Mille Lacs County Times

Posted: 6/30/05

Memories shared of Vondell country school

room picture during the 1950-51 school year. The class included several grades of students, including (farthest row to left, front to back) Lee Hokanson, Delores Esther Johnson, Yvonne Jansen and Melva Swanson, (second row) Sylvia Jansen, Patty Hokanson, Ruth Ann Carlson and Robert Johnson, (third row) Carol Johnson, Lorna Hess, Arvid "Arkie" Severson and Waldo Johnson, (fourth row) Maryann Jansen, Marion Johnson and Neil Hokanson, (fifth row) Diane Olson, Marilyn Johnson and Leroy Johnson, (sixth row) Adelle Severson, Gloria Olson and Wayne Hess.

All Class Reunion

By Dawn Slade
Mille Lacs County Times

It was a time when a trip to the bathroom meant putting on a jacket, Christmas could still be celebrated in the classroom, and kids often walked miles to school. These are memories of Vondell School District 30.

Alumni of the Vondell country school gathered for a class reunion last week at the Milaca Golf Club.

It was a time for recognizing faces, recalling names and sharing stories of years past.

The school, which is located just southeast of Milaca on County Road 2, was organized in May 1902 as Mille Lacs County School District #30/1161 Borgholm Township.

In 1957 it became common school District 1161, but dissolved in 1960. The last school year, 1961-1962, was operated by District 912.

The school still stands today and is home to teachers Mark and Kari Erickson.

In 1912-1920 the original one-room building was replaced with a two-room stucco building and indoor chemical rest rooms for the students.

The classrooms were divided into two sections - one for the first through fourth grade students and one for the fifth through eighth grade students.

During one school year (1932-33) the school started to have only one teacher. This was likely due to the Depression years and the inability to pay two teachersí salaries of $28 per month.

Many gathered for the class reunion on Tuesday, June 21 and were treated to a "Reunion of Memories" book that features photographs of classes, memories from classmates as well as current information about the alumni.

One memory of country school came from Wendy (Wilson) Bertrand who wrote, "I also remember walking to and from school. The winters were very cold...I remember sitting by the big ëvery bigí stove in the back of the school room to warm up after the walk to school in the winter months."

Several of the alumni commented on enjoying the walk to and from school. The Christmas programs, softball and heating soup on the wood stove were other highlights.

Louise (Hokanson) Peterson recalled times at Vondell, "All the kids loved to play softball. We had swings and teeter totters on the playground.

"Sometimes the boys would be real nasty and let down one end of the teeter totter very fast and bang!, bang! The girls didnít like that, but the boys enjoyed the fun!"

Chair of the reunion committee, Marion (Johnson) Katke, recalled being a bit mischievous and wanting Diane (Olson) Jacobs bananas. She told Jacobs that the black spots on the bananas were spider eggs. Jacobs wasnít about to eat the spider eggs, but Katke had no problem eating them!

Apparently Jacobís parents found out about the ruse and there were no more bananas for snack time.

Feeling a little guilty for her naughty behavior, Katke brought a bunch of bananas to the class reunion for Jacobs!

Ruth Ann (Carlson) Buisman recalled a special moment when her grandfather arrived at school with his horse and sleigh during a snowstorm. He brought Buisman and several others home and they stayed warm under a horse blanket.

Mrs. Viva Brett taught several years, from 1956-1962. Mrs. Mildred Sahlstrom taught from 1949-1952, but was mentioned often by alumni as a favorite teacher.

In addition to sharing memories and catching up on current happenings, the classmates enjoyed a trip out to their former country school.

The school has been remodeled by the Ericksons and there are few traces of "country school" left.

But the alumni were able to spot some areas where desks were once screwed to the floor.

"It was hard to visualize," Katke said.

Though the old school house has changed, the memories are still there.

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Mille Lacs County Times
225 2nd Street NW, P.O. Box 9
Milaca, MN 56353
Telephone: 320-983-6111 Fax: 320-983-6112