept. The student desks are wooden and arranged in rows.

I remember, when Christmas drew near, our teacher would put together a Christmas program, complete with music and a play. The school was busting out with parents and other family members. Santa would magically arrive at the end of the program to hand out paper bags of treats and small gifts for everyone.

The girls are all wearing dresses, and most of the boys have on plaid shirts. Funny how plaid has become popular again. In all, there are 18 students of varying ages and abilities, and somehow one teacher managed to teach them all.

Because of my shyness, I never wanted to go outside for recess; however, Mrs. Brietenfeldt insisted that I go out. I didn’t have a baseball glove, so if they were playing that, I would go in the outfield. But if the ball came my way, I would jump back and let it fall.

The playground also contained a merry-go-round and swings. I recall several other games, such as tag and fox and goose. The boys would play marbles while the girls would jump rope or play hop scotch. We would also play “Button, Button, Whose Got the Button?” and “Anti-Anti-Over.”

There were no bus routes to pick us up. Instead we would walk from our farm to go to school. It was 9/10ths of a mile for my brother and I — and it really was uphill both ways — but the biggest hill was on our way to school. On nice spring days, we were known to dawdle along the way, in no particular hurry, unless it was maple season. Then our feet would seemingly fly over the gravel road to help Pa gather sap.

I attended there from first through fifth grade, and then my brother and I went to St Martin’s Lutheran School in Clintonville. We had to be driven there and back. The Excelsior stayed open a few years past that, but this way my brother and I could take our confirmation classes in school.

The Excelsior building still stands, on the corner of Graetz and Magolski roads. I go past it now and then when I visit family or friends in the old neighborhood.