Three years ago I published a book of stories, The Romance of Anna Smith and Other Stories, with the help of publisher David Gawlik of Caritas Communications.
“How long did it take you to write that book?” is a question I was often asked, and I didn’t have a short answer. Many of my stories were memoir so they were in the pre-drafting stage for many years. In the mid-1970s I started to get serious about my writing so looked for teachers and writing groups for direction. Some of the stories in my collection started taking shape way back then. Over the years, I amassed quite a collection of stories and “story starters” (not finished) and I’d go back to my favorites and revise them, using comments and suggestions from people in my writing circles to guide me.
The very first story in my collection – also the story of the title – is “The Romance of Anna Smith,” about a teacher at Sheldon School, which I attended from 1947 – 1955. Miss Smith was the teacher (“schoolmarm”) who taught all eight grades when I was in 4th and 5th grades. She came back to us when I was in 6th grade, but by then she had married and so we called her Mrs. Hallman.
The focus of my story is the “romance” of this much-loved teacher, as seen through the eyes of two schoolgirls – myself and my friend, Sylvia Robinson. I’m posting that story on my blog today. If you’d like to read the rest of the stories in this collection, you can find it on Amazon.
Or you can order an autographed copy directly from me for $10, including postage. For details, contact me here.
Click page 2 to read an excerpt
From 1947 to 1955 I attended Sheldon School, a one-room country school in Marquette County, Wisconsin. I haven’t been able to track down a photograph of Sheldon School from those days, and I haven’t found another school that closely resembles it. The image, though, remains fixed in my memory. It was larger than the one pictured in the photograph below, from a website about John Muir, who lived in the area for several years during his childhood.
For one thing, there were cement steps leading to the front door of the white-framed building. It was larger too – a coatroom at the entrance, separated by a wall from the classroom. At the back of the classroom was a huge woodburning furnace, which kept us warm in the winter months. On the wall opposite the furnace was a water cooler and a place for us to put our lunch boxes.
“In the Wisconsin heyday of the one-room school, about 6,200 were operating in rural areas across the state, said Dale Williams, site director of the Reed School in Neillsville, which today is a historic site operated by the Wisconsin Historical Society. “They hit their peak in the 1930s, Williams said. “By the 1960s, they were virtually all gone. A few tiny schools remain in the state, including one on Madeline Island, but most have vanished or been transformed into museums, gift shops, bed-and-breakfasts and the like.” (from Madison.com) In the case of Sheldon, the school was remodeled in the 1960s as an attractive country home for the in-laws of George Robinson (my classmate, named in the story) and is now owned by George and his wife, Christine.
For other photographs of one-room country schoolhouses, see: