Ann and I were invited to address the Richland Area Retired Educators Association in Richland Center on Thursday of this past week at the White House Ramada Restaurant. We started out with a mighty fine brunch at 9:30 AM with sausage, bacon, eggs, sliced fruits and many pastry delights.
The theme of our PowerPoint talk was Teaching in the Wisconsin One-Room Country School. Many of the teacher retirees, mostly women, attended a one-room school and later taught in a one-room school. Most got their training and teaching certificate at Normal Schools in either Viroqua or Richland Center or Reedsburg.
We discussed the hardships of the rural school teacher in the 1940s and 1950s. The low pay, the multitude of classes to teach, the janitorial duties, finding housing, the poverty, and the isolation.
But also the joys and satisfactions of being in charge, of making a difference in children’s lives, of earning a living on their own. Many of these young ladies had good teachers when they attended the one-room country schools. “I want to be like my teacher” was a common sentiment.
Another young teacher said “My teacher told me that I could be a good teacher. She encouraged me. I learned later that she talked to my folks. Dad and Mom wanted me to stay on the farm until I got married. I wanted that, but I wanted more.”
Slides in our PowerPoint depicted my own background. The Scheckel people came from Luxembourg in the 1850s and settled in the Bellevue and Springbrook area of Northeast Iowa. This, of course, led to questions of “Are you related to Monsignor Scheckel?” And the answer is yes, he is my first cousin, one generation removed. Monsignor Roger Scheckel’s grandfather, Arnold, and my father, Alvin, were brothers. Msgr Scheckel is pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Richland Center.
We talked about visits by the County Superintendent and County nurse, the goiter pills, the floor sweeping compound, the Basket Social, Christmas program, and end-of-the-year picnic, the games of softball, Annie Over, snowball fights, sledding, the Dick and Jane series, the flashcards, the Palmer method of penmanship, and running off sheets on the hectograph tablet.
We sneaked in some slides of life on the farm in the 1940 and 1950s. Farming with horses, haying season, shocking oats, threshing, shredding corn, milking cows by hand, cutting wood with a crosscut saw, gathering walnuts, drowning out gophers, firecrackers on the Fourth of July, chased by the sheep buck, and butchering hogs and beef.
Ann and I had fine conversations with the retirees, we sold and signed a few books. Seneca Seasons: A Farm Boy Remembers and science books Ask A Science Teacher, and Ask Your Science Teacher.
We motored back to Tomah amid the blazing Fall colors and rich farm fields of Richland, Juneau, and Monroe County.