West River Ridge was about 1/8th mile north of the Coal Ridge Church on S71. Sometimes this school was called the Coal Ridge but in the official records it is always called West River Ridge. The building is gone but some of its trees are still visible on what is now government ground.

Bonnie Jean Nichols Gruenhopt taught several terms here as well as in other country schools. She graduated from high school at age 16 and began her teaching career at age 17. She was hired at West River Ridge shortly after her dad Robert Nichols became a director there. Discipline had become lax. For example students were jumping out windows instead of using the door and he was anxious to restore order. Bonnie did restore order and also had the unusual experience of teaching her younger siblings.

I talked with Bonnie and three of her former students. Dixie Simmons Feagins said that all Bonnie had to do was snap her fingers at you and you knew you were in trouble. She remembers Bonnie taking them to the Sadie Hawkins Day parade in Knoxville where they all dressed as characters in the Lil Abner comic strip.

Both Dixie and Bonnie mentioned the fun of sledding in winter. They would skip recess time to allow for a longer noon hour for sledding. In the afternoon the smell of wet wool mittens drying near the stove would fill the air.

Because there was so much poison ivy on the school yard, the students liked to play in the dirt of the steep banks that led to the school, sometimes sneaking down the road to hide under the buck brush hanging over the banks. During the war years Dixie remembers walking the roads to gather milk weed pods and the pot of government commodity beans heating on the coal stove.

Jim Bailey also mentioned the fun of sledding, especially when one of his other teachers would allow them to stay out until 3 pm. A memorable incident occurred one afternoon as he was walking home from school teasing one of the Laird girls as usual. She took him down and literally rubbed his nose in horse manure. The five Bailey siblings all attended this school.

Colleen Kingery Haug walked through the fields to get to school. She remembers the boxes of raisins that were part of the war time commodities and the pie sales that were held to raise money for the school. Born in the early 30’s Colleen and I shared the common experience of having to wear long stockings to school. Both of us rolled them down after we got to school and rolled them back up before we went home.

Now in her 80’s, Grinnell resident Bonnie Gruenhopt remains active with volunteer work and belongs to three quilting groups. She has hand quilted 28 large size quilts. It’s hard for a once busy teacher to sit back and do nothing.

Here are the teachers from the official records: J. S. MCown 1878, Ella Moreyes, J. M. Karbedding 1886, Ollie Gelderbloom 1895, Maude Stuart 1898, Lulu Crosby, Belle Henby 1899, Eleanor Sullivan, Lizzie McKinney 1900, Leta Coster, Ada Wilcutt, W. J. Van Dyke 1902, Earl Duvey, Kate Dinwiddie 1903, Alma Poffenbarger, Mary Woody 1904, Lenora Hegwood, Walter Kester, Nellie Rogers 1905, Mrs. Mamie C. Smith, Kate Dinwiddie 1906, James Funk 1907, G. L. Hacker, Beatrice Johnson 1908, Tessie Everett, Angie Reese 1909, Angie Reese 1913, Clarence Jennison, Ruby Reese 1912, Loyd Rouze 1913, Grace Toom 1914, Ethel Logan 1915-16, Gladys Garnett 1917, Winefred Reese 1918, Opal Morgan 1919, Edna Neal 1920, Ruby Davis 1921, Clarence Rietveld 1922, Ruth Linscott 1923, Mr. Ruth Chivvers 1926, Mrs. Cleo Anderson 1927, Mable Bush 1926, Inez Neely 1929, Opal Morgan 1930, Frances Allen 1931-32, Frances Van Donselaar 1934-35, Otis A. Crozier 1934-35, Eula Emerson 1936-37, Mildred Ray 1938-39, Wanda Main, Beulah Hays 1940, Leah Hegwood 1941, Leah Karr 1942, Katheryne A. Metcalf 1943, Bonnie Jean Nichols 1944-45, Garneth Hill 1947, Bonnie Jean Nichols 1948-50, Bonnie Jean Nichols, Mrs. Leah Karr 1951, Mrs. Inez Dumville 1952, Gertrude McCoullough 1953, Ferol Chamberlain 1954-56

Please help write the stories for the rest of the country schools of Marion county. Call 641-628-4716 or e-mail helenboertje@iowatelecom.net

This Week's Circulars