Rick and I had a wonderful open house weekend during the Laura Ingalls Wilder Days held in Pepin on Saturday September 8 and Sunday September 9. Our biggest surge of visitors came on Saturday, and being a part of the bus tour helped get people through the doors to experience the Little Plum School. There are a couple of areas of interaction. One of the favorites is the science sand table. The children loved to stack the wooden spools and bury the horse in the sand. The second most popular area was the quill and ink table. Children and adults could sit down and try their penmanship with Black Walnut Ink, made on site from the walnuts grown on the tree at the school and a quill or nib pen. Kids and adults wrote their names, favorite math and science equations on the slate blackboard. The old upright piano hosted at least ten well trained musicians. My personal favorite was a young girl (around 10 yrs old) dressed in a prairie dress and bonnet who asked so sweetly, “May a please play the piano?”. She honored us with a ragtime piece, so fitting! I hope she carries that memory with her for a long, long time.
An old 1923 Underwood typewriter sat on the teachers desk, it took a bit of abuse this weekend, but I am sure with a detailed cleaning, a bit of oil and new ribbon it will be up and running and ready for more little fingers. The only ‘modern’ device in the school house is a photo frame hung on the back wall. People enjoyed flipping through the photos of several school houses in Pepin County that are now long forgotten. Many adults took advantage of the student roster book. I have all but 14 years of student registries available for the 1899 School house. Also included are some rosters from the 1868 school. I heard many times, “Look, here is my father’s name, here is my grandfathers name”. I count it a blessing to be a historical reference point for fellow history enthusiasts and researchers to find information.
The most thrilling part of the weekend for me was meeting former students of the Little Plum School. While most of our former students came out on Saturday, these two lovely ladies identified themselves as Little Plum Students on Sunday. Twylah Fitzsimons (photo to the left) who attended school in the late 1930’s to the early 1940’s. I found her name in the roster book 1940-41, when she was 10 years of age. And the oldest visiting student Miss Lila Moline. Lila began attending Little Plum School at the early age of 5 years old during the 1929-30 school term. She attended all eight years at Little Plum, still lives in the area and was a absolute delight. Lila could name quite a few of the children on the 1924 photograph hanging on the wall. She also identified those older students who were ‘nice’ and those students who were ‘mean’ or ‘a bit uppity’. Given their ages, at some time Twylah and Lila would have had overlapping school years.
Unfortunately I am missing the 1933-1939 registries and these lovely ladies did not visit the school at the same time. Maybe I need to host a school reunion. I am still looking for old photographs, so if anyone has any…please contact me.
Rick and I are tired. We are taking a bit of a break from working on the school house until October, when we hope the ground is dried out, the weather should be warm, but not hot and the two of us rested enough to finish painting the gable ends of the school and re-glaze the windows. For all of those who visited us this past weekend (all 400) we thank you. And just a reminder….next year 2019, marks the 120th anniversary of this school house. We are planing to party like its 1899!