Even though Don Scott spent a good part of eight years of his life in the building, it took him a minute to recall exactly how the one-room schoolhouse used to be laid out.
“But you have to remember, I’m 74 years old,” Don said with a grin.
Don graduated from the Round Prairie School in 1950. The school, which dates to the late 1890s, officially closed its doors in 1963. Since that time, the school building has served as the home for the area 4-H Club and as a community building, of sorts, for the residents who live in the area a few miles west of Spurgeon or due north of Racine. I suppose the best way to describe where the Round Prairie Community Building is located is to say it’s on the corner of Finch Drive and Greenbrier Road, just off Route P, which is just off Route NN.
You pretty much have to know where the building is to find it, I guess is what I’m saying.
For decades, hundreds of school-age children and their parents knew exactly where the building was located. Like all the one-room school buildings that still dot the landscape in this part of the country, the Round Prairie School at one time was the glue that kept a loosely connected rural community together.
Don told me that in any given year, 15 or 16 kids in first grade through eighth grade shared to school with one teacher. He said the school was heated with a coal-burning stove. When I mentioned that the stove likely kept the small school warm, Don nodded his head.
“Yeah, but the problem with a stove like that was you were either burning up or freezing,” he said.
Earlier Tuesday, Don stood outside the school and pointed to two spots just west of the building.
“That’s where the girls’ outhouse used to be, and that’s where the boys’ used to be,” he said.
I thought it was funny that Don could remember exactly where the outhouses used to be but had to think a minute to recall where the blackboard inside the school used to stand.
I guess you remember the important things in life.
I dropped by the Round Prairie Community Building to talk to Don and to Estella Osborn about an upcoming fundraiser. For many years now, a group of dedicated folks has worked to keep the building thriving. It’s been a tireless and, lately, expensive job. Clearly the building’s interior could use some work, which is why the Round Prairie Community Building’s board of directors is holding a benefit hay and pie auction beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday at the building. A barbecue beef, hamburger and hot dog dinner will kick off the event, followed by music by Bob Novak and the Fabulous BRDs and then the auction at 7:15 p.m.
Estella said the board’s plans for the Round Prairie building go way beyond some minor repairs.
“Our goal is to take the building back to its original condition,” she said.
In addition, Estella said, the board would like to renovate the parts of the building that have been added over the years in order for it to once again serve as a true community building. There are many children who live in the area around the school who, because they are bused to school, are not able to attend after-school programs. The board would like to use a restored Round Prairie School for that purpose.
It’s a neat idea. So is the idea to allow the building to serve as a meeting place for area senior citizens, and for other members of the community to use the school building. But, at least for me, the neatest idea is that some folks with big dreams refuse to let an important part of the area’s history die.
“We need to (restore the school building) for the future,” Don said. “So 50 years from now, people can come in and say, ‘So this is how schools used to be.’”
For more information about the Round Prairie Community Building or to share your memories of the school, you can call 417-624-0415.