Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Memories of Sunrise School

Typical Old Brick School House
By Delores Miller

In the fall of 1944, me, a shy little six-year old girl with long braids, new home made dress, and leather shoes trotted off to Sunrise School, almost two miles north down the long road in Dupont.  I had visited the year before when brother Wilbert was in eighth grade, with Miss Jean Kopitzke as teacher.  She was kind to me, even though I fidgeted and twitched and babbled.  She let me sit next to her on a brown rounded back chair while she was tutoring.  Gave me coloring sheets to keep me occupied.  I never forgot her tact and kindness.

Anne Fox followed Miss Kopitzke and stayed at Sunrise for six years.  Other first graders were Raymond Draeger, Barbara Schwan, Hilda Riske, Manfred Poppe and Me.  Manfred left for warmer  Arizona after two years but the four of us  twelve years later graduated from Marion High School.

This was a happy  brick school with as many as thirty students in all eight grades.  The bell tower and the honor of getting to pull the rope.  The mysterious attic and being sent on an errand amongst the mice and dust and ghosts of past students. The library.  Lunch boxes with a thermos smelling of stale milk, perennial baseball.  Games of cops and robbers, tag, crack the whip, hide and seek, leap frog, anty over the school house, red rover, snow forts, snowmen, king on the mountain, sledding, swings, merry go round, flag pole.

Snow was so much deeper and days colder.  Card parties, picnics, the screech and shriek of chalk, the smell of clean blackboards, pounding the erasers.  The outside water pump, the bubbler, the finicky wood and coal furnace that often backfired with the register in the middle of the floor.  Smelly outhouses.  Lunch outdoors in spring and fall under the box elder and cedar trees. Trading lunches.  I liked a fried Spam sandwich. 

Halloween, Valentines Day with the big Christmas entertainment.  Sunrise had a built-in stage for our program.  In those early days, before the end of World War Two, no electricity and real candles on the tree which someone donated.  Paper chains made with construction paper and glue made of flour and water.  Virginia Miller played piano for the program.   Most of the songs came from the 'Golden Book of Favorite Songs'. Virginia also gave private piano lessons, I went, had no talent but blustered on anyhow.  Other students took accordion lessons and played at the Christmas program.  As an art project, we made gifts for our parents, and Santa made an appearance handing out a brown bag of candy and fruit.  Oh how good that tasted.

Selling Easter and Christmas Seals.  Gathering milk weed pods for the war effort to be made into parachutes.  The clock on the north wall, flanked by windows and squeezed between George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and General Pershing.  Varnished hardwood floors, rubber hectograph duplicating machine, goiter pills, small pox vaccinations, the fear of polio, mumps, measles, chicken pox, goiter pills.

Drowning gophers for the nickel bounty.  Weekly Readers to keep us up-to-date on World affairs,  round world globe suspended from the ceiling.  Rolled maps. Educational radio  programs from the Wisconsin School of the Air from Madison, the dreaded Ranger Mac and Professor Gordon for Music.  Art and Science.  Boxes of State lending library books, my favorite was Hiawatha. No such thing as learning disabilities in those days.  Everyone learned and made us what we are today.  Franklin Roosevelt felt like God to us, along with the  visits from Mrs Amundson, the county supervisor, who sneaked in once a month.  Bib overalls, union suits, brown cotton stockings, garter belts, bloomers, mash bag dresses, leather shoes, four buckle goulashes, wet dirty wool mittens, socks and caps. 

Quarterline Cheese Factory just down the road to the east with Harold and Elda Brown as cheese makers.   Pupils would grab a handful of cheese curds from the vats on the way home from school.  Oh how good they tasted sprinkled with salt.

Shortly after Marvin and Dawn Hintz  were married in 1949 they opened their home  in a displaced family from Latvia.  Latvia, on the Baltic Sea in Europe was taken over by the Communists after the Second World War.   The Garins and their children who at that time could speak no English, Nora, Maija, Egils and Arnis.   They quickly acclimated to Dupont and Sunrise School  Very intelligent. They lingered for about five years at Sunrise and then drifted to other Latvians near Milwaukee and were never heard from again.  By that time Esther Miller was teaching.

Sunrise was one of four schools in Dupont, Maple Valley, Pioneer and Lake Michael.  Dupont was six miles square, and the theory was no student would have to walk more than three miles to school.

In 1917 the State of Wisconsin deemed brick schools to be built to replace the wooden ones.  Records show that $210 was spent to purchase 26,000 bricks.  Thirty cords of rock and stone were hauled for the basement walls.  Manual labor was provided by farmers with their horses and wagons.  A dollar a day they were paid.  Hankey and Nehring did most of the carpentry work.  Total cost for the building projet came to $4189.69.  At first a pot bellied heater was used, and in 1928 the new  pipeless furnace was installed at a cost of $288.15.  This edifice served hundreds of students in it's  almost fifty years of education purposes.

And then it was time for us 8th graders in the spring of 1952 to leave Sunrise for the Big High School in Marion and life was never the same for us innocent students of Sunrise School.

Copyright 2013, Delores and Russell Miller

 Delores Miller lives with husband Russell in Hortonville, Wisconsin.    In the summer of 2007 they  celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a party hosted by their five children and ten grandchildren.  It’s been a long road.  Dairy farming until retirement in 1993, they continued to 'work' the land, making a subdivision of 39 new homes on their former hay fields.

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