Hanchett / Lawrence / South Evergreen

One Room Schoolhouse Reunion

Stories - Lawrence School

Shirley (Englert) Erickson


Once a substitute teacher (man) brought in a magazine to show us.  On the cover was a bare chested man with large, fist-sized spiders all over him.  I was so creeped out; I’ve never forgotten that visual

Betty Todd wrote the following article for the Fruitport Area News sometime in the 1990s



Nunica’s Lawrence School


In the late twenties and early thirties school policy, as far as age entrance was concerned, was flexible.  Enrolling a child in school for the first time depended upon the parent’s aggressiveness, tolerance of the teacher, and even the cuteness of the youngster.  So in 1926, equipped with my penny pencil, nickel tablet, and wearing my new fifty-nine cent dress, and one dollar and a half shoes, I entered the chart class at the Lawrence School.  My teacher was Miss Elizabeth Smith.


I remember reading from a large chart about Ruth and Rover, both of whom could jump and run.  Upon completion of about ten chart pages, I was promoted to a hard cover book in which Ruth and Rover were still jumping and running.


I recall the snow that year.  We cut across Beach’s fields to shorten the distance.  Often I had to be carried by one of the big girls to keep from disappearing in the deep snow.  The privilege of “cutting across” was curtailed when fences began to suffer.


Promptly at nine a.m. came the tolling of the bell.  It made your day if the teacher selected you to do the ringing.  You pulled on that bell rope until it reached a momentum to lift you right off the floor.


The subjects taught were the usual three R’s.  Depending upon the grade, you might have in addition spelling, history, geography, hygiene or orthography.  I think I learned more as an eavesdropper as the teacher held classes at the front of the room on a recitation bench than I did by studying back at my seat.


Lawrence School at this time was equipped with outdoor plumbing.  When thirsty, we took our collapsible cups to a pump outside.  It didn’t take us long after the first frost to learn not to take a dare of the older kids to put our tongues on the pump handle.  The rest rooms were the typical “out houses”, one for the boys and another for the girls.  I had the dubious thrill one wintry day on my way to the girl’s facility of being blown across the crusty snow until I was rescued by one of the big boys.  We never heard of the modern trick-or-treat, so other pranks were devised to celebrate Halloween, one of which was tipping over toilets,.  Those at the Lawrence School were often found lying flat the day after Halloween.


My parents were disturbed by the quality of education we were getting.  In some cases, we were learning from textbooks copyrighted before World War I.  Of course, it was financially impossible for the large farm families to buy complete sets of books.  The solution seemed to be of adopting a policy of “free text books” paid for by a tax assessment.  The idea split the community and was defeated at an election.  But somehow, the new books appeared.  What a thrill to look through those beautiful books.


Violet Branstorm was probably responsible for awakening the district to the archaic methods to which we had been exposed under the guise of education.  I also credit her influence for my later 35 years of teaching in the public schools of the State of Michigan.


About this time, Lawrence School developed a library.  It was Seventh Heaven to sit in that little room and read.  I read every book in that library but one.  That being, Lorna Doon.  That book was just too thick and the print too fine to entice me.  Even Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary  had its fascination.  However, my teacher (Violet Branstorm) was shocked when I told her I didn’t like Peter Pan.


In the fall and spring baseball was the favorite game.  The ball could be anything from sponge rubber to a hardball, or even a home-made rag ball.  The only official rule required that it had to be round.


For a bat, more often than not, a board was used.  I always selected the widest allowed according to the rules, as I was never an Olympic contender in any sport.  There were other rules, too, such as hitting the ball over the fence into Laidel’s field was an “out”.


Another game enjoyed by most of the fun-loving and high spirited was the all-weather game called “Shinny”.  To be a contestant, meant going to the woods and locating a long stick with a hook on the end and a small chunk of wood to act like a puck.  A loosened knot from a knothole was ideal.  This was batted around on the ground.  I never knew the purpose of the game as I was safely ensconced inside the building.  It wasn’t called “shinny” for nothing, and many a shin gave testimony to its accurate nomenclature.


We had other less strenuous games such as jumping rope, jacks, “May I” and “Pom-pom-pull-away,” which left my brother, Jack with a broken ankle.


We had our school holidays, also.  There was Valentine’s Day when we drew names and presented our “name” with one valentine.  Christmas, of course, was probably the most exciting time.  Everyone participated in the Christmas program.  The highlight of the evening was receiving from our teacher the small decorated box containing hard candy and one chocolate drop.


Occasionally a Box Social was held, generally to supplement the school’s income for some specific reason.  An event of this kind was open to anyone wishing to attend.  The ladies of the community prepared a box containing a lunch which was then auctioned off to the gentlemen.  Later the buyer and the lady shared the lunch.


We also celebrated the closing of the school year by a community picnic.  Generally a family was asked to bring a particular dish to serve.  After lunch came the contests.  There were races, relays, throwing and prizes to win.


For a couple of years, we had a man teacher, Ned Spencer.  I remember him for his novel method of punishment – sitting on the floor in front of the room.  Needless to say, the more aggressive kids made a point of getting into his bad graces early enough to avoid most of the day’s classes.  He was, however, clever at carving tops from spools.  A kid could fail a reading or arithmetic tests but receive a high grade in top carving.


My best friend during the years I attended Lawrence School was Mary Czinder.  She and I were the same age and in the same grade.  There was also Rosy O’Bradovitch, and the Steenhovens also had a girl my age.  All the Hecksel kids were more like family and I regret having let the years after graduation separate us.  But all went in different directions – college, careers, etc.


Betty Todd

Memories from Unknown Authors


All my years of elementary were at Lawrence where I walked to & from State Rd.  Gladys Crouse was the teacher till I left for high school.

Unknown Author



I walked to and from school.  I remember walking waist deep in snow & sometimes the flats flooded in spring and we had to walk on a narrow strip with water on both sides.  Mrs. Crouse & Miss Poppema were a couple teachers I remember.

Unknown Author



I remember the games we played at recess, the summer ones and winter snow sliding on Liadals hill.  Also the Box socials that included parents.

Unknown Author



I remember Miss Crouse when I was in school when she would call my name.  I had to take my thumb out of my mouth.  I was a thumb sucker.  Miss Stewert was one of my teachers also.

Unknown Author



School days at Lawrence were good.  We brought our lunches and if we wanted to warm something we put a jar on top of the “furnace” (free standing in the corner).  Mrs. Crouse had wood working on tables under the windows.  Some of the girls took sewing at Mrs. Nopperts (no sexism here “-“).  We played softball (girls and boys together!!!) against other schools.  Frank Scott was pitcher and could he throw that ball to first base—ouch!  We didn’t win very many games but we had fun.  We also played prisoners base and enie inny over.  One great fun was “cops & robbers” around the perimeter of the school on our bikes.  I don’t remember if we collided or not.  We met in the front of school by class for each grade and other grades would watch.  We would write on our desks and they became pretty bumpy–so one year we refinished the desk tops.  They looked great.  Mother Club took care of the school, cleaning in the fall before school started; they also held fund raisers like bingo games and box social-great fun.

Unknown Author

By Barb (Karafa) Jewll


My mom was a janitor for Lawrence.  Jo Ann Langlois and I would tell the teacher that mom needed coal pushed down to feed to the stove for overnight. Most times she really didn’t need some every day but as long as the teacher went along with that, so did we. I remember the rulers coming out when you didn’t say the right thing. Real well


by Jo Ann Langlois Windberg


I started kindergarten at Lawrence School in 1951.  One of my mom’s friends, May Busman, made a dress for me to wear on my first day of kindergarten.  I remember it was white with little blue flowers.  I loved that little dress and have fond memories of May for making it for me.


There were no school buses to pick us up and take us back home, so my sister and I walked to school and back every day.  We would sometimes walk with Doug Hardy and his sister Deanna, Terry Jarka, and Marla Bench. We walked in all kinds of weather and never gave it a thought nor complained about it.


There were four of us that started Lawrence School together and continued until we graduated from Coopersville High School.  Although there were a few girls that occasionally came and went the first couple years, it was mostly Shirley and Carol Englert, Barb Karafa, and myself in the same grade.  Shirley, Carol and Barb came from the north end of Walnut Drive to school and I came from the South end.  The first year, in Kindergarten, I had half days so I walked home by myself, approx. 1 ½ miles. I did not mind that at all, however, one day I saw a snake as I was walking home and ran back to the school.  I refused to walk back home so the teacher sent Doug Hardy to walk back with me. He was in the first grade.


We had two bathrooms at the east end of the school; one for the girls and one for the boys.  The entrance to both had a cloak room where we hung our coats and a shelf to store our sack lunches. Milk was brought in and I recall white milk was a penny and chocolate milk was 2 or 3 cents.


We climbed monkey trees (I don’t know why we called them that) in the back of the school and we had a swing set for recess activities.  I rarely used the swings because I would get motion sick every time.  One time I walked in front of John Englert while he was swinging and the seat caught the corner of my forehead.  It bled like crazy and I still have the scar.


 I recall the day a few of the ladies came to the school when a slide was delivered.  They must have had something to do with purchasing it.  They gave some of us kids a sheet of wax paper to sit on as we went down the slide with it so it would make the slide slippery and easier to go down.


Every morning we would raise the flag and take it down before class was dismissed in the afternoon. All the classes would circle the flag pole and say The Pledge of Allegiance.  Two of us would get assigned to “flag duty” and were responsible for raising it and taking it down.  That is where I learned the proper way to fold a flag.  We were instructed to NEVER let it touch the ground.


Every Valentine Day, Mrs. Karafa would make every student a little decorated heart shaped cake.  We each got our very own and I loved them.  I don’t think there is a professional baker yet today that can top them.


She would also come in and play the piano and lead us in singing.  We had little yellow song books and learned songs like “Old Black Joe”.  Often Barb would play the piano with her mom.


One Christmas play we did when I was in first or second grade, I played the part of a maid to the King.  My name was Josie in the play and I had one line.  It was something like “let the King eat pudding”.  It got very warm on stage and I could hardly pay attention.  As it turned out, right after the play, I got sick and threw up.  It could have been from stage fright but, as I recall, I had just come down with some kind of bug.


At the end of the school year, we always had a picnic.  That was so much fun.  Mrs. Kary would come with her daughter that was wheel chair bound and she would serve us ice cream cones.  As we did not get ice cream very often, this was a special treat.  I remember thinking that both Mrs. Kary and her daughter were very pretty.  I have learned, years later that her husband, John Kary, went to school at Lawrence, as a small boy.