Ruth Ann Cleveringa Van Donslear Memories of Baker 5 School

Ruth Ann Cleveringa, Glenda Reekers, maybe Martin Rozeboom and teacher,Miss Opal Bussanmas.
Front row-3 unknowns, Eleanor Blankers and Lucille Sundquist with the black hair.


What is your favorite food? Why is it your favorite food? Baked, mashed, riced, and fried with or without butter or gravy, russets, Yukon gold, Idaho's, sweet- You guessed it. Potatoes, my favorite food. Why? During my school days at Baker No. 5. O'Brien, County, Iowa our teacher Opal Bussanmas treated us every day with a baked potato. She had a big garden and brought them to be baked in the furnace. When we were ready for dinner, (lunch) (that&339;s what we called it on the farm 72 years ago.) we would get out our lunch pail and she would add our special addition, a potato with butter.
We had a great Country school experience.

Glenda Reekers

I started kindergarten in the fall of 1943 at Baker No. 5, O'Brien County, Iowa in a class of 2. My classmate Glenda was born on July 15 so was 5 when school started, I was born on September 29 so I was 4 plus. At first we were intimidated by the big kids but we each had an older sibling to watch out for us so we felt secure and joined right in the recess fun. We had all grades from kindergarten through 8th grade. Sometimes our teacher Opal Bussanmas would call a couple of classes to recite together. We could always listen to older students recite and wow what you could learn. My sister, Vera, had taught me how to read before school started so I had an advantage. We would get worksheets where you would cut and paste. Ms.Bussanmas gave me the leeway to help Glenda with her work and read with her. We were best buds and a team.
On one occasion we cut our words and a draft of wind blew them down the furnace register. We were afraid to tell Ms.Bussanmas so we simply printed in the words. At the next recitation we were praised for being creative. At our 50th class reunion when it was Glenda's turn to speak she credited me with teaching her to read. She said, "That's why Ruth Ann became a teacher and I rode my horse across Michigan and rounded up cattle in Wyoming."
Glenda was given a pony named Babe when she was 8. Glenda lived mile north of my farm so she would ride to my home, I would climb on behind her, hang on and ride to school. She would slap Babe and tell her to go home. Her mother Dena would send Babe back to pick us up and we would ride home.
We spent many hours together playing in our barns, groves, and in the creek, spring, summer, fall and winter. We both fell in one time when we tried to walk on ice. We were crying as we hurried home to get dry clothes and a firm reprimand. When we entered 4th grade we went to town school where we had 35 students in our 4th and 5th grade classroom with one teacher. SCARY! We rode the bus and sat together.
We always had a special bond. Glenda died in 2014 and my heart ached on hearing of her passing. She remains to this day my first really good friend.

The Lost Boots

One cold, blustery, morning my sister Vera and I walked briskly a fourth of a mile to our one room school house Baker N. 5. It had snowed, as it often does in northwest Iowa in January. We were carrying our lunch pails as we would be eating at school at noon. Upon arriving we removed our rubber overshoes and lined them up right outside the entry door. We entered our classroom and took our assigned seats to wait for Ms. Bussanmas to call our school to order. Ms. Bussanmas was a tall, beautiful, single lady that had complete control of all situations. She lived with her mother and two brothers one half mile south of the school. This morning she seemed a little agitated. After our usual pledge of allegiance she announced that her rubber overshoes were missing and she would like them returned promptly.
I saw Vera grimace and I knew she was thinking the same thing I was. Our puppy Tippy always followed us to school and was always admonished to go home. But did she-a question we wondered about right now. We knew she was mischievous as some things at home had disappeared also. After school Vera said, "We are going to walk home through the fields and hope we find those boots." I agreed and we began to trudge through the plowed field looking for our teacher's boots.
Much to our delight Vera spotted a boot. Feeling optimistic we were sure we would find that other one but to no avail. No boot-we told our parents and my dad said, "You had better walk through the field again in the morning and look closely." We tried but no boot! That afternoon we trekked through the field again- still no boot. My dad said to tell Miss Bussanmas he would be bringing her a new pair of overshoes. Spring came, snow melted and we found the missing boot under the lilac bush in our front yard. Tippy-Oh Tippy!

Special Things about our school

Miss Bussanmas at Baker No. 5 believed students should study had but also have fun. She had board games set up like Monopoly and Checkers. She had a puzzle going we could work on. Our library seemed big as we could always find a good book. We had hopscotch patterns on our basement floor. We had a phonograph that was played often and had a place to go with something fun to do.
Once a month Mrs. Mann, the county Superintendent would come and bring a different set of records. We were always happy to see her.
Christmas programs were an important part of our year. We made invitations for our parents and then the work began. We each had an important part in our program. It included music, recitations, a play, lunch and gifts for our parents. We prepared the audience area, got the food ready and made sure our gifts were finished.
I still have the square tablecloth I made by pulling threads to fray a piece of cotton. On that cloth we painted birds. Mine happens to be rose but other colors were available. When I think back it was an amazing production. When I became a teacher I found myself doing many things I remembered doing at Baker No 5. It was a wonderful way to start ones educational experience.
A great teacher leaves an impression and can influence many generations.


At my school, No. 5 O'Brien County, Iowa. Miss Bussanmas ruled with an iron hand. Everyone knew who was in charge. Even the older kids had a fear of her. One of her forms of punishment was sending students to stand in the corner facing the wall. Glenda and I were working on a project and we started laughing. I can't remember what was so funny, I just remember laughing and all of sudden "Girls you will each go to the corners and face the wall, standing up straight. I don't remember how long we stood but we were embarrassed. At recess the big kids were taunting us for being naughty. This only happened once, but that was enough.


Our noon hour was one hour long. This would be our lunch time as well as play time. Our school ground was one acre square. The Baker No. 5 School was located near the top middle of the acre. Our well was in the southeast corner of our school ground. Every morning two of us were sent to get a fresh pail of water. One would hold the pail, other person would pump. On Mondays we usually had to prime the pump with the remaining water. The reason for priming the pump was that the leather in the pump dried out and a vacuum formed inside the cylinder and the prime was lost. After a successful prime our pail would be full of fresh cold water. The well was about 20 to 24 inches wide and approximately 40 feet deep.
We had an enamel pail, which we all used. I wonder what the health department would think of that today.
At recess we would play tag but my favorite was Red Rover, Red Rover send _________ right over. I was too young to ever break through the hand barrier so I tried to crawl under or jump over.
In the winter we played Fox and Goose. Our teacher would make a large circle in the fresh snow and cut it in 8 pieces with the free space in the middle. It was amazing that all students would respect this design and the only thing that would ruin our Fox and Goose area was the melting of the snow.
We built snow forts with the girls against the boys. Some times after school my sister, Vera, and I would return to school and make extra snowballs so we were prepared for the next day&339;s snowball fight.
One year there was water in the ditch that froze and we would skate in the ditch. One day Glenda and I were skating and I fell in and got soaked. I started crying and ran for home. Glenda told Ms.Bussanmas . I went home and would be back when I got dry clothes. My mother had little sympathy as she helped me with dry clothes and told me to stay away from thin ice.

World War II

Our school Baker No. 5, O&339;Brien County, Iowa helped with the World War 2 effort. Milkweed pods provided a silky substance that was used for life jackets for our pilots. A milkweed plant has a slick stem with wide leaves.
On arriving at school one fall morning we were told that all recitations would take place in the morning and we would spend the afternoon walking in the ditches to secure pods from the milk weed. We were so excited to have the afternoon off. Miss Bussanmas offered a prize to the team of two with the fullest gunny sack. We all took off going in different directions from the school.
Glenda and I played around the creek a lot so we headed there because we had seen a lot of mildewed growing there. We hustled to get there first and filled our bag and then took our time getting back to school. I do not remember if we got a prize but we had a fun afternoon. As I got older my dad made me pull milkweeds out of our fields and I was not as excited about dealing with them as that was considered work.

Clothing for Country School

Every fall as the weather cooled my grandma Annie, my dad&339;s mother, who lived about ten miles from our home would come with our long brown cotton stockings and our garter belt. Ugh!
She insisted we wear the ugly things under our dresses.
Our dresses were made from the feed sacks our chicken feed came in. My mother would try to choose pretty patterns. Our sewing machine was humming many a night after we went to bed.
Getting back to the garter belt. It was a harness like item with the metal holder that was attached to a long fabric that reached down the front and back of your leg. To fasten the stockings which seemed to get shorter with every washing one would have to reach behind your posterior and fasten this two piece holder to the top of the stocking. Invariably the connector would turn and it would take another twist and turn to finally hook everything together only to have it snap open and the stocking would bag.
If we complained grandma would decide we just needed a new garter belt and she would promptly buy another and we would pass ours down to a younger sister. I was number two of five. I am not sure when we finally gave the garter belts up but I know I was very happy.

Snap My Girdle

My cousin David and his family came to visit at our home for several days. He had just turned 5 but was not in school. He begged and begged to attend school with me. I asked Miss Bussanmas if he could visit and she said, "Fine, as long as her behaves himself." So the next morning he was excited to go to school. The morning went great; he was entertained by all the activity. Lunch was fine. Recess was great.
Afternoon recitations started and I could tell David was getting restless out of the clear blue he shouted, "Snap my girdle and call me Myrtle." I was mortified, and Miss Bussanmas had had it. She sternly said, "You and your cousin need to go home right now."
So we sheepishly left and headed home. David was apologizing but I said, "It' okay, we will go home and play."
On arriving home the adults wanted to know what happened. After relaying the story I saw snickering from my parents and Dave's dad, his mother was trying to explain you don&339;t say those things in school.
Wasn't long and David was fast asleep and I had the afternoon off. Next year-new policy, "No visitors allowed."
I certainly knew why.


In 2016 Ruth Ann got to visit her school again. It has been moved 12 miles to Sheldon, Iowa and is being restored. She saw the old record player. It is in the closet but she said it belongs on the east wall. She donated a desk she has that came from the school.

O'Brien County Iowa Genealogy - The IAGenWeb Project