ATTENDING SCHOOL IN THE DISTRICT 54 ONE ROOM SCHOOLHOUSE

Do you recognize this school?  If you’re familiar with historic buildings in Schaumburg Township or you grew up here before 1980, you probably know about this one room school house that was near the northwest corner of the Schaumburg and Roselle Roads.  It sat essentially where El Meson is today and it is why that small shopping center is called Schoolhouse Square.

The school was built in 1872 on property that belonged to Ernest Schween.  As one of five public schools in Schaumburg Township, it went under a number of different names over the years: Sarah’s Grove School, Schween’s Grove School, Schaumburg Center School and District 54 School.

When Florence Catherine Bell attended the school in the 1920s and 30s she lived on Stratford Farms on Roselle Road, close to today’s intersection with Wise Road. (Her first year was spent at the District 55 School or the Hartmann School on Wiese (Wise) Road with her friend Mildred.)

At the time the District 54 school was a vibrant, busy place as we can tell by the number of students in this photo.  The first row from the right is:  Unidentified, unidentified Botterman girl, unidentified, possibly Johnnie Bell.  The second row from the right is:  Bethella Haffner (Florence Catherine’s cousin), unidentified, Florence Catherine, unidentified Botterman girl, unidentified.  Florence Catherine’s younger sister, Edwina, is standing at the back with the bow tie on her blouse.  The tall girl behind her is one of  the daughters of Gottlob Theiss, pastor of St. Peter Lutheran Church.  To her left is Esta Haffner (Florence Catherine’s cousin), unidentified male Haffner cousin, unidentified Botterman girl, unidentified male Haffner cousin.  The boy in the second seat of the far left row was a boy with handicaps.

I recently had the opportunity to pose the following questions to Florence Catherine through her granddaughter.  It was a great opportunity to hear what it was like to attend this school during its busy days.

  • Do you remember the names of any of your teachers?
    1st grade:  Miss Mary Hammond
    2nd grade:  Miss Robinson
    3rd-5th grade:  Miss Dewey, Miss Marie Fox*
    6th-8th grade:  Miss Hamill
  •  What subjects were taught?
    “Reading, writing, arithmetic and spelling.”  Spelling was her favorite.
  • What were the hours of your school day?
    “9:00 to 3:00, five days a week”
  • When did school start for the year and when did it end?
    “It started the Monday after Labor Day and ended a few days after Memorial Day.”
  • How did you get to school?
    “We walked to school even in the winter.  Once we got to school on the cold days, we huddled around the coal burning furnace.”
  • What did you eat for lunch?
    “We took our lunch.  We didn’t have a soft drink dispenser or anything like lunch meat.  A typical lunch was peanut butter and jelly with bread home baked by Mom.  Sometimes lunch was leftovers from supper.”
  • Did they bring their own drinks?
    “No, they had a well at the school with a pump.  It was located right outside the door of the school house.”
  • Were the kids well behaved?
    “Yes, there were no problems.”
  • Were she and her siblings ever picked on?
    “No, we didn’t have any of that.  If so, it was minor and didn’t amount to anything.”
  • Did the teachers have good control of the classroom?
    “Right.  They didn’t have any problems.”
  • Who cleaned the school and the outhouses?
    The teacher assigned students to sweep the floors.
  • Did you have a best friend at school?
    “Her best buddy was Sadie Botterman who was in the same grade.”
  • Did you get a good education at the school?
    “I can read, write and do arithmetic now and I don’t have a computer.  My dad wouldn’t let us have an eraser on our pencils.  He would say, ‘Don’t make mistakes.”  Her granddaughter asked if he was joking with them and, with a little laughter in her voice she said, “Both.”
  • Where did you attend school after 8th grade?
    She went to Austin High School in Chicago.
  • She also mentioned that there was a County Life Director (employed by the Cook County Superintendent) who would travel around checking on the schools and visit with the teachers to see how things were going.  Florence Catherine remembered Homer J. Byrd and Noble J. Puffer coming to visit their school.
  • Other items mentioned were that they said the pledge of allegiance every morning and that if someone had a good report or did good work, the teacher would post special posters on the wall.
  • Toward the end of the school year, the 8th grade students who attended and went through confirmation at the St. Peter Lutheran Schools transferred to the one-room schools to finish their year.  This allowed them to graduate from a Cook County public school.
  • In another conversation, Florence Catherine also stated that, the Schaumburg Center School and other one-room schoolhouses in the area would hold an end of the school year “festival” at Beverly Lake near West Dundee.  This is now part of the Cook County Forest Preserve and is about 10 miles from the center of Schaumburg Township.   They got there by horse and wagon so it would have taken some time!
  • Graduations from the school were held at Lengl’s Schaumburg Inn (the Easy Street).  Mr. Lengl was kind enough to lend his dining room space for commencement exercises.
  • The local school board members at the time who oversaw the maintenance and running of the school were Mr. Botterman, Mr. Sporleder and Herman Hartmann.  These gentlemen all lived near the intersection of Schaumburg and Roselle Roads.

 

  • This is a photo of the west side of the school.  Edwina, the sister of Florence Catherine is the second little girl to the left.

The Schaumburg Center School was one of the last two one-room schools that operated in Schaumburg Township.  In 1981 the school was moved east down Schaumburg Road to the St. Peter Lutheran Church property where you can find it today.

Not only are we fortunate the school still exists but we are doubly so because of all of the nice details Florence Catherine Bell was able to contribute to the conversation of our local history.  Thank you Kate!

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library
jrozek@stdl.org

* Marie Fox was a sister to Anne Fox who also taught in this school, and for whom the District 54 school in Hanover Park is named.

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