“It was a neat childhood…it really was,” said Dave Pulscher, as he reminisced recently about the one-room schoolhouse that he grew up in.
As a child, Pulscher lived a little over two miles away from Lathrop School, a small white and red building with two front doors, one for the boys and one for the girls. He’d get there either on his bike, his horse, or walking, catching up with the neighbor kids on the way.
It’s hard for him and others who attended school there, to believe that the structure is still standing, especially after the destructive storms that passed through the region this spring.
The small schoolhouse, despite showing some signs of aging and perhaps some raccoons taking up residency, is still firmly planted on a quiet country road between Flandreau and Ward.
It’s almost like its job isn’t yet done.
While one-room schoolhouses used to dot the landscape across the nation, fewer than 400 are said to still be standing today. Lathrop is a gem. Herinterior still holds the stage where Ms. Margaret Headrick used to teach reading, writing, arithmetic, history, and geography each day, as the students made their way from first grade through eighth grades. The youngest students would sit in front and the oldest in the back. The oil burning stove, where students knew just what time to put their can of soup on so that it was warm in time for lunch, is now gone. But many other remnants of history remain.
“It’s neat to see it still standing,” said Pulscher, “I hate to see it disappear. I remember that during pheasant season, my dad would come and leave my shotgun for me at school and I would pheasant hunt on the way home. You’d never hear of that today. And I’d usually have my limit by the time I got home!”
The school is now part of Mike and Mindy Smith’s property. Mike attended the school as well, and while he enjoys talking about his time there, he prefers to let others, like Barbara Barnett, share her thoughts.
Barnett, who left Flandreau and South Dakota many years ago, was just back for a visit from her home in North Carolina. Among the stops she made while here, was to see her former teacher, Ms. Margaret Headrick.
“I remember her sitting at a table, and she would call us up one by one to read. She always had on this very elegant top with a big bow and a lot of layers and lace, and she’d sit there with her arms on the table and she had this brown sapphire ring. That was the first thing I purchased after I got back to work, because it was just such a fond remembrance of her,” Barnett told the Moody County Enterprise. “She had very high expectations of us, we had to diagram these long sentences on the board each day. She said, do you remember every day going to the board? Diagramming and sitting at the table with her and reading really stand out when I think of my time there.”
Barnett also remembers that trip back and forth to school with her neighbor, Dave Pulscher.
“We all had horses. My brothers were two years younger. We’d ride them across the pasture and at that time there was actually a barn on school grounds. We’d take their saddles off, give them some hay and then after school, we just couldn’t wait, of course, to ride back. It was a delightful experience to have that freedom to do those things…I can’t imagine kids having the freedom to do that today.”
Barnett went on to become a teacher herself, in large part, because of the influence Headrick and the entire experience had on her. Headrick, who is now 102 years old and still living locally, also fondly recalls her time teaching at Lathrop School. She was so very young herself when she took over for her sister Mildred, who had taught there as well. But every day, the students say she was there early to make sure the room was warm, the lessons were prepared, and she was there to greet them with a smile as they walked through the door.
“The students were so hopeful…and so good,” said Headrick. “I miss those times, and relive them many times. There are some who still wave at me when they see me… it was really enjoyable. The people were so good.”
There were plays and performances and other events that the school hosted, and when it wasn’t being used by the children, Headrick said that families used to gather every Tuesday night for card parties.
Headrick, who grew up in a rural school, can’t imagine anything different.
Neither can Barnett.
“When I think of that experience, the first thought that comes to mind is how grateful I am to have had that support and lifestyle and the opportunity of how I got to learn in those young years. I feel very grateful for that period of time — and I think it was a very solid foundation that really allowed me to be more of a risk taker. To say to myself about anything, that ‘I can do this’. Without that (upbringing), I don’t know how that would have been.”