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Old Thome School taught pupils to think

Published: Friday, Nov. 30, 2012 1:15 a.m. CDT

I started first grade in 1936. Thome School consisted of three classrooms on the same floor, roughly in an arc facing the entrance.

As I remember, the boy’s restroom was between first and second grades, with a door to a very small basement and a smaller furnace room. The girl’s restroom was between the second- and third-grade rooms. No office, no lounge, no nurse, no gym, no lunch room, no principal; just three very hardworking dedicated teachers and a part-time janitor. Oh, he worked full-time by filling in his day at Merrill School.

I lucked into a supremely gifted and helpful young second-year teacher, Miss Mary Kadel (now Mrs. Mary Baker of Parkway Center in Sterling). I owe so much to her.

My class in her second year was, I believe, 32 or 33 strong. I believe that her first class was 37 students; no aides or dietitians or secretaries. Nowadays they want classes of  less than 20 or so. But we learned, or we failed. And we kept at it until we earned a passing grade.

Your lunch was what you brought from home unless you lived close enough to hike home for a quick snack. This was in the heart of the Depression, and money was hard to come by. There was no fleet of big yellow school busses. Of course, we had neighborhood schools, not consolidated schools 20 miles away.

Looking back, we could be called primitive, but we were remarkably efficient and self-sufficient. We learned to do with what we had. We learned to know how to disagree while respecting the other person’s viewpoint.

And we learned to think. This last skill tends to be in short supply these days.

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