Students, teacher hold first Brick Church School reunion since 1985

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Andrea Behling
Saturday, August 2, 2014

WALWORTH—The memories poured out.

Radio lessons taught them how to draw and write. Desks were pushed to the walls to make room for square dancing. Dimes were brought to school to buy savings stamps. Chalk circles were drawn on the floor to play marbles. The boys and girls cloak room smelled like egg salad.

It was as if time had stood still for the graduates of Brick Church School, a one-room schoolhouse west of Walworth that held class from 1878 to 1958.

“It was a wonderful part of my life,” Jeanie (O'dierno) McReynolds said.

About 30 people gathered Saturday for the first Brick Church School reunion held since 1985. The oldest of students in attendance was 86-year-old Joyce Finley.

The group shared photos, stories and laughter at the Brick Church of Walworth, which neighbors the still-standing schoolhouse.

Carolyn Ryer, a 1955 graduate of the first- through eighth-grade school, felt it was about time to have another gathering.

Ryer missed the last reunion and traveled from Colorado to be there Saturday. Ryer had to convince her sister to plan the reunion for her to make the trip.

Sue (O'Dierno) Hoyt, Jeanie (O'Dierno) McReynolds, Mary (Ryer) Morris, Audrey (Ryer) Kammes and Barb Arntz headed a committee to plan the reunion.

Heads nodded in recognition as attendees told stories of their school days.

“It's a blanket of warmth thrown over you,” said Arntz, who was the only Brick Church School teacher to attend Saturday's reunion.

A photo slideshow played in the background. Many of the pictures were taken with a camera Ryer bought with box tops from two Smith Brothers cough drops boxes and 50 cents.

“The ones that are real fuzzy and you can't figure out who the faces are, they're probably my pictures,” Ryer said.

After sharing stories inside the church, the group visited the schoolhouse, which is now used as storage and a garage. Still inside is one school desk.

Ken Ryer remembered the desk he had when he attended Brick Church School. It had an ink well in the top right corner, and he remembered one year when nearly 40 desks were crammed into the one-room school, he said.

Ruby Harness has done research on the schoolhouse that her husband attended. She still lives just down the road. She was secretary for 28 years of the church that began in a log schoolhouse that came before the Brick Church School, she said.

The log house was built by John Reader and his wife Elizabeth Featherstone, settlers who moved from England to America in 1822, Harness said. The two had 15 children, 13 of whom lived to adulthood. They felt the need to build a school for their children and those of other families in the area, she said.

The brick building was built in 1878, but did not have electricity until about 1932, she said.

All of the graduates seemed only to have grown fonder of their years in the school.

“It's the nicest childhood anyone could think of,” Audrey (Ryers) Kammes said.

Brad Peters is saddened to know one-room schoolhouses are no longer common in the U.S.

“By doing away with one-room schools, we lost a sense of community,” Peters said. “Remember how the parents would bring the hot lunch? And big kids helped the little kids get their galoshes on? That kind of thing. I'm glad I went to a one-room school.”

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