Evergreen Elementary School west of Woodward, Iowa

Des Moines Township

This letter was written to Barbara and Bill by Great Grandmother Dorothy Bryant May 4, 1979:

Dallas County, Iowa
"When I was five years old, I started first grade in a one room school called Evergreen. That we had no kindergarten has been a terrific handicap to me. I never have been good at playing in sand piles. If I took kindergarten now, I probably would flunk!

Evergreen School had an average of 15 students during each of the eight years I attended. There was one teacher for all eight grades. Everyone had a fifteen minute recess twice a day and one hour to eat and play at noon. School started at 9 a.m. and was dismissed at 4 p.m. The upper grade students helped the lower grade students only when the teacher did not have the time. We usually were one BIG HAPPY FAMILY! My brother and I and two of our cousins spoke English. The remaining children were taught German by their parents before learning English.

Dallas County, IowaWe had a stove which burned coal and during the winter our parents would take turns sending something the teacher could warm up or cook on this stove. Soups and stews seemed to be the easiest for the teacher and the most popular of our hot lunches. The older children took turns carrying water from the closest farm house for us to drink and wash our hands in a basin. The teacher was the janitor and took care of maintenance, if possible. In not, the school board took care of the problem. The mothers in the school district scrubbed the school house sometime during the week before school started, so the teacher had a clean school to begin the school year. From then on, she was on her own.

All the children usually walked to school, although occasionally during nice weather, some of the older children rode their horses. Rarely did we miss a day of school because of the weather. However, if the weather was bad, our fathers would take us and pick us up. The first few years Dad used the horse and buggy, then the Model T Ford car, but if it was snowing, he used a sleigh pulled by horses.

Evergreen School was on a hill so in the winter we could slide down the hill; or ice skate on one of the two ponds; play fox and goose; or build forts and have snow ball fights.

In the fall there always was a huge abundance of dry grass in the school yard because the grass was not cut all during the summer months until a few days before school started. This was one time we appreciated the boys because in the fall they would put up supports for our play house and help us make a table and a few chairs from old boxes. Sometimes they would help us with the grass, if they were in the mood, but usually they were not in the mood. From our homes, we would bring cracked dishes and old discarded pans, etc., to help complete our play house.

Dallas County, IowaOnce a year we had a box social. A box social was a way to raise money to buy books for our little library, and if there was a little money left over, our teacher would buy a much-needed ball or bat, or maybe a piece of rope for a swing in a tree.

A box social was work for both the mothers and the children and their teacher. All the mothers fixed a nice lunch for two; packed it in a box, wrapped it in crepe paper and usually decorated it with crepe paper flowers. Somehow, the woman was expected to keep it out of sight while transporting the decorated box to school.  NO MALES WERE TO SEE THE BOXES! If there were any little girls in the family, their mothers fixed them boxes too. All boxes were auctioned (sold to the highest bidder). The men bought the women's boxes and the boys bought the girls' boxes. The person buying the box would eat lunch with the woman or girl who made the box lunch. It embarrassed some as you did not know who you would be eating with, but as a rule, it was real FUN thing.

Now the children did their part by having a program. Most of the children could dance the Polka because their families went to Polka dances. I did not know the dance, but between the teacher and Hansie Seeman, I was taught the polka and Hansie and I danced in the program by the music of a Polka band on our school phonograph. The packed school clapped, laughed, hollered and stomped their feet. Until recently, I had thought our dance was a failure and that they were making fun of us. In recent years, several people have mentioned to me how much they enjoyed our dance. I mentioned to Mother and Cousin Ruby one day that I thought Hansie and I had made fools of ourselves, and my mother said "No!" It was the cutest dance she had ever seen. (You know how mother are - sometimes!) Also, my Cousin Ruby mentioned that "your surely stole the show that night, and you would think the rest of us had done nothing to contribute to the program as all they talked about was Hansie and you."

One of the boys had a habit of teasing me on the way home. Finally I yelled at him, "You must hate me!" His reply was "If I hated you, I wouldn't be going to all this work!" From then on I considered him a good (?) friend and accepted (usually) his teasing as fun.

We had to pass a state examination before we could enter high school in town. All children in Iowa who were educated in the small country schools had to take hard exams before they could go to the high school in town.

Except for a few occasions, my days in the country school were happy day."

Janet Bryant's comments:
If Delia is the lady on the back row, then Ruby, and possibly Fern, are in the pictures. Ruth Ramsey said "the first lady on the left (back) row could be my Aunt Delia Peterson Miller." Dorothy's story says Ruby was at the school function when she and Hansie danced.

Dorothy also told me that before children from the country schools could go to the high school, they had to take a test (see Ruth's comments). They felt this was a big unfair, as the students in the elementary school in town did not have to take the test.

From Ruth Ramsey March, 2008:
"Dorothy mentions most spoke German and we lived in a German neighborhood. I didn't know that many German speaking kids that went to school with John and Dorothy. They were out of Evergreen school by the time I started.

I remember going to Dorothy's house and she would have her typewriter out in the process of writing another letter to the grandchildren. They are so interesting.

I loved Country school and was the one at my grade level until the 8th grade. A new family moved in with a boy my age and he was very smart. I had to pick up the pace a little, but I passed 8th grade with a flourish."

The two cousins mentioned in the story would be Marvel's brothers. As mentioned, Marvel Vernon Hawn, and Ruth Vernon Ramsey also attended Evergreen School.

Letter and photos submitted by Janet Bryant. If you are able to identify others in the photos, please let Janet and us know.

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