I did a mid-1980’s interview with Mel Faldet who taught in the rural school system. For 5 years, 1937 – 1942, Mel was the teacher at Pleasant #10 in Winneshiek County.
In the course of our conversation I found of particular interest his concern that rural school children were being somewhat “cheated” in the area of music. I will always have fond memories of Mel “dancing up a storm” at the Highlandville school dances, especially when the Foot-Notes were playing.
Here is his story in his own words:
I did sign a contract to teach the “Young” school Pleasant #10 beginning in the fall of 1937. Pleasant #10 indicated it to be the newest school in Pleasant Township. However it had no basement and sat up quite high on its foundation. This meant that the floor didn’t get warm in winter since the heating plant consisted of a “Round Oak” heater near the back of the school room. It sat up quite high on top of a metal pad and was surrounded by a metal guard.
This had to be fired by wood chunks which had to be carried from a woodshed located about 60 feet from the back northeast corner of the school building. To keep a good warm fire going it often had to be fired between classes. It would never hold fire overnight.
Custodial duties did not end there, this meant the teachers had to come early in the morning to build the fire and try to get the schoolroom warm and carry in wood. Then it was to shovel the snow for a path to the door and also to the “outhouses” and the woodshed. At the end of the day the floor had to be swept and everything put in order for the next day.
Pleasant #10 was built and completed in 1917, but its usual attendance was more like 15 to 20 pupils. Some of these were borrowed from the Glenwood Township School known as the Kelly or Renaas School to the southeast in Glenwood, mainly because it was handier for them to come to school in Pleasant #10.
I have always felt that the rural school students were somewhat cheated in the music department. I always enjoyed the folk singing along with the phonograph. Many of these songs I still remember and sing. This was fine but the students in the town schools were given an opportunity to start on an instrument and learn the notes as they learned to play the instrument.