Willow Brook Elementary
Contact: Dorene Newman
----Source: Unity Township Centennial Newspaper, 1974
WILLOW BROOK SCHOOL
This District No. 5 school in the township was first located somewhere to the South of the Norbert Schultz farm. It was a log building constructed some- time before 1894 and cost $600. The township had not been formed yet.
The building burned and was rebuilt on what was then the Foth farm, now part of Ken Mellenthin's farm. It was later condemned several times, and was repaired enough to stay open. The people in the township were assessed a special tax to help support the school.
It is said-that the school was given the name Willow Brook because of the stream and many Willow trees, just north of the school building. Some of the teachers were Mrs. Hermanson, Fay McVean, Bess Rurkis, and Mamie Douglas. The one room brick school was operated until 1954, when the school was consolidated with the Spencer school system.
School: Unity, Willow Brook Elementary Experience (1950)
----Source: Submitted by Eileen Roth, Hales Corners, WI, April 28, 2020
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My One- Room School Experience - Early 1950s
Seventy years ago this spring, I would have been looking forward to May 8th, the final day of school. From first through third grade I attended Willow Brook, a one room rural school about one mile from our Clark County farm. My classmates for those three years were Donna H. and Robert S., and our teacher was Ms. K. She was responsible for teaching all 28 of us in grades one through eight.
Willow Brook school consisted of a large room, heavy desks in straight rows, a recitation bench, teacher's desk, and a wood burning furnace. Pictures of Washington and Lincoln decorated the walls and the alphabet in print and cursive forms topped the blackboards. There was an outhouse out back and a flagpole out front. Raising the flag was an honor given to the “student of the week” and was a coveted duty. Learning to properly raise and lower the flag and to recite the Pledge of Allegiance were part of the curriculum. There was no “under God” at that time; it was added in the mid 50's. The Pledge and the flag were very respected; the flag quickly lowered at the first drop of rain or flake of snow.
Each day at Willow Brook began with all 28 students standing to recite the Pledge. Next each student placed their hands on a clean handkerchief so Ms. K. could check for clean hands and fingernails. One class at a time was then called up to the recitation desk for lessons in math, reading, and social studies.
Penmanship was very important and often required the help of older students. We used special paper that had two lines, one for uppercase and one for lower case. Practice, practice, practice was the secret to learning this skill.
Music and art were our long-distance learning coming to us through the Wisconsin State Broadcasting system. I recall the song “Sing Your Way Home'' and learning perspective drawing.
Your Way Home
Sing your way home
At the close of the day.
Sing your way home,
Drive the shadows away.
Smile every mile
For wherever you roam
It will brighten your road,
It will lighten your load,
If you sing your way home.
Physical education consisted of two outdoor recesses and noon hour. All eight grades took part in games that would NEVER be allowed today. One such game was Crack the Whip with all students holding hands while the leader zigged and zagged around the school building and outhouse stopping abruptly to “whip” the end of the line. Students flew off but no one ever got hurt beyond a possible nosebleed. We also played baseball, kick the can, Annie, Annie over, and tag. In winter we built forts, had snowball fights, made snow angels, and played fox and goose.
Speaking of the outhouse, one punishment for bad behavior was to sweep the outhouse and or shovel the path out to it. Other punishments included carrying in a specific number of wood chunks, fetching a five-gallon pail of water from the neighbor's pump to fill the water cooler, or staying after school. This was the worst, as most students had farm chores to be done before dark. It was believed that smarting off or swearing would get your mouth washed out with soap, but I never saw this.
Swearing was not allowed but Bible verses were. Each week students received a sheet of verses to memorize. Rewards for accomplishing this might be a colorful pencil, a special bookmark, or a piece of fruit. Bible verses were also part of the annual Christmas program attended by EVERYONE who lived in the mile square school district. This was the community event of the year and necessitated weeks of practice before a makeshift stage was created on sawhorses covered with planks and rugs. Every student had a part. My one and only solo performance was singing “Away in the Manger” in 3rd grade beating out Donna and Robert. Besides Bible verses and poems, there were group songs and the reading of “The Christmas Story” by a chosen eighth grade student. This much anticipated event was followed by Christmas cookies, hot cider, and chocolate milk served by the parents. Chocolate milk also was a treat reserved for when we were given our monthly goiter pill. It “made the medicine” go down a little easier. I didn't mind the pill, but some kids secretly disposed of them.
The final event of our short (to conform with rural farming practices) school year was the school yard cleanup and wiener roast. Students worked all morning raking leaves and carrying brush to the ditch. Good wiener roasting sticks were chosen by each student before the bonfire was lit. Wiener buns and other food was distributed by Mrs. K. After our lunch, we played some games, picked up our school bags, said goodbye to Mrs. K, and headed for home and a summer of fun.
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