Copyright 2004 By Bob Hibbs
Saturday August 28, 2004 

Postcard 259: Hoover School Marking Its Semi-centennial


hoover school

Hoover principal Marilyn Wirtz poses with an image of the school namesake taken as he entered the school 

for its dedication 50 years ago. Social studies teacher Lorraine Whittington and an upper unit 5-6 class wave 

school greetings. Photos and collage by the author.


By Bob Hibbs

Six acres of Fairall-Dunlap horse and cow pasture was transformed 50 years ago into the site of Hoover Elementary School on the southeast doorstep of Iowa City High School.

Former U.S. President Herbert Hoover, a West Branch native who headed an American relief effort in Europe after World War I credited with sparing lives and misery, was on hand to dedicate his namesake school. Today an image of the 31st president entering the school hangs in its vestibule.

The 1929-33 Hoover presidential term spanned the stock market crash that sparked disastrous unemployment during the Great Depression, the sentencing of gangster Al Capone to prison and the Nazis rise to power in Germany. Amelia Earhart was the first woman to solo the Atlantic Ocean in 1932.

The Hoover School media center houses audio tape of President Hoover’s dedication remarks of Aug. 10, 1954, Hoover’s 80th birthday and a decade before his death. Efforts are currently underway to transfer the remarks onto electronic media to enhance access.

 Carl Chadek, 94-year-old City High alum of 1928, remembers the pasture. He delivered newspapers at the Fairall home which still exists with a Dunlap Court address.

Chadek earned a nickel a week for each of his 28 deliveries, except his pay was only four cents if the subscriber paid at the office, eliminating need to collect each Saturday morning.

Fairall was a common local family name a century ago. George Fairall was the East Lucas Township assessor in 1900, although the property was listed in the name Ellen Fairall, perhaps a wife or mother. There are 10 Fairall listings in the 1922 directory; 12 in 1900; but, none today.

The property was owned subsequently for many years by implement dealer Mike Dunlap, for whom the street serving the farmstead home is named.

Hoover School was expanded and updated in 1958, 1968 and 1986. It’s now seventh oldest among currently used facilities after Mann and Longfellow (both 1918), Lincoln (1926), Roosevelt (1932), City High (1939) and Coralville Central (1948). Twain also was opened in 1954.

Just three principals have served during most of Hoover’s existence, including the current, Marilyn Wirtz, now in her 13th year. The late Richard Hughes served 21 years beginning in 1962, and Guerin Thompson six from 1983.

Now serving nearly 300 early childhood through six graders, Hoover enrollment ballooned beyond 600 during the late 1960s as four temporary structures handled the load before Lemme was opened in 1970. Hoover was the largest local elementary during the 1969-70 school year.

The Iowa City School District was first organized July 14, 1853, by a new city council which appointed a committee to operate it. First principal was Henry Lathrop at a salary of $450 annually, succeeded within months by Samuel Spurrier at $400.

The Mechanics Academy located along Linn Street just north of Iowa Avenue was leased for five years for $250 annually. Within a year district enrollment reached 155 pupils in four classes; an average class size of 39.

Three ward schools were completed in 1858, each costing $8,125, buildings which were used well into the 20th century. That same year a school board was elected to succeed the council’s committee in supervising the district.

Hoover School semi-centennial events are spaced through the school year, culminating next spring. Students already have made a large hand-print backdrop now displayed in the media center and shared birthday cake Thursday. Intercom school history quizzes are planned and Hoover descendants will be invited to visit.

Anyone with Hoover School memories or historic images is encouraged to submit them to the principal for a “memory book” in anticipation of the school’s 2054 centennial.

After all, that’s just a moment away when current Hoover students will be approaching retirement age.

Next Saturday: Body snatching from Iowa City’s Oakland Cemetery.

Bob Hibbs collects local postcards and other historic ephemera and researches history related to them. 

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