The One Room School Sign Committee is beginning phase two of its project to honor the one-room schools throughout Jefferson County.
The goal of the committee is to add to the school signs the beginning and closing dates of each school. Andy McKelvy of Jefferson County Title Company is researching the land titles for the committee to help obtain the dates.
The committee is still collecting school pictures, school stories and artifacts to be included in township books.
Recently, Valley Breeze one-room school, which was located in Dodds Township, was honored with a sign and former students told stories about their time at the school.
Clyde Dale Davis attended Valley Breeze School all of his grade school years from 1943 to 1950. Davis completed fourth and fifth grade in the same school year. According to Davis, one of the benefits from attending a one room school was that a student could listen and learn while other grades were reciting and being taught.
During this time, some of the teachers were Lillian Sledge, Everett Hopper, Laverne Carroll, Ernie Johnston and Rose Hertenstein. Proof of their success is the fact that Davis was an educator for 37 years and still has a love for knowledge.
The school had no indoor plumbing. Water was drawn from a well on the school yard. Lunches were brought from home either in a sack or a lunch box. In winter, heat was furnished from a large jacketed stove located in a rear corner of the school. The school did have electric lights.
Jim Rowe attended Valley Breeze for all eight grades. He remembers carrying coal from the coal house to feed the stove, the cloak room with coats hanging on hooks, pumping the pump and a wintry crust of ice on the water container, lunch boxes and hard seats.
He lived at the State Game Farm and does not fondly remember the long walks to and from school. In later years he would cut across the fields, through the woods and climb a tree growing in the cyclone fence with a barbed wire on top which resulted in many torn jeans. Jim’s trusty dog would follow and wait inside the fence for the return walk home and he was often chased by some resident elk.
In first grade, Jim made a failed attempt at a sliding steal at home plate during a noon softball game. The teacher, Gale Sledge, pitched the ball and the biggest kid in school, Art Joy, hit the ball and Jim received the full swing of the bat on his forehead. He still has an indentation over his left eye.
Jim states that the teachers provided a motivation to learn, reasonable discipline and competitive exercises. Students learned to socialize and interact with each other. Seeds planted at Valley Breeze sprouted and took root. Jim attended college and received advanced degrees and held a variety of positions in his 30 plus years in the field of education.
David Jones attended Valley Breeze from the first to the sixth grade. He walked to school every day, rain or shine. He always went home for lunch as he lived across the road from the school. A couple of times the teacher asked him to see if his mom would make her a sandwich or something for lunch because she forgot to bring her lunch. Once his mom sent her a bowl of vegetable soup.
When David was 8 or 9, he would mow the school yard with his Dad’s tractor and mower. In cold weather he would go over to the school early and get a good fire going in the old coal stove. He would then go back home until time for school to start.
David’s dad bought the Valley Breeze School when it was sold at auction after consolidation with the new Dodds School, which was built in 1953-54. David still has the old Valley Breeze School bell.
Nancy Jean Dare German has many fond memories during her years of 1945 to 1949 at Valley Breeze School. Nancy remembers Mrs. Lillian Sledge, who was a very good teacher, a wonderful person and strict. She would read to the students, always with a handkerchief in her hand, with the book opened precisely. She read to the students the Little Brown Coco books. On Friday afternoons, for fun, she would have geography matches, ciphering matches on the board and dictionary hunts. Mrs. Sledge always brought her lunch to school in a little green tin lunch box.
Mrs. Sledge also taught Nancy’s mom. Mrs. Sledge would ride her horse to school and let Nancy’s mom ride on the back. Mrs. Sledge was Nancy’s son Steven’s teacher in kindergarten and first grade at the West Salem School in Mt. Vernon.
One of Nancy’s favorite teachers was Mr. Ernest L. Johnston. He was a brand new teacher and brought lots of life to Valley Breeze School. On the first day of school, he brought soda pop for all 22 students. He brought a record player and records to school. In the winter, students would play the records during recess. The students had a basketball team of seven players and four cheerleaders. On Oct. 29, 1948, the school had a pie supper and soda stand to raise money for the school and raised $80. Mr. Johnson had a poster contest. The students put posters in area businesses. Nancy’s poster won second place and she received 25 cents.
Nancy graduated April 29, 1949, with her class of three from Valley Breeze. The graduation was held at the Bonnie Methodist Church along with the graduates from Bonnie School. Nancy later became a teacher, teaching for 34 years.
Mr. Sid Milliner is the Dodds Township leader for the One Room School Sign Committe. Other one room schools in Dodds Township include Bethel, Hebron, Howard, Cub Prairie, Dodds Center, Mt. Pleasant, Shady Grove and Pleasant View.
The committee is still collecting school pictures, school stories and artifacts to be included in the township books. Those who would like to share may contact Libby Wilson or Sharon Nichols.