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Chuck Hinman: IJMA No. 156, The Bruensbach School

It's Just Me Again No. 156: The Bruensbach School At 18, he landed his first teaching job in a rural school. He was never so happy, he recalls. The only worry, would the kids like him?
The next earlier Chuck Hinman column: Chuck Hinman: IJMA No. 138. Coyote hunts in the olden days

By Chuck Hinman

It's May 1940 (68 years ago) and I had finished my first year at Peru State Teachers College in Peru, Nebraska. I was certified to teach a rural school. This is in the days when rural schools dotted the countryside and before the mass consolidation of school districts into mega schools with transportation systems. Our family was a product of the rural school system circa 1925-1940. We went to New Hope School, District 122, a half mile east of our home.

Fresh out of college at 18, I was looking for a country school to teach. I was excited at the prospect, my first job. I planned to teach one year, save most of my salary and return to Peru for a year to qualify for a position in a larger school, and eventually earn a Bachelor's degree. It would open up a whole range of job opportunities if I didn't want to teach.

I decided to ask Hugh Munson for help in landing a teaching position near home. Mr. Munson was County Superintendent of Gage County Schools. He was over all the teachers of rural schools.

I called on Mr. Munson in his offices in the court house in Beatrice. I had helped him several years earlier win his bid for County Superintendent. I was a hot young piano player and he used me and several other talented musicians to entertain in his successful campaign for the head of the rural school system. He suggested I check out the Bruensbach school five miles south of Liberty, Nebraska, and just nine miles from home. It was perfect. He gave me a letter of commendation and I got the job. It paid a whopping $50.00 a month and I could stay at home. Dad got me a Model T Ford coupe that you started with a crank. It was nice-looking. I had never been so happy. I was not out of "the nest" but it was just a matter of time.

It was three months before school started. I had a key to the school house and spent my free time down there arranging the room. It was a typical rural schoolhouse. They all look alike with two toilets out back and a shed for coal. Even though I was qualified by state law to teach -- as I stood alone in that school so many times, I began to panic "What am I supposed to do? What books do I use? What if they don't like me?".

Before I hardly knew it, here were these five kids sitting there, apprehensive, smiling at me. I knew immediately I was going to love this job AND those kids! There was Laddie Patterson, Maurice and Ross Graham - my three second graders (all boys), Donna Graham, my fifth grader (the only girl), and Allen Patterson, my eighth grader, the old man in the school. I don't know where the year went but it was over before I turned around!.

Some of the things that stand out: Every rural teacher had to submit detailed lesson plans weekly for each subject and grade. It took a tremendous amount of time but it was great for everyone. Mr. Munson dropped in frequently to watch the school in action. What a friend and boss!.

One of the high spots of the year was our Christmas program for a packed house. With my music expertise we put on a program you wouldn't believe featuring those second grade boys belting out "Alexander is a Swoose (Goose)" that brought down the house. They were so cute and loved showing off. Donna and Allen were great as well. Leo Smith who had an electric shop in Liberty helped me in having a lighted Christmas tree before the days of electricity in rural schools. The power source was my Model T battery! The school glittered with Christmas cheer. The kids and I had washed the windows inside and out, put a fresh fragrant oil treatment on those ancient floors. The kids brought kerosene lamps from home and we had a rural school Christmas party I will never forget!.

On the last day of school, all six of us crowded in the front seat of my Model T and went to a nearby creek and had our nostalgic (for me) last day of school lunch together. And who could forget the winter scenes of those five red-cheeked kids in below zero degree weather laughing and sitting on an iron pole levered over a chunk of wood, holding one rear wheel of my Model T, off the ground. That was so I could crank the frozen engine so I could get home. I can still hear their little voices saying -- "See you tomorrow Mr. Hinman"! How could I not love them to pieces?.

What an experience for an 18 year old kid in 1940 on his first job! I'd give anything to see those kids again! God bless you wherever you are!.

Written by Chuck Hinman on 5-15-08.

Writers note. Somewhere around my stuff here at Tallgrass Estates is a picture of me sitting on the porch of Bruensbach school with "my kids" sitting around me. That picture erases any early day fears of whether the kids would like me!

This story was posted on 2012-02-19 08:16:56
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