School programs were often the highlights of the school year – a chance for parents and neighbors to get together and for students to show what they had learned, and even a chance to take a class picture. Stanley Jensen went to a two-room school with about nine grades. He says the school was a vital part of the community and remembers that students put on plays and programs.
The Federal Writers Project noted the importance of schools within the social fabric of the rural community in their Guide to Nebraska.
“In small communities, especially, a good deal of recreational activity has been weakened somewhat in late years [the 1930s] by the radio, the movies, and the ease of getting into an automobile and driving to other towns. But it still remains for the schools to supply about the only stage entertainment that the average farmer or small-towner sees from one year’s end to another – the junior and senior class plays – and the school picnic usually held on the last day before vacation is a scrambled hilarious affair for parents and pupils both, leaving the school grounds littered with no end of paper plates, sandwich crusts, bits of deviled eggs, and other scraps.”
In Muskogee County Oklahoma and other communities, a pie supper was a chance for everybody to get together, socialize and raise a little money for the school district. All of the women in the district baked pies and cakes, which were auctioned off.
May Ross (above right) was a teacher at the school and has “a vague recollection of winning” the Prettiest Gal Contest. She was honored to be elected, even though she didn’t think she was the prettiest. Later May got married and became May Ross Lincoln. She left teaching and moved to Oklahoma City.
Herman Goertzen remembers school programs at Christmas and a school picnic in May at the close of the school year. He remembers children lining up in front of the one-room schoolhouse to have their class picture taken. The best part of the year-end picnic (besides the fact that school was out) was the ice cream. “Everybody in the district… came together for the picnic,” Herman says. “We had our softball games and tag and games that we played, food and ice cream.” On a hot day at the end of the school year, ice cream was a treat for children, parents, and teachers.
Herman also has many memories of the games he played in grade school. He says they played lots of softball at the May picnics, but his favorite game was running races. He and a classmate always competed for first and second place in footraces. At picnics, children also played Pom Pom Pullaway. Herman explains that in this game, two teams on either side of the school yard. Some one is “it,” and is caught in the middle. “And they’d try to catch them and tag them and get them out.”
Written by Claudia Reinhardt and Bill Ganzel, the Ganzel Group. First written and published in 2003.