By Helen Boertje
Liberty school was located at the “T” intersection of Oregon Dr. and 165th Ave. on the South side of Oregon Dr. Former student Doug Wilson writes that when you came to the T intersection; you could have nearly driven through the front double doors.
According to a Knoxville Journal of May 1925 when Grace Robinson was the teacher; the Farm Bureau ladies gathered and surprised both pupils and teacher. “They brought well-filled baskets and helped with the weenie roast planned by the teacher at the noon hour. The men of the neighborhood; attracted; no doubt; by the delicious odor of the picnic dinner; came and an enjoyable time was had by all. The Board of directors showed appreciation by reemploying Miss Robinson.”
Doug Wilson wrote several pages of his personal memories of his school days including the names of many students who attended between 1920 till the school closed in the spring of 1958. Readers can find his entire story as well as several pictures of the school and its students
at the school house in the Marion County Historical Village.
Doug; who started to school in 1947; says that rather than walking two miles down the road; he often cut “catty-cornered” through the fields shortening the distance to one mile.
Although he was supposed to walk straight home; sometimes he stopped at the home of the Kelderman kids to listen to such radio shows as the Sky King; Straight Arrow; and Sergeant Preston of the Yukon. This got him in trouble with his dad.
He thinks the large two room school was probably built around 1910; the time when the large Anderson Coal Company opened the big mine and built 40-50 houses in the area for coal miner’s families. By the time Doug attended school; only one of the rooms was being used as a classroom and the other had become a “community room”. It was filled with benches similar to church benches and was used for 4H meetings; the annual school play; and community potlucks. When it was extremely cold outside the teacher would build a fire in the stove in the community room and push the benches aside to allow the children to play games at recess. My WORST MEMORY; he recalls; “was when the teacher brought her record player and we had to learn to dance the Virginia Reel--and we boys would have to hold a girl’s hand during the dance!”
Like many other country schools; Liberty did not have a well on the school yard. During the morning hours the teacher would ask a couple of the older students to go to the Presley’s farm and “fetch “ a bucket of water for everyone to drink. The Presleys had two or three coon dogs who would howl and howl while the students were getting the water. Doug remembers one year they had caught a baby raccoon which was chained to a tree. The students would play with it and sometimes bring it a piece of their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. When the students returned with the water for the day everyone drank it from a common dipper. This practice changed in 7th grade when the teacher required everyone to bring their own cup or glass. (Remember those collapsible aluminum cups that we all thought we just had to have?)
Teachers at Liberty included Abram Scott 1868; Sarah Lyman 1886; T. L. Conrey; Miss Julia Ruckman; Miss Carrie Burt 1890; Miss Carrie Burt; Miss Harvey; James Hamilton 1891; Ella¡ Crosby 1894; Rena Snyder; Alice Crosby; Julia Ruckman 1895; M. V. Harsin; Jennie M. Kester; Mabel Reynolds 1896; Jennie M. Kester; Mable Reynolds 1898; Florence Inskeep; Mrs. Weyman; Eleanor Crosby 1899; Eleanor Crosby 1900; Grace Morris; B. D. Pope; Edythe Hartness 1901; Stella Jenkins, Nannie Hyatt 1903; Katherine Sturgeon 1904; Katherine Sturgeon; Rosa Brubaker 1905; Rosa Brubaker; Art Betterton 1906; June Burdick; Eva Nutter 1907; Anna B. Brouse; Cora Rankin 1908; Cora Rankin; Beulah Linn 1909; Edna Townsend 1910-11; Frank Palmer; Cora Rankin 1912; Cora Rankin; India B. Davis; Bettie Burkley 1913; John W. Pringle; Liva Barrett 1914; Mabel Leuty; Duinnie Gregory; Ada Alexander 1915; Gene Hollingshead 1923; Grace Robinson 1924-25; C. M. Hollingshead 1926; Mrs. Fern Etcher 1927; Opal Morgan 1929; Arlene Covey 1930-34; Ruby Penland 1935; Ruby Ver Steeg 1936-37; Betty Whaley 1938-42; Helen Adair 1943; Miss Mary E. Myers 1944; Maxine Adams 1945” ; Gladys Bowery 1946-47; Basal White 1948-49; Betty Mae Hollingshead 1950-51; Beulah Kirkpatrick 1952; Paulina Stittsworth 1953-54; Virgie Feagins 1955-57.
Please contact me at 641-628-4716 or firstname.lastname@example.org soon with information or pictures you have about the country schools of Marion County.