Attending the Gander Lane School in Selby Township was a family affair for Carolyn (Fiste) Barkley. Her mother, Etta (Schlund) Fiste, had attended back in the 1920s, and she attended the school with her sister, Lorraine, and brother, Roger.
Barkley started first grade in 1944 and attended through seventh grade in May 1951, when the school consolidated into another district and was closed.
“When it consolidated, there were only eight children in the entire school, and I was the only one in seventh grade,” Barkley said.
Barkley has good memories of her years at Gander Lane.
“When school started each year, it was so exciting to go to Dunbar’s in Princeton and pick up our books and workbooks for each of our classes,” she said. “They had the list there as to what subjects were needed for each grade.”
Barkley’s first-grade teacher was Florence Anderson, and then she had Genevieve Flaherty for the rest of her years there.
“The teacher drove right by our house on her way to school, so she would stop and give us a ride, or we would ride our bikes,” Barkley said. “The school was about one and one-half miles away. If the teacher couldn’t make it to school because of bad winter weather, school would be canceled.”
Like most one-room schools, Gander Lane had one classroom, a cloak room and open toilet bathroom, one for the boys and one for girls.
“We had a big potbelly stove to keep the room warm in the winter and to dry our mittens after recess,” Barkley said. “We would sit around the stove in our little chairs to keep warm.”
It was the teacher’s job to get the fire started in the stove, and the students would help carry the coal and cobs in.
Barkley said the desks came in three sizes and were bolted down on long pieces of lumber, so they didn’t slide around. The teacher had to take turns teaching each grade, and the students did their work when their grade wasn’t being taught.
“I don’t ever remember having homework,” she said.
There was a piano in the classroom, and Barkley remembers singing from “The Golden Book of Favorite Songs” with the teacher playing the piano. Every Christmas the entire school would put on a play, and the families and relatives would come to hear the students recite their parts, perform the play and sing Christmas carols and other songs.
“We would draw names, which was kept very secretly, for the gift exchange after the program,” Barkley said.
The only playground equipment at the Gander School was a set of swings. Barkley said the students would play Andy-I-Over, which involved throwing a ball over the garage.
“Other games we’d play were Red Light, Green Light; Mother, May I; hopscotch; jump rope; or just tag,” she said.
Barkley said going to a one-room school had its advantages.
“You knew everyone personally and with so few in each class, the teacher could spend much more time with each individual student,” she said.
Ruth (Marciniak) Hix only attended for the first grade, but she also has some vivid memories.
“The heater was very hot, and Mrs. Flaherty cautioned us that we were never to touch it,” Hix said.
Hix remembers her teacher as very strict.
“I cannot remember her ever having trouble with any of the students,” she said. “I was always impressed that she could maintain control and teach that many levels.”
Hix said it was the first-graders’ job to clean the erasers every Friday.
“We were little, but we managed to make a lot of chalk dust, mostly on us,” she said.
Hix’s most vivid memory might be of the underground storm shelter.
“We always dreaded the occurring storm because down in the shelter we went and stayed until the storm was over,” she said. “I remember it as being dark, damp, and it had ugly spiders.”
Hix’s family moved the following year, but she carried a piece of the Gander School with her.
“When the school was closed, my father secured the large swing set, and we had that in our yard for many years,” she said.
Former student Don Schlund, who attended Gander Lane for four years, also kept a part of the school in his life.
“When the school was closed, my father secured the building after it was torn down and made hog houses and wagons out of the lumber,” he said.
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