I have a pretty good memory for an eighty-nine year old.
What seems odd to me is that my most vivid memories are of my childhood, growing up in Dime Box. Later years, especially unhappy years, seem to have disappeared from my memory bank, which is good because I don’t have to relive them.
I remember my childhood years as happy years, even though our life was lived against the backdrop of World War II, which began September 1, 1939 (the year before I entered first grade) and it ended September 2, 1945.
I loved my humble, Salt of the Earth, parents, my caring grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and, of course, my twin brother. I loved living in a farming community, I loved my church, my town, and my school, back then called Dime Box Rural School. And my teachers.
It was in Rural School were the seeds were sown for my choosing to become a teacher.
It’s where I learned to diagram compound and complex sentences, where I learned to make my subjects agree with my verbs, where I learned to identify all the countries in the world and states in the Union, where I first learned algebra, and much more.
The classrooms at Dime Box Rural School had a special magic to them. The Elementary School, grades one through eight, was separated from the High School by a large, open space, with a large circular native stone water fountain imbedded with many faucets in the center. Shared by both, here the little kids came face to face with the big kids, each staying on their side of the water fountain and respecting the rights of the other. Respect for one another was taught by the teachers.
The classrooms were places of fun as well as learning. About this time, early February, we would begin plans for Valentine’s Day. Each Elementary School classroom contained one teacher with two classes. For example, the fifth and sixth grade teacher had the fifth graders on one side of the room and the sixth graders on the other, not the best arrangement, but in those days you had to make do.
With such an arrangement, it was necessary to make and decorate two Valentine Boxes. The teacher would award a prize to the class with the most imaginative decorated box. In the sixth grade I was chosen to design our Valentine Box. An arty student in the fifth grade was chosen to design their Box. The whole class would decorate its Box, somewhat following the design, kind of like getting a float ready for the Rose Bowl Parade.
To make a long story short, the fifth grade won the Best Box contest, but they shared their “prize,” a bag of Valentine candy with us. Another thing Rural School teachers taught us was to share.
My late brother felt the same positive feelings I have for our beloved Rural School and for our little town, unknown to the rest of the world, but full of happy memories for those of us who lived there.
Ray Spitzenberger is a retired WCJC teacher, a retired LCMS pastor, and author of three books, It Must Be the Noodles, Open Prairies, and Tanks Schoen.