TOUHY – The small schoolhouse on the edge of Touhy will be home to activity one again.
District 111 was organized in 1892. The school was originally located in the Oak Creek Precinct, but was later moved north into Touhy. Today, the schoolhouse has sat pretty much idle since it closed in 2006.
When the Class 1 school closed, a few of the more current contents were put to use by the East Butler School District and the building and land reverted back to the original landowner.
That landowner donated the building and land to St. Vitus Catholic Church and it has been used a few times over the last decade.
That is changing and the school was bustling with activity again Sunday morning. Former students and parishioners looked through stacks of books and boxes of other school related items. For a donation, they were able to take home some of those mementoes too.
Fr. Matthew Vandewalle said the renewed interest in the school building is all thanks to the church’s P.C.C.W., who has plans to turn the building into a small fellowship hall.
Once cleaned out and with some minor remodeling, it will be a place for a variety of activities.
“We’ll use it as a gathering space for coffee and rolls and meetings,” he said.
For the past several weeks, the school has been opened for people to come browse through the items still left in the building.
Vandewalle said the intent was to offer the items first to former students and parishioners. Now, the general public is invited to come take a look too.
P.C.C.W. Member Kathy Kliment said there has been a pretty good response and those stopping by have taken home more than a few souvenirs.
The school will be open again this Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday, Aug. 25 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Kliment said most of the items in the school can be taken.
“The pictures of the presidents and the flag on the wall, we will keep,” she said.
Those, she added, will be preserved in the new social hall to pay respect to the building’s past.
They should offer some talking points to all future generations who enter the building.
Paul Bartek of Lincoln is glad to see the school will continue to have a use. Bartek grew up just east of Touhy and went to the school with his brothers.
He was in town Sunday with his grandson, Aiden Bartek. He had not set foot inside of the school for 50 years.
“But, I wanted to show the grandson what it was like,” he said.
Bartek was not the only former student sharing memories on Sunday morning.
Ernie Osmera attended the one room school house for all eight years of his elementary education. He remembered walking to and from school, the coal stove and when the school finally got a telephone.
Former student Mark Strizek remembered the merry go round that used to sit to the east of the school.
There is a member of St. Vitus parish who also has a lot of memories of the school and is glad to see the building being put to use.
Blanche Walla attended the school when she was a child. When she grew up, she became an educator and one of the places she taught was Dist. 111. She spent 29 years in the school as a teacher.
“I remember the year we first got electricity and then when we got a telephone,” she said.
She too remembered the coal stove, and the coal shed that used to stand behind the school. Then, that stove was replaced by gas, and, in 1975, there was a big improvement when an addition brought restrooms to inside of the building.
Before that, Walla said there were outhouses out back.
After Walla retired from Dist. 111 in 1996, she substitute taught at several schools in town. It was still working with kids, but the atmosphere was different for her.
There was just something special about a one-room school house, she said.
Osmera readily admitted that there were plenty of places he would have rather been than in school, but he did say the culture of a one-room school allowed the students learned from one another.
“As a second grader, you could hear the big kids’ lessons, or the eighth graders would help the younger ones read,” he said.
There will be plenty of memories just like that will continued to be shared in the Dist. 111 schoolhouse.
Kliment said there will need to be a little remodeling before it can be used for social gatherings. A built in stage will be taken out and some cabinetry will be added.
Once done, coffee and rolls after church can be moved inside. That is an activity now that is limited to outside, when the weather is nice, she added.