Chuck Buntjer
Charles Walter Buntjer

1946 Cover of Life Magazine

And a Four Page Spread Inside

Chuck Buntjer    

Life Magazine Selects a One Room School to Feature

I started school at the Wagner one room school out in the middle of farming country, miles from the closest town named Pecatonica in northern Illinois.  Imagine my surprise when I was six years old and in school for just a few months, to have a reporter and photographer come to our one room school to take photos and interview us. Chuck Buntjer

We were told they were doing a feature on a One Room School in the United States to show the troops around the world what they were fighting for! Mom, Apple Pie and the Children! I actually got over 5,000 letters and gifts from around the world. A young Army Private sent me an actual coconut from Hawaii. It was a hit, no one had seen one and the mail man said it had been rubbed by everyone. An actual coconut with just a label on it to our farm in Illinois!

At first we were interested in who this stranger with a camera might be and where he was from.  Very soon we forgot him entirely, I guess that is a sign of a good photographer.  After several weeks of photo shooting he left The only things we were interested in at that time were the flash bulbs he had used and thrown away. We were intrigued by these bulbs since we were still using the old Brownie Box Camera. After the shooting was finished, Life Magazine asked if it would be all right for me to be on the cover!  Wow, and and my parents said yes. Later I learned that they were asked if I could do some children's modeling of clothes but I guess my 15 minutes of fame was over!

There is even a 1918 history of the one room school written by Alice Ackerman and is included at the end of this webpage! This site also contains photos and stories from me, my sister and some other people who were in our school.

Chuck's Life in 1946!

First Grade - Charles Walter Buntjer on the Cover of Life Magazine 1946!

Life Magazine

1946 - Six Years Old.

Life Magazine

2020 - 80 Years Old on the Indian Ocean.

Wagner One Room School - 1946

The first section is taken directly from the Life Magazine article. Below this section is a new section detailing the school that is now a housefor sale in 2013!

Nancy Fishe of the second grade was absent the day the school picture above was taken, but except for her, some playground equipment and two privies which are out of the picture, you are looking at the entire personnel and physical assets of District School No. 94 near Pecatonica Ill. If not the best one room school in the country, it certainly is one of the best. Credit goes to school marm, Miss Erna Meyers, who has spent 37 years teaching in rural schools, 26 of them here!

Erna's job, for which she is paid about $1,500.00 a year, requires a skill equal to that of the juggler who keeps half a dozen live rabbits in the air at one time. Erna begins a typical morning by assigning a study program to the seventh grade, then quickly gets the first grade started crayoning.

The second grade is sent to the blackboard to do arithmetic and the fifth grade put to work composing a letter. With the seventh grade studying, the first grade coloring and the second grade figuring and the fifth grade writing, Erna has time to check homework with the third grade, after assigning some reading in geography to the sixth grade.

There is no fourth grade this year. By the time the third grade home work is checked, the first graders are tired of coloring cats and have begun coloring their desks. A story is read to them, but not until the seventh grade has been quizzed on its reading.

Meanwhile the second graders are standing patiently at the black board to have their sums corrected. In her spare moments Erna is expected to plan study courses, order books and supplies and correct papers, take care of discipline, give special attention to pupils who need it and keep an eye on the school house roof to see that is doesn't spring a leak.

Few teachers can handle, or even want to handle, such a schedule, and education under these handicaps in more often bad than good. As a result the one room school is fast disappearing before the advance of the large consolidated school. But it is doubtful if the latter's pupils are any better prepared for the life they will lead than Erna's, most of whom go through high school and then return, almost without exception, to the farm!

Note: It is interesting that I became a computer consultant at major corporations such as IBM, Bank of America, Boole & Babbage Software, Sterling Software, Schwab and so on around the San Francisco Bay Area and much of it has to do with the hands on teaching at the one room school and by Erna Meyers being such a great teacher in 1946.

The Entire Eight Grades in 1946

I am sitting in the first row, middle. Marilyn Baal is on the left side and Carol Neuberger is in the front row right side of the photo. I was interested in Carol as my 'girl friend' since her father worked in town. Marilyn's father was a farmer like my father. I decided early on I was not cut out to be a farmer so I figured one way was to get involved with someone living in or working in town! Planning ahead at six years old!

A Day in the Wagner One Room School

Life Magazine Starting out the day with the Pledge of Allegiance.

Allegiance to the Flag is pledged every morning, with pupils' hands pressed to their hearts, while first grader Charles Buntjer has the privilege of holding the flag. Following this were a few songs.

Life Magazine

Reading is taught to first-graders through the medium of post-office game. Once a child steps up to the postmistress, played another pupil, and asks if she has a letter for Mr. Puff, she then must pick the right card.

Life Magazine

An occasional lecture keeps several classes occupied with a minimum of effort. This one is on peanuts. Erna makes continuous efforts to relate school work to daily life on the farm.

Life Magazine

Composition is also done at the blackboard, Leland Meiers has made a determined effort to correct a tendency he has to work up hill while writing and now waits, patiently chewing on the edge of his copy book, for the teacher to correct his spelling. These short periods of inactivity are the worst feature of the one-teacher school.

Life Magazine

Chuck was already thinking about being a consultant in the computer industry and he first checks out Marilyn Baal and Carol Neuberger's ideas about the size of the rabbit's tail and then calculating something in between.  Or maybe that was then called cheating!

Life Magazine

All classes are held in this room and all students sit here. Seventh grade has six pupils. Fifth grade has one pupil and first grade has three pupils.

Life Magazine

Bicycle takes seventh-grader Homer Meiers to school. He carries peanuts, later used in a lecture.

Life Magazine

Horse takes seventh-grade twins Kenneth and Keith Fishe, brothers of Nancy, to school.

Life Magazine

Second Grade arrives at school en masse and on foot, carrying lunches. Nancy Fishe (left) has to walk two and a half miles each way!

Life Magazine

Recess comes at 10:30 a.m. The first two grades are let out 15 minutes early and scamper about like puppies!   Privy is in the background! After classes are resumed until 12, when an hour is taken off for lunch. The little ones are through for the day at 3:30, the older ones at 4. Erna then corrects papers, tidies up, and leaves around 5 p.m.

Map of Where I Lived in 1946

This map details many places that affected my life in northern Illinois. I lived on the farm near Pecatonica from around 1942 until 1949 before moving back to Polo. Our farm was near the Pecatonica River and my next Chuck Buntjer on the Cover of Life magazine! door neighbors, Leroy and Donald Johnson, were my good friends. You can see how far I had to walk each day to get to The Wagner One Room School. Even in the middle of winter when it was freezing and a cold wind, sometimes snowing!

One year when I was about seven years old my sister and I rode our horses from our farm to Pecatonica and the Winnebago Fair Grounds and back again. It was a long haul but we made it in time to ride in the opening ceromonies of the rodeo. Not many people can say they did that!

I was born about five miles from Polo Illinois. In a two room farm house in the middle of winter. My first ride was on a hay wagon drawn by a horse in the middle of February!

After one year of attending Rockford College, my step mother said she had gotten me an interview for a job at Burges Battery in Freeport in 1959. I was 19 years old and was hired by the company. One day I was shoveling manure and the next day I was sent to Chicago to learn how to wire boards and create punched cards for IBM Tabulating Machines. The begining of my computer career.

I then moved to Rockford and worked at many companies but ended up at the Amerock Manufacturing Company and figured I would stay there for many years! But things certainly didn't work out that way. I went home to my apartment and there was a letter, you have been drafted in the Army! I ended up at Fort Knox Kentucky and since I was in the computer industry already, they sent me to San Francisco to work in the computer installation at the Presidio overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and the bay. A plum job.

I was 23 and I got off the plane, saw the City and said I am never going to leave San Francisco or California!

2013 - Wagner One Room School Still in Existance!

My sister thought the school had been torn down and then in December of 2013 I got an email from Sandi Lender/Hovorka who was in first grade when I was in second grade. She lives in Florida and was visiting some of the family up north and saw a realtors house sale that looked like our old Wagner One Room School house!

Chuck Buntjer on the Cover of Life magazine!

Sandi is sitting in the middle of the first row. She found me on Facebook in 2011 and we have shared many stories about the school. I am on the left, second row with the very curly blond hair.  Sandy said she used to sit and check out the 'cute' boy in second grade, I had to laugh at that but it is a nice complement!

Left to right:    Judy Peterson - George Ball - Sandi Lender - Marlene Morrison

Second row:     Charles Buntjer - Roger Runte - Sharon Anderson - Marilyn Baal - Don Johnson - Carol Neurberger

Back row:        Darrel Smith - Leroy Johnson - Miss Erna Myer - Unknown - Carolyn Morrison - Leland Meyers

Well I couldn't believe it and here is a photo of the school taken in 1946 by Life Magazine and some photos taken in 2013 by the realtor.

My sister told me about a basement in the school and a man named Bill who came early to fire up the stove and her car she droveto school each day from Pecatonica. I couldn't remember any of that but Sandi told me the following about Bill and more about Ms.Meyers.

There was a dirt basement with a big old heating stove that took wood. Bill Miller lived to the west of the school. He was the one who kept the fire up and Miss Meyer had a coup she kept in the garage. She often came to our house for dinner.

She lived her later life in a nice little newer home in Pecatonica. She probably always lived there, just got something newer after she retired. She died in that house and wasn't found for several days. Pretty sad.

2022 - Contacting the Occupants of the One Room School Address

Letter to the Wagner School Address Life Magazine

Since I have an address of the Wagner One Room School from Sandi Lender, I decided to write a letter to the address and hope someone will open the letter and respond to it.

Time will tell if the person living at that address is actually still living in the old one room school building. Has it been torn down, time will tell!

I did contact a Realtor and left my phone number. I told them I wondered if the building at the address they had sold was the old Wagner School. I emailed them the link to view. About ten minutes later I got a phone call from the Realtor. The woman asked if I was buying or selling and I said I thought they might be interested in a history of the building. She asked are you buying or selling? I said I was asking about the sale and she hung up. I assume no one is polite anymore.

Chance Meeting in Istanbul Turkey in 2004!

I met Jeff Fisher in 2004 in Turkey, had lunch at the Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul overlooking the Bosporus and we  became friends.  One day he emailed me he had been checking the archives of Life and saw this photo and was sure it was of me!   Well it is and as far as I am concerned, it looks better than the photo on the cover of Life Magazine!

A Pen Pal for over 75 Years!

When I appeared on the cover of Life Magazine in 1946, people from all over the world wrote to me and also sent me gifts. A British General sent me a leather book cover where he was stationed in Java. An Army Private sent me a coconut from Hawaii.  That was a big deal.  I also received wooden shoes from a family in Holland.  

We corresponded with the family in Holland for almost seven years.  Then I lost contact with them.  Read on for an interesting story about the letter that my sister found in the autumn of 2003 after going through boxes of letters she had kept, after more than 50 years! 

I wrote this letter to my friend Frans in Holland in 1953.  He and his family had been corresponding with my family since I was on the cover of Life Magazine in 1946! 

My sister had been married in the autumn of 1952 and when I wrote this in May of 1953, my mother was suffering terribly from cancer and she passed away that autumn.  It was a horrible time for me and for several years I was very depressed as all my hopes and desires I had made with my mother would never happen.  

So this letter failed to get mailed and I lost contact with the Everlo family.  Now, after over 50 years, I am trying to locate Frans or any of the family.  Time shall tell if I am successful!

Reading the letter is interesting as I just saw a TV show on the big flood in Holland that happened in 1953 and in the letter, I asked about it!  I also made comments about how expensive it was to have photos printed, in New York City no less, for my sister's wedding.  Now we have instant gratification, digital photos!

Life Magazine

Page 1 of the Letter to Frans

Life Magazine

Page 2 of the Letter to Frans

Life Magazine

Frans said they were reading books and he was wearing a shirt we had sent to them after World War II since they had suffered so much.

Life Magazine

I visited my pen pal Frans in the Netherlands in 2004, we finally met face to face after we first started to correspond in 1946.  Here we are looking at the photographs, including the one opposite this one.

Charles Buntjer Remembers the Wagner School in 1946

I lived on a farm about a mile and a quarter away and usually walked to and from school each day.  I attended first grade with two girls, Marilyn and Carol, so we had a small class but were able to learn much more than usual as we received so much individual attention.  At that time the entire eight grades only had about 15 or 16 students so only a few of us in each class.  We were able to listen to the advanced classes and learned geography using the globe and maps that were acquired around 1906 or so and were used by Alice in 1918! 

Of course one of the reasons I was so good in school and later on in life, a computer career is due to the fact my sister taught me my numbers, alphabet and how to read by the time I was six years old and in first grade.   Then Miss Myers took over and drilled me in all the subjects and because of that, I acquired an interest in geography, languages, reading and art!

Our teacher Miss Meyer was of the old school.  One minded or else.  I remember in second grade I was fiddling around at my desk and not paying attention.  Miss Meyer walked up and said, "Put your hands on the desk!"   So I put my hands on the desk and she took the ruler and wacked my knuckles good and hard, pay attention she said.  I figure I was going to fix her, I went home, walking very fast and stormed into the kitchen where my father and mother were having their afternoon tea and cookies before doing the chores.  I told them what had happened and what were they going to do.  They just sat there and said, get a switch off the lilac bush in the front yard.  Uh, oh I thought.  After a few slaps on my legs I was told to mind the teacher at school and my parents at home.  Lesson well learned! 

Getting to the one room school by foot:

I remember walking the two miles south from my house passed the Johnson brother's farm on the way to school.   The road was gravel and near the school the road was crossed by another gravel road.  I had to walk east about a quarter of a mile to get to the school house.  I walked until I was given a bicycle from my sister to ride to school.  She had sold her horse and was nice enough to give me a present from the money! 

One time when I was in first or second grade, I was walking home after school and it began to snow.  It snowed so hard I could barely see the road.  I kept on the road by feeling the gravel beneath my feet.  I was freezing and wondered if I was ever going to get home.   A car stopped and a man asked if I wanted a ride.   A ride, I don't think so.   I ran into the ditch by the road and the man finally drove off.  I finally got home, freezing and wet and what did my parent say to me?   They said why didn't I ride home with the man as he was the seed man who came to sell us the seeds to plant the various crops in the spring.   I said I was told not to get in a car with a stranger and my parents said, "He is not a stranger!"  I was mad, I was seven or so and had seen him maybe twice and I was suppose to remember him, I don't think so.  Also I remember the Fisher boys, twins, sometimes road their horse to school!  So it was walk or bike or sometimes if possible, a ride in a car to school, that was a treat needless to say!

Behaving at school with Miss Meyers:

Miss Meyers was a strict teacher.  One day I was fooling around at my desk and suddenly I looked up and there she was.  She just said, "Put your hands on the desk and sit still!"  Then she took out a ruler and smacked my hands good and hard!  Ouch!  I was very mad, I thought, I will fix her really good!

So I went home in the afternoon and walked into the kitchen.  My mother and father were having afternoon tea before going out to do the evening chores like milking the cows and feeding the chickens and pigs and so on.  They looked at me and then said, "Do us a favor and go out in the front yard and get a switch off the lilac tree.  Huh, I thought.  It was spring and of course, the twigs on the tree were nice and green.  So I got the switch and very slowly walked by to the kitchen and then they gave me a few swipes on the ankles and thighs and said, "When you are at school you mind Miss Meyers and when home you mind us!"   So much for getting even with Miss Meyers.

I also remember one time Leroy Johnson did something wrong and Miss Meyers came over to his desk.  I thought she was in trouble and Leroy was very large for his age.  He was taller than Miss Meyers.   Well she took him by the neck of his shirt, shook him and put him in the closet in the front of the class room.  It was a small coat closet and suddenly it was very quiet in the room.   A few minutes went by and suddenly we heard sobbing from the closet.   This went on for a long time and finally Leroy was let out of the closet and sent to his desk.  You can believe me, from then on, no one made waves at school!

Note:  Lavonne Kitzmiller said that Leroy Johnson did shove Miss Meyer up against the wall under the big old clock one day and Darrel Smith rescued her.  I wonder if that was the time he ended up in the closet!

My sister Yvonne Buntjer Burt told me she thought Miss Meyer had a sister working at the Five and Dime store.   Sandi asked Shirley about Miss Meyer and she said Miss Meyer had a sister Henrietta that worked at the dime store in Pecatonica.  She was kind of crippled but I didn't know what exactly was wrong. She also had a brother Henry. He had a son who married when he was about 50.

My first love:

Carol Neuberger and Marilyn Baal lived done the road from school and continued west at the cross road to their homes.  I had to turn north to go to my house.   I was all ready at six, thinking about the big city and why oh why, was I on the farm.   We used to listen to the radio in the summer on the porch of the farm house listening to the announcer state, This big orchestra's music is coming from the rood garden on the highest skyscraper in New York!  Why wasn't I there I thought?   Well anyway, I used to walk with Carol and Marilyn to the corner and then since Marilyn lived a farm like I did, I pushed her away, "Get lost!"   Poor Marilyn.  Carol lived in a nice house and her father worked in town so she and her family were the in group!   Then I would lean over and Carol would lean over and I would plant a kiss on her lips.... kind of!   Then fly home!   Later I found out the woman living on the corner in a nice house would see us and then call my mother and say, "Your son Charles is at it again, kissing Carol Neuberger!"  I guess my mother wasn't too concerned as we were six and she never said anything to me!

Sandi said we used to play hide and seek behind the lilac bushes. Boy no girl or boy dare say they hid behind there together or Miss Meyer would give the biggest lecture on Boys and Girls should never, ever be there together alone. I think we were all pretty naive about that time and wondered what the big fuss was about. Then I don't know about you. You were doing that suck face thing with Carol right out in front of Mrs. Gilbert's house on the corner.

Going to the monthly PTA meetings and parent/children get together:

The meetings were like special events.   The parents and Miss Meyers got to talk and so on.  Being so young I never really knew what was going on but sometimes we also played games and so on.  Everyone would bring a dish to pass and after what ever was going on, we all had a great dinner. 

One time my mother made an Angel Food cake and drizzled a sugar frosting all over it.   She then went out to the barn to do some chores and told me to behave!  Well of course I loved that cake, so yummy!   I first took my finger and took a little frosting off the side, not noticeable.   Then I figured if I took some frosting off the hole in the middle, who would know?  So I took some of the frosting off the inside but then decided, why not just dig out a little of the cake also.  What harm can that do?   So I dug some out and then some more and finally decided I had to stop but, the cake looked fine (from the outside anyway)!  

So we went to the school house and the food was placed on a large table for later.  Finally it was time to eat and my mother was standing there and someone cut her cake and asked, whose cake is this anyway?   She wondered why but then saw the piece of cake.  The inside of the piece was torn out!  Then they saw the entire center of the cake was torn out.  I disappeared from sight!  I know mother had a trauma but I think she knew I had seen enough, not to do that again!

Traumas on learning the facts of life:

I had a great childhood on the farm.  200 acres of woods, a river, a large Indian mound on a hill, a swamp and horses to ride and so on.   Well Easter and Christmas was special and I loved Easter.  I would wake up early and my parents and sister would look at me and I of course, wondered if the Easter Bunny had visited us.   One year they said they thought they saw the bunny in the hay mound in the barn.  I ran up to the hay mound and there was a huge nest full of colored eggs and chocolate bunnies and candy!  Wow, I thought, what a bunny!   The next year they said maybe, the bunny had run through the front yard by the lilac tree (the famous one with the switch that was used on my ankles).   I looked under the branches and there was a nest with everything would could want for Easter. 

Then one evening I had gone to bed but heard noise in the kitchen and I wondered what was going on.   I opened the door to the kitchen and my sister and mother had a fit.  I was half asleep but..... I did see lots of hard boiled eggs and colored dye and so on.  Well I wondered if there really wasn't an Easter Bunny after all.  Phooey I thought. 

Then to make matter worse, not long afterwards I was walking to school with Carol and Marilyn and I said as if I was suddenly worldly, "Too bad there really isn't an Easter Bunny!"  I thought I was so smart!   Then Carol and Marilyn said, "Yes, our parents fool us all the time, just like Santa Clause isn't real either!"    I was shocked!  What, no Easter Bunny and now no Santa Clause, all in one week!   But I didn't let them see I was shocked and said, "Yes, who do they think they are fooling!"  But of course, deep down I felt, no Easter Bunny and now no Santa Clause either, sad but then, one has to find out these things at some point in time!

Interesting story about Nancy Fishe 12 years later:

I started college in Rockford Illinois, a liberal arts school, in 1959.   I took French, sketching with a live model, English and what ever else was required.   Then I decided to learn how to dance as I figured in the business world and social life, knowing how to dance would be a plus.  So one evening after class I went to Arthur Murrays and told them I wanted to learn how to dance but didn't want to pay!  The owner of that franchise was a hunk, six foot plus and wavy black hair!   He said I could train for three months and then start teaching and get paid.  I got pushy and said I think I should get paid even when training!  We talked some more and finally he agreed to pay me a small salary even while in training.  So I learned a good lesson, don't settle for the first offer!   He of course told me to keep my mouth shut or everyone would want to be paid while in training!

So after a few months I started teaching and the other men in the class were hot for one of the top dancers.  She was hot, tall and striking and a great dancer.  She went around doing dance exhibits.  She ignored everyone, looked up her nose at us peons!   So the other guys were having a trauma about her and one night we were all on the dance floor and suddenly she flew out of one of the offices and grabbed me and hugged me!  The guys had a fit.  She said you probably don't remember me as I was in the upper grade at the one room school!  Wow, and she remembered my name.     So we had a good talk and a few months later she came over to me and told me her boy friend had moved to Los Angeles and she was moving there to be with him.  Someone on the side told me they thought her 'boy friend' was doing something shady and I thought, wouldn't it be something if she ended up being a gun moll!    She probably wasn't but it sure made a good story!

So I was jealous that someone from our one room school was moving to Las Angeles in 1959!   Little did I suspect in a few years, 1963, I would be living in San Francisco.  So I have always wondered what happened to Nancy.  I am 70 so she must be 75.  Can one be a gun moll at 75?  We may never know!

Games we played:

We used to have someone stand on an upside down pail or what ever and play a game called "King of the World" as we made up our own games and rules.

In the winter we used to make three large circles in the snow, inside of each other with cut offs, like a maze and it was called, Fox and Geese!  Someone was appointed as 'it' and they would try to catch the rest of us but the 'it' person couldn't jump over the maze lines or else, out of the game!   There was lots of screaming and we would be worn out when we went back to class and I am sure the teacher was glad of that!   There also was a game called 'Red Rover' but I cannot remember what that was about!  I think you had to race around and touch a specified spot and yell Red Rover or you would be out.  

My friend Barbara in Seattle said they played Red Rover but it doesn't sound like the game we played.  She said they played with two lines (chains) of kids facing each other with each line holding hands (a link). Then one side would call out 'Red Rover, Red Rover,  send Billy (one of the names of the people in the facing line) right over' and the person who was called out would run over and try to break through one of the links in the opposing chain. They'd tend to call out one of the weaker people and that person would try to break one of the weaker links. 

Sandi agreed with Barbara and wrote me the following about the Red Rover game and some other equipment we had on the play ground:   They usually picked me to break thru the line because I was built like a linebacker.  I remember that teeter/totter thing. Dang it was dangerous. And that Merry-go-round steel thing you ran along beside to get it going and everybody would jump on it and make it clang, hitting the middle pole. I'm surprised we all lived to talk about it. It really was dangerous.

Also another game we played was Every man in his own den, not sure what that was either!   If anyone knows of this game, let me know!

I also remember in the late spring time when the very tall grass behind the school became dry, I think they mowed it, we would gather up the  grass and make forts and so on.  The walls were only a foot or so tall but still met our needs!  As Sandi said, we may not have had much to play with as far as physical things go but, we sure did have great imaginations!

When I was about ten I use to play on a piece of play ground equipment that looked like a teeter tooter but was on an iron pole about seven feet tall.  One would grab the handle bar on the one side and the other side would be higher so the other person swinging with you, usually had to jump up to catch the bar.  Then we would push off, each one going higher and higher.  One day, as boys will be boys, I and another student decided to see how high we could go.  We were swinging so high we were almost straight out from the pole.  Suddenly I fell off and landed on my arm.   (My sister told me that the other person let go of his end of the bar and I went flying!  Good thing someone remembers it wasn't my fault for a change but then, she is my favorite sister!)  I laid there for a while and finally got up but couldn't move my left wrist as it hurt so badly.  Miss Meyers sent me home and my parents checked my wrist and since I could move my fingers said, too bad, and put a bandage on it and the next day said to help with the chores.   It hurt all the time and after a few months it still hurt all the time although I could use the  hand.  I was taken to the doctor and he took an x-ray and said my wrist had been completely broken, all the bones and it was very unusual that someone could move their fingers with the wrist broken.  So they sent me to the Freeport Hospital to break and reset the wrist.  I was on the operating table and the nurses and doctor came in.  One nurse very nicely lifted my right leg and said, is it this one?  No I said.  She lifted my left leg, is it this one?  I said, "NO!"   Didn't they know which body part to operate on, I said, "It is my left wrist!"   The doctor laughed but I didn't.     Later at home, I had a cast on my entire left arm and got the chicken pox of all things.   And to top it, I gave it to my sister who was not amused.  So I had a cast on and under it I had very itchy spots from the chicken pox and one day my mother caught me trying to scratch the sweaty itchy sores with a metal coat hanger I had opened up.  She said you will have scars the rest of your life if you keep scratching those red spots under the cast. 

Yvonne Buntjer Remembers the Wagner School in 1942

My sister Yvonne Buntjer went to the Wagner school from 1942 until the spring of 1946 where she graduated and went to High School in Pecatonica Illinois.  She wrote the following:

I started at Wagner in January of 1942.   I discovered I was way behind in mathematics but with Miss Myers help, soon caught up.  I was considered a kind of outcast as all the pupils had gone there their whole life and their parents had been taught by Miss Myers also! 

Miss Meyers was an amazing teacher.  One did not leave school until you knew everything that was taught that day.  (I, her little brother can testify to that statement.  One time I misspelled breakfast and Miss Meyers was so mad she made me stay after school and write the word correctly 100 times on the blackboard! I was late for chores and had to figure out a reason to be late at home from school!) 

So I never wanted to miss any lessons and have to stay after school as I had to hurry home and get all my chores done.  I had to go home and feed the milk cows, mix the feed for the pigs, hunt eggs and put in cartons, feed and water the chickens and feed the beef cattle.   I also rode horses and learned at an early age to drive the tractors and the horse teams.

When we did the state test and I was 12, 1944, I had a high grade.  I was 12 but the test indicated I was equal to a 16 year old.  Part of this was due to learning so much at home.   When I was 11 I was writing checks for my father.

And our picnics at the end of the school year were always so much fun.  Also in school plays, there were never enough boys for the parts so I and Lawanda Kitzmiller played the men's parts!  We thought that was just great!   also at the monthly PTA meetings we sang songs I loved like America the Beautiful and so on.  I was also learning to play the trumpet and one time my mother made me play it at a PTA meeting and I was scared to death!

Later on I realized how great a teacher she was and how she molded my and my brother.  I was always going to call her and tell her how much I appreciated all she taught me but kept putting it off until it was too late.  That has always bothered me.

I then graduated in May of 1946 and went on to graduate from the Pecatonia High School!

Reported in the Illinois Freeport Newpaper - 2008

Life magazine features Pecatonica one-room schoolhouse.

Published: Friday, April 4, 2008 5:42 PM CDT

Many people will still remember the excitement Life Magazine brought to this area October 1946. That year, a one-room schoolhouse in Pecatonica got top billing in the magazine.

One of the first graders, Charles Buntjer, 6, made the front cover as he laboriously printed "Puff" in his first-grade workbook.  Check the last photo of Chuck 60 years later living in San Francisco!

Life Magazine so vividly captured the memory of that day in words and pictures so that 50 years later, we feel as if we were there.  Bob Wachlin brought in a copy of the magazine.

The first paragraph paints the entire picture for us:

Nancy Fische of the second grade was absent the day the school picture above was taken, but except for her, some playground equipment and two privies which are out of the picture, you are looking at the entire personnel and physical assets of District School 94 near Pecatonica, Ill.

The writer comments that this was "if not the best one-room school in the country, it was certainly one of the best."

They gave credit to the schoolmarm, Miss Erna Meyer, for the 37 years she taught in rural schools, 26 of them in Pecatonica. She was paid about $1,500 a year at that time.

These one-room schoolteachers were multi-tasking way back then. The magazine describes her teaching day to that of a juggler. Miss Meyer, for example, started the day getting all six grades going n more or less simultaneously.

The seventh graders were given a study problem. The first graders were started crayoning. The second grade was at the blackboard doing arithmetic, while the fifth grade composed a letter.

"With the seventh grade studying, the first grade coloring, the second grade figuring, and the fifth grade writing, Erna has time to check homework with the third grade, after assigning some grading in geography to the sixth grade."

 "With all of this going on each day, she also was expected to plan study courses, order books and supplies, give special attention to pupils who needed it, and to keep an eye on the schoolhouse roof to see that it doesn't spring a leak."

That was indeed multi-tasking and here we thought we invented it in the year 2000.

There's a great deal of history of one-room schoolhouses in this area at the Stephenson County Historical Museum, as well as a one-room schoolhouse on the grounds.

Teachers who taught in one-room schoolhouses found that their students learned the basics very well. What they might have missed in the third and fourth grade, they  later heard and picked up on in the later grades as they listened to other classes.

These teachers also kept the fire going in the pot-bellied stove, swept the floors and cleaned the blackboards n or had some help from the students in a few of these  tasks.
One Stephenson County schoolmarm once told me she had her students bring a potato to school, which she would place on the stove, to cook a "hot lunch" at noon.

The October day at the Pecatonica School in the photo essay shows the students at their desks. The next photo shows them reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

In the next row of pictures, the first graders are sending a letter to Mr. Puff, students at the blackboard doing simple sums, students listening to a lecture and then a reading session with students and the last on that page of a boy discussing his blackboard composition.

On the final page of the essay, we see young Homer Meiers, a seventh grader on a bicycle, then three second graders carrying their lunches to school, and seventh grade twins, Kenneth and Keith Fische, on a horse.

The magazine's photo essay on the one-room schoolhouse concludes with a large photo showing recess at the school.
   The first two grades are given a 15-minute break. After this, classes resumed until noon and had a one-hour lunch break.

The youngest students go home at 3:30 p.m.; the older ones at 4 p.m. Then the teacher, corrects papers and goes home around 5 p.m. What a wonderful legacy these teachers left behind.

Stories of one-room schoolhouse teachers may be found that the Stephenson County Historical Museum. In the days of readin', writin' and 'rithmetic, they got their lessons for life.

Olga Gize Carlile is a columnist for The Journal-Standard.

Alice Ackerman's 1918 Sixth Grade History of the Wagner One Room School

You may wonder how I came to the following information about the one room school I went to in 1946!  One day I received a message on Facebook from a Sandi Lender and I wondered who that could be?   I read her comments and realized we had been school mates in 1947!  She started first grade when I was in second grade.  She said she always looked at the cute boy with the blond hair in seat not too far from her!   Well it was me of all people.  We have started up a great correspondence over the last six month and exchanged many memories.   She continued to live in the northern Illinois area until finally moving to Florida so she knew most of the people that were living at the time we were in school.  I had lost track as I was living in San Francisco and didn't have any connection with the Midwest any more!

My sister Yvonne is eight years older than I am and she and Sandi know many of the same people.  One family, the Ackerman, were living in the area and Sandi wrote and told us that they had found a school paper written by a distance relative, Alice Ackerman in 1918!   Sandi was nice enough to send me a packet with some photos and the report Alice wrote.   Read on about the history of the Wagner One Room School!

The following was a paper written in 1918 when Alice Ackerman was in sixth grade at the Wagner One Room School.   I, Charles W. Buntjer - went to the same school in 1946 and appeared on the cover of Life Magazine the same year celebrating the end of the Second World War.  After Alice's report is a short one by my sister and by me since both of us attended the Wagner One Room School - she in 1943 and I in 1946!

Alice wrote the following in 1918:  The first school house was built in 1848 by a man named Mr. Farewell and named after him.  It was built of stone and had double seats and benches for the students to sit on.  There was an old iron stove in it.  Mr. Charles Follet taught the school for the first two years.  There were 60 pupils enrolled.  My grandfather Wales Woodruff and Mrs. Margaret Weber are the only two who are now living in the district that went to this school.  After it was no longer used as a school house, it was remodeled and used as a dwelling house.  It stood for about 60 years and was torn down six or eight years ago.  Some of the stone was used to build the foundation for a barn near by.

Alice wrote:  The first school house was built in 1848 by a man named Mr. Farwell and named after him.  It was built of stone and had double seats and benches for the pupils to sit on.  There was an old iron stove in it.  Mr. Charles Follet taught school for the first two years.  There were 60 students enrolled.  My grandpa Wales Woodruff and Mrs. Margaret Weber are the only two who are mow living in the district that went to this school. 

After it was no longer used as a school house, it was remodeled and used as a dwelling house.  It stood about 60 years and was torn down six or eight years ago.  Some of the stone was used in building the foundation of a barn nearby.  (Note:  Charles Buntjer - My sister told me the bridge across the Pecatonica River that ran passed our farm was called the Farwell Bridge so we wonder if it was named after him also.)  

The next school house was built in 1854 by the district on the opposite side of the road and not too far east.  There were then about 50 pupils enrolled.  The room was so crowded that the children would take turns sitting in the large windows.   There were no halls but there were hooks along the sides of the school room.  There were shelves above the hooks for the dinner pails.  There were benches on the east and west sides.  In the south west corner was a large wood box.   There were two long recitation benches along the west side.  At first it was called the Farewell but now it was changed to the Wagner.  This building was torn down 12 years ago.  When Mr. Follet was tearing it down he found a shingle dated 1854!

During this time it was decided that some of the children had too far to go to school so the district was separated into two parts.  The part north of the river was called the Riverside District.   The people in both districts had to help pay for the school house in the new district.

The school house we know have was built in the year of 1906.  Mr. Joe Meyer was the contractor.  There have been 30 or 40 pupils attending ever since it has been built.  It is a frame building and has a wood shed west of it.  (The first photo on the top left looks the same as when I went to the Wagner school in 1946.  The only difference is the porch on the front so I wonder when that was build?)

Three of the boys who went to this school to be educated are in the Army and another one in the Navy.  We have a banner in the front window with 33 red crosses on it.  This is to show we are helping our boys out.  Each one in our school gave 25 Cents to belong to the Junior Red Cross.

We have a globe, two sets of maps, a slate black board and single seats!   Our library has nearly 100 books and one set of cyclopedias.  A piano was bought with money obtained at an entertainment.  A furnace in the basement heats and ventilates the room. so our building is well equipped and improvements are made each year.  

You can still see those maps and globe and piano from 1918 still being used in the photo to the right.  Miss Myers is standing in the back and I of course, am sitting in the front row looking casual as usual!

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