My Memories of the Deer River School

         Thelma Virkler


                    Located on the Deer River-Copenhagen Road, the grey, trimmed with white, two-room schoolhouse sat where I received my early education; from Kindergarten (beginning in 1051) through and partially into the fourth grade.  It was then, in fourth grade, I remember a gentleman coming in to explain about the school closing and us being bussed to West Carthage Elementary.

                    I learned a lot under the best teacher I ever had; Mrs. Iva Sauter.  Many fine memories remain in my mind as I think back about those days.  A loving teacher who did things with us made our learning time enjoyable.

                    Living on a farm on the Station Road about 1/3 to ½ mile away from the school, my parents daily drove me there.  Many children lived close by and either walked or road their bicycles.  In those days, school started later than that of today.  I believe it was a 9 to 3 schedule.

                    As we began the day, Mrs. Sauter would make sure each class had something to work on while she taught grade by grade (row by row) starting with Kindergarten class.  Mostly she taught K through 3rd grade, though she did teach some higher grades.  (Recently she informed me that a Mrs. Chism  [ed. Florence Chisholm] taught 4th, 5th and 6th grades, but I don’t remember her – maybe it was before my time?)


   Kindergarten, probably 1951-52

Tom Pridell, Ervin Miller, Thelma Virkler, Linda Schack, Veronica Sue Moore, Iva Sauter, Teacher


                    The desks and chairs were dark brown and later some blond ones.  They were simple and made of wood.  I do remember by the 4th grade my desk was the type that was a combination with the chair being attached.  The desktop was tilted and raised up in order to store books and supplies inside.

                    The floors at school were wooded, though I remember later seeing them painted grey.  At the front of the classroom was the teacher’s desk and behind it there was a platform approximately 3 ft wide, 4-5” high and extend across the front.  At Christmastime each class would have people speak learned pieces and together we’d sing carols.

          I had a nervous stomach and always got “butterflies” in my stomach prior to saying my piece.  In fact, one time I remember feeling so sick that I ended up staying at home and my parents went to the doings.

                    Well, back to the schoolhouse – At the front of the room, at the left, was the upright black piano which was played by Mrs. Sauter as she taught us music.  One song we sang required us to participate.  She had one child climb on top of the wooden piano bench and another student underneath pretended to be the wolf.  (I can’t remember what the song was, but do remember taking part.)  Near the piano stood an American flag, in its standard.

                    Above the chalkboard were the letters of the alphabet.  Our teacher used a pointer stick to teach them to us.  In first grade we began reading the Dick and Jane series.  These books used simple words like Dick, Jane, Spot, see, go, fast, etc.  The words would be put together to create a story.

          At the back of the school room there was a sandbox with wooden blocks.  Along the back wall was a white bookcase which housed library books.  There was also an easel and some maps.  When fire safety became a concern, I remember that a back fire escape door with a push rod to open was installed.  We did have a few fire drills.

                    For lunch, I carried a red metal lunchbox that also had a red thermos.  A favorite meal of mine was homemade cucumber sandwiches.  By lunchtime, the salad dressing had marinated through and they were delicious!  Also, I enjoyed Campbell’s vegetable soup in my thermos.  Some children went home for lunch.

                    After lunch we had recess time.  If the weather was nice, we played kickball using a red rubber ball.  We played a lot of that and didn’t seem to tire of it.  Occasionally someone would get hurt or there’d be a disagreement as to a certain judgment call, but rarely did we have to end the game prematurely because a settlement could not be reached.  Many times I remember the ball being kicked so hard it would go across the road and onto someone’s lawn, or in the hayfield in back of us.To signal the end of recess, someone was chosen to pull the rope to ring the bell, which was located on the roof.

                    When we had to stay inside for recess, a game often played was the dog and his bone,  A child (the dog)  would sit in a chair on the platform facing the blackboard with his/her back to the class.  An eraser (the bone) was placed on the floor under the chair and was “stolen” by a student.  The “dog” had to guess who stole its bone.

                    Another outside activity at recess was playing on the merry-go-round located at the right of the schoolhouse.  It was painted dark green and was the type that goes up and down as well as around.  I remember that a lot of times it was being pushed too fast by older kids and it was either too hard to get on board or hard to hold on once you got on.  When rare opportunities did arise to push it myself at a decent speed, it seemed to be short-lived, as either recess ended or the older ones came by to take over.  It was fun, nonetheless.  On the left side of the schoolhouse there were 3 or 4 swings.  I remember there were times we didn’t play on them because the grass had grown too high and hadn’t been mowed.


Some of the students, clockwise from the pole: Shirlkey Dekin, ?,?,?,?, Brenda Waugh, Linda Schack, Thelma Virkler, Ervina Dekin, ?,

Hugh Wilkenson, Ervin Miller (hiding), Carol Van Ness, Jeanie Lehman, Thomas Pridell, Marlene Feistel, Geraldine Cummings,

Ellen Cummings, ?,


                    As we entered the school building, there was a hallway dividing the two rooms of the building.  The room on the right was mostly used for storage but did convert to a classroom while I was there.  In fact, Mrs. Dorothy Cummings taught kindergarten in that room.  A stove used to heat the building was located in the hallway and at the end were the two bathrooms.  I remember it was cold in the bathrooms during the winter months.

                    Just inside our classroom, to the left, there were hooks screwed into a board attached to the wall on which we hung our coats, snowsuits, etc.  There was a reading table with chairs right there too, so we used that to put on our boots and outerwear.

                    A highlight of the year was when all the students would march or ride their bicycles in a parade on Memorial Day.  We would begin at the schoolhouse and proceed east to the main highway - Route 26 – then head south toward south toward the Deer River Bridge.  On the bridge we’d stop to throw freshly picked lilacs into the River, remembering those who died at sea.  Then we’d continue the journey on to the Swineburn Cemetery, where speeches and gun salutes were made by veterans, some poems recited by students, and patriotic songs sung.  To mark the occasion, our bicycles were decorated by weaving colorful crepe paper through the spokes.  Used as noisemakers, a piece of cardboard was cut and folded and attached to the bike by a clothespin so as to rub against the spokes, making a “clacking: sound as the wheels turned.

                    At the end of the school year, we celebrated by packing a picnic lunch and wading or swimming in the Deer River further up the road from where the school was located.


This is the school picnic held at the end of the school year on the Deer River-Copenhagen Road.


                    To those who had the privilege of attending the Deer River School, I hope my memories stirred some of you own as we celebrate the 50th year of Centralization of the Carthage School Districts.