Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson
For December 21st, 2007 Edition.
A recent e-mail from an individual I had not seen for nearly 30 years, and actually had all but forgotten about, ignited a whole bunch of sweet memories about the so called “good old days.”
The message was from Jeff Harding, who was able to get my address when he was browsing through the web and stumbled across the “Red Brick School House” home page. After reading what he had to say about his memories while attending school there from 1969 through 1973 I answered his e-mail. The name rang a bell in my memory, as I recalled Jeff being in the “third and fourth grade room.” At the time I was one of two instructors teaching fifth through eighth grade students. I was also acting as principal.
I replied to his message and asked if I might use some of his recollections concerning his time spent in the little Red Brick School. In turn, his prompt reply set me to reminiscing about my formative years at the same institution.
Here is in part what Jeff had to say about his memories of the Red Brick School.
“I do remember you were teaching there during that time along with Mrs. Berkholtz, my teacher. She was a wonderful person and as I look back I can’t help but think that she and all of you who taught at the red brick school house had much to do with who I am today.”
Many persons I talk to who never attended a small, rural school similar to the Red Brick are often surprised when I speak so highly of the quality education I feel I received attending classes there from 1943 – 1951. At that time the school consisted of but two classrooms and was staffed by two teachers. Besides “readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmatic” students received daily doses of geography, history, music, spelling, language and Phy. Ed. All students also received a very large dose of strict discipline and long lectures on attitude, ethics and respect for other people and their personal property.
Most of you who are my age and perhaps a tad younger will probably quickly recall that most schools and the teachers in them taught strict discipline. Their “teaching aids” consisted of wooden rulers and yardsticks, a leather strap, and often a good old- fashioned ear twist or hair yank if you broke the rules. Also, back then parents always sided with the teacher and if you got smacked at school for goofing off you got smacked again when you got home.
And it seems to me those of us who attended school back in the ‘30s, 40’s, 50’s, and maybe even the 60’s, who received those types of education and discipline, somehow weren’t “emotionally and mentally scared for life.” End of sermon!
My memories of the Christmas Season during my tenure at the Red Brick are some of my sweetest ones! For several weeks the daily regimentation of class work, drill and repetition, which at the time seemed like drudgery, was lessened and modified to allow time for practice for the “Christmas Play.” Each student would be assigned some speaking part, or perhaps be chosen to sing a Christmas song with a group or perform a solo.
My personal musical ability rated on a scale of one to ten is a minus nine. I can’t carry a tune in a bushel basket and musical notes on a sheet of music may as well be little black trails some lost ant created. But when I was in 4th grade my teacher, Mrs. “Winnie” Sayner, made me sing a solo!
For two weeks prior to the evening performance of the school Christmas Play my insides churned and twisted. Boy, was I scared! And with good reason, I couldn’t sing and -- still can’t!
The song I had to sing was “All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth.” To simulate the fact I didn’t have my two front teeth I was given a piece of “Black Jack” chewing gum to plaster over my two front teeth while I belted out the song – off key!
The big night arrived and the basement of the Red Brick School was jammed with probably forty or fifty parents, grandparents, friends and neighbors. I still shake at the vivid memory of literally being shoved out to center stage and looking down at a sea of smiling expectant faces in the audience as I cleared my throat and began to croak out the words.
Mrs. Sayner’s prop, the Black Jack gum, was one of two fatal flaws in the performance. A second flaw was the fact the skinny kid on stage couldn’t sing. About half way through the number the gum flew out of my mouth, bounced once on the front of the stage and then plopped on the floor next to the feet of someone’s parents. The crowd went wild with laughter!
I kept singing, or trying to, and the crowd kept laughing. That was the longest four or five minutes of my life!
If I actually have any unknown psychological defects or emotional scars as a result of educational practices it’s because of my part in the Christmas Play at the RBS in December of 1946, not the maple ruler or the leather strap or twisted ears.
Jeff Harding continues. “In late winter of 1973 I moved back to Chicago and never returned to class at the red brick schoolhouse again. However, my sister still resides in St. Germain and I visit the area several times a year. I always come back to the red brick schoolhouse for a visit and my mind goes back in time. I remember playing on the ball diamond, the old steel jungle gym and the occasional sneak through the woods to the cemetery when the teachers weren’t looking. However brief it may have been, I still hear the laughter of all the children playing and remember my wonderful days at the red brick schoolhouse. My mother has since passed away and is at rest in the St. Germain cemetery. When I come to visit my mother (resting spot) I always find myself parking at the red brick school and making that journey through the school play field to the cemetery like I was a child again. It has changed considerably but I still see it as it was 35 years ago. I have never spoke of this till now. I hope your efforts to save the red brick school are successful. I could not imagine coming to St. Germain and not seeing the schoolhouse as it was during my brief time spent there. It means a great deal to me, as I am sure it does to everyone who was blessed to be educated behind those red brick walls. Again, I wish you all the luck.”
Sincerely, Jeff Harding
Well said Jeff, well said!
Mr. Leon "Buckshot" Anderson is one of the few old time hunting and fishing guides left in Northern Wisconsin. Buckshot is a personal friend of the family and has known and worked with my grandfather, Howard "Pop" Dean, both of whom are members of the fresh water fishing hall of fame, Legendary Guide. Buckshot has authored 7 books on the great outdoors. All of his books can be purchased directly from him, at a discount, by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to: 2220 Deadman's Gulch Road, St. Germain, WI 54558.
Books by Leon "Buckshot" Anderson Click Here
Yes; Deadman's Gulch is the correct name, I have been on that road many times. Sincerely David D. Cruger
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