Rushville Republican

January 8, 2013

Ward: School changes over the years

Bill Ward
Rushville Republican

RUSHVILLE — I attended grade school at the Graham Annex elementary. This particular school was behind the high school and junior high at Seventh and Perkins Street. The school was in a building that a local contractor had built a number of years before and contained two stories and six grades. Kindergarten was at the Belle Gregg elementary and was not required for everyone as it is today. Belle Gregg was named for a local educator and located on Eighth Street and is today the offices of the local school corporation. We had one section of each of the six grades. Graham Annex also had a nice (for the time) small gym as well as a rather large auditorium. The city of Rushville had three elementary schools, the two named above and Havens School down on Third Street near the railroad tracks. The high and junior high were in the same building and at Seventh and Perkins. The athletic facility for everyone was at Memorial Gym, which was much smaller than it is today.

The principal for the Annex for the first five years I was there was Mrs. Myrtle Staniford, one of those icons such as Miss Ball and Miss Madden of my generation’s time. She, as most all the teachers in town, were females and very dedicated to their vocation. Mrs. Staniford was the 6th grade teacher as well as the principal. She had neither secretary nor aide of any type. Each teacher had their classes all day with the exception of PE and music. PE was normally daily and music on a schedule so Don Myers spent a day with the elementary schools giving music classes.

The day started off with the Pledge of Allegiance followed by the Lord’s Prayer every day. Frankly, I feel it did not hurt anyone who found themselves in school at the time. Our playground was an area between the two schools (Graham Annex and the high school). It was not paved at first and was only a gravel area with no outside things that we could play with. We were on our own and made up games and other activities to play while on recess. No one got hurt or beaten; at times, one could get yelled at by peers as well as teachers, but seldom was it of much consequence. I bet every boy above the fourth grade had a pocket knife in his trousers and no one got stabbed or hurt by them. Try that today. We had daily morning and afternoon recess and were basically on our own, but still had at least three teachers out with us while we played. We had balls and other small items to play with, but nothing like what is available today.

In regards to field trips, that was easy. There were none. If we got to do anything it was, say, to the local sewer plant (always looked forward to) or something local such as the museum at least once a year. At the end of the school year we went to Memorial Park for the day and had lunch there and played all day and that was about it. I find it interesting that some of the items that are in the park today were there when I was young; mostly the swings, but they are still there. We had a few slides, lots of swings, the merry-go-round and monkey bars as well as many tables and lots of grass. There was a sunken garden at the time and it had flowers and ornamental shrubs in it and was a fun place to play. We also would try at least once a year to make it to the local fire department and, of course, that was the highlight of the year for us all.

The year-end picnic had all three schools there all day and so I suspect the teachers as well as neighbors of Memorial Park were glad to see that day come to an end. Rushville had its own school system as did most of the townships. Milroy, Raleigh, Mays, Carthage, Glenwood, Manilla and New Salem all had at least elementary schools, some even high schools. Both the city and county had their administrators with the county schools under the authority of the Township Trustee but also under county-wide control. If the county schools beat Rushville in anything it was a banner year for them. Rushville was top on the list of those nasty guys to beat for every county school. All of this was in fun and at times silly things were done to hopefully enhance the county school’s chances to win over the dreaded Rushville Lions. Those lions by Memorial Gym are about twice as large as they were originally just because of all the paint needed to paint over what someone else painted first.

Classes were small and school facilities were, at times and no doubt, not of the highest caliber. When consolidation was being pushed by the state one of the things they said would be better would be the ability of the smaller schools to have much better science labs and other facilities that county schools at times found hard to come by. As it is now, it was then a huge fight to close any of the county schools, but close them they did. Now everyone from the seventh grade on goes to Rushville and some would like from K to 12 to be there. Not me.

I miss the small school friendship and fellowship of my youth even if I see a need for the consolidation. I realize that now it would be difficult if not impossible for the small county schools to be viable educationally or financially today. But, that in no way says I am sorry I had the opportunity of going to school on a much smaller scale that the youngsters of today.