History of Education in Lannon Area; Waukesha County, Wisconsin
Edited by Mike Reilly, c. November 6, 2000
1900 Thru 1938
Note: There is evidence that from when public schooling was created in Wisconsin under the State first constitution, that grades only ranged from 1st thru 5th, and some sort of "high school" or upper level classes were offered to students. When a child started school was not determined by age so much, but what the teacher felt he or she knew in comparison to other students. For instance, a 4 year old might be judged to know as much as a 2nd grader and initially placed in that class level. Ruth Schmidt, the late Merton historian, wrote that when she went to school in the early 1900's, she learned more by osmosis, listening to the upper grades in her class doing their recitations, math problems, and so on, than she did from the curriculum she was taught. She was also in a school that had all eight grades in a single room. She started in the 2nd Grade and actually skipped two other elementary school grades along the way to "graduation". At this time, it's not known if Lannon started out with a single room school house or when the first school house was actually built on the site of the stone, and later, wooden building.
(Question - Did teachers have not only a classroom with 1 or 2 (or 1-8) grades to teach, but also specialize in teaching math, science literature, etc., to the entire school? There are many references to the Algebra Class or the Science Class, and the Literary Society. Also note that the Principal usually taught class as well.)
1900's: circa early/late 1800's - if you attended the Lannon School, the two-story wood framed building on the site of the present Village Hall, you received a diploma for graduating from 8th grade. Many dropped out of school after the 8th grade; if you wanted to continue on in high school, you had to transfer to either Menomonee Falls or Waukesha. Right now it is unknown as to when the school(s) in the Lannon area went from offering just grades 1-5, with additional "higher school" courses available; to offering grades 1-8, and then the structured 9th & 10th grades (see 1924).
- Some Waukesha schools districts pushed for establishing "graded schools" - the students grouped in grades or classes according to performance. Other districts wanted to keep the "ungraded" or "common" old one-room style schoolhouse.
- School playgrounds were segregated play areas; boys on one side, girls on the other (of course there was probably other discrimination: Irish, German, Polish, Italian, Catholic, Lutheran, etc.)
1900/Circa - Many Waukesha County schools had divided students into 8 separate grades - but not necessarily into separate classrooms. Some school districts started kindergarten programs (Lannon wasn't one of them).
- Schools begin to address the issues of students with "special needs".
1900 - The State Superintendent of Schools could withhold funding to districts that didn't comply with State school safety and health codes. "Second class" schools didn't meet these standards while "First class" did.
/Sept - Maywin Hayes of Colgate was teaching at Lannon School.
1901/June 14. - "Flag Day" - a Federal proclamation - required schools to purchase and display the U.S. flag on this day, and on other appropriate holidays.
1903 - Julia R. Rockafellow became the first woman Waukesha County Superintendent of Schools.
1904/Circa - Waukesha County requires that 8th Graders be examined - only those who passed the tests could receive a diploma and attend "high school". Note: Prior to World War I, approx. 50% of school children didn't stay thru the 8th Grade, and a like percentage failed the 8th Grade graduation exams.
1904 - To encourage school attendance, any student with perfect attendance received a certificate.
1905 - Agriculture became a required course in Wisconsin elementary schools.
- for the first time, the County Superintendent is assisted by a "Rural School Inspector". Note: the cities of Waukesha and Oconomowoc had their own "City Supervisors".
- With the additional aid, County Superintendents of Schools were now able to fulfill the new State requirement that they meet annually with all of the local school board members (who received compensation for their attendance) in a county level convention. There, they were to choose which standard textbooks were to be used the following years in their schools; then the County Superintendent would purchased all of the books required and distribute them to the school districts. In 1914, Waukesha County was the first to adopt a uniform textbook rule; committees were also established to review each grade level's books.
1907 - Lannon had a "Second class" school, the two-story wooden building, with "two departments" (classrooms or class divisions ?) with an enrollment of 84; average attendance was 54. Annual expense for the school was approx. $1,200, of which, $840 was paid to the teacher(s).
- "First class" schools could receive state funding to pay up to half the cost of student transportation.
1910/Before - Lannon had become a "first class graded school". Meaning it offered grades 1-8 and met the minimum health and safety standards set by the State.
1910 - With school district consolidation underway, some chose to transport their students to the nearest school by "school wagon" - often hay wagons pulled by horse(s), and carrying up to twenty children.
- Wisconsin law now allows schools to establish "vocational education" for adults during the day and evening school hours. Note: Prior to WWI, the University of Wisconsin established extensions in many counties, such as Waukesha, to aid farmers, homemakers, and the general population.
- The Wisconsin State Parent and Teachers Association is formed through the efforts of a former Waukesha County teacher, Mrs. Agnes Betts.
1911 - the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad, operating out of Granville station, had one passenger train each day, and all Falls High School students from Lannon, Sussex, Templeton, Merton, and North Lake would be picked up every morning and returned after school.
- Menomonee Falls started a kindergarten program.
- Wisconsin establishes provisions for teacher retirement and pension.
1913-15: Wisconsin began offering incentives to schools districts that provided courses which reduced the "flow of the farm boy (girl) to city life". Agricultural clubs such as 4-H and "Future Farmers" were formed within the schools to reverse the trend. Menomonee Falls offered "tuition free" short courses in agriculture.
1915 - the students weren't the only ones leaving the rural life - teachers were hard to come by and to hold onto; the State then began offering cash incentives to those teachers who stayed on for a third, fourth, and fifth year at a school.
- Wisconsin also created "supervisory teacher" positions to help teachers with various problems and promote educational development. They oversaw the local teachers and reported to the County Superintendent of Schools. Question - Were these "supervisory teachers" what were to become the school principals?
- Mukwonago High School was the first in Waukesha County to offer a "hot lunch program:".
- Prior to war breaking out, the Wisconsin State Legislature established the "Junior High School", but most activity didn't occur until after the war ended and normality returned in the early 1920's.
When World War I broke out and America became involved, school students promoted the sale of Liberty bonds and war savings stamps, and formed Junior Red Cross groups (they knotted and sewed clothing, scarves and sweaters, for soldiers). They wrote letters to the local servicemen each month (Question - Do any examples of these letters exist today?). Students also collected money for the Belgium and French orphans.
The American flag was flown much more often at schools and pupils sang patriotic songs during this time. Schools formed "Boys' Defense Leagues" - these allowed boys to leave school to help with the spring farm plantings and still receive academic credit. Many different farm and agricultural clubs were formed or further supported (see 1915 above).
As during the Civil War, the number of male teachers dropped dramatically, but women stepped in whenever possible, if they available - many women joined Red Cross nursing units and traveled overseas to aid the servicemen.
The anti-German sentiment felt in Wisconsin (and the resentment toward immigrants in general) led to the creation of "school societies" to "Americanize" foreign-born students (primarily German) versus outright banning of them in the schools.
1917 - the Smits-Hughs Federal Act supplied money to schools to start or help continue industrial and agricultural programs - mainly done to help returning war veterans.
After the war ended, physical education and fitness programs were initiated in schools. When the war started and millions of Americans reported to induction centers or camps, America found out how unfit its' citizens were by the number failing basic physical examinations.
The new school building didn't open until October 1922; some of the places students attended classes during the reconstruction were in the Guild Hall of St. Paul's Church and in a hall above the post office. The new building was primarily red brick, one story high building with a large assembly area in the center with classrooms on either side. In the "basement" the open-gymnasium extended from one end to the other.
1920's - An era finding teachers wanting specialized education and training - Music teachers in rural areas worked at several schools. Music was highly popular in the '20's, although Jazz was banned from being taught in public schools. (Note - Students found many places to enjoy the music of the day, even if not offered in the school).
- School athletic programs were started or expanded, and competition among local schools was encouraged.
- "Health Awareness" campaigns were created.
- County nurses were appointed to visit schools on a regular basis to examine students.
- New building programs allowed many elementary schools to offer 9th & 10th Grades (see 1924), and with new facilities, janitors were being hired to free teachers from cleaning chores previously required.
- the '20's were also a time for student services to increase (county nurses, for example) which enriched their school and personal lives. Graduates begin to see their first year books, remembrances of their school, activities, and schoolmates. Students also saw more involvement in school operation through "student governments".
1921/Sept. Miss Julia Owens, of Watertown, the teacher at Willow Springs School.
1922 - Question - In February 1922 the 9 year old Sussex Graded School burned down; Erwin "Erv" "Greenie" Miller may have attended this school when he father Salty worked in Templeton circa 1915. Erv was born in 1908 in West Bend. The school records for the period 1911-18 were not found at the Waukesha County Historical Society; could they have been lost in the fire. If so, why are there 1919-1922 records available? Does anyone have any classroom records for the missing time period?
1922 - Willow Springs School: Miss Butske the teacher with 29 students in one room. The wood burning stove has been moved from the center to a corner. A large woodshed is outside to hold firewood.
1923/Sept. - Willow Springs School: Miss Conberg, of Hartland, the teacher.
1924 - By this year, Lannon State Graded School was offering 9th and 10th Grades, building had three rooms downstairs and two up
Note: In a interview with Keith Gissal, 10/18/2000, he explained that 8th was in the same room as the 9th &10th grades; 8th on one side of the room, the "high schoolers" on the other. Depending on when you entered 8th, the "high schoolers" were being taught either freshman or sophomore curriculum, the next year they were taught the other. So as a 8th grader, you could have listened to sophomore class level courses being taught, then as a freshman (when you moved across the room the next year) you could have sat through the same sophomore curriculum or be taught the freshman version. Keith attended Lannon school from 1925, age 5 in the first grade thru 1935 (the 10th grade)
1926 - 48 students are crowded into the one-room Willow Springs School. Residents balk to having to tearing it down and spending $5,000 to build a new red brick two-room school with a recreation room in the basement. Many thought the school was too luxurious.
1927/5/27 - Lannon won both cups for having best baseball team for both boys and girls this season. They were all tuned up to turn in another victory on Sunday, but the rain spoiled the game; they were to play the "Lannon Married Men". Game postponed until June 5th.
- The Lannon town team lost to Hartland in a 7-inning contest by the score of 9 to 6. Since they have an open date this season, the Lannon School Team dares the town team to cross bats with them. "Basting and Lodan, hear this. What about a game?"
- The Commencement program was held Thursday at the Lannon Inn; the speaker Mr. Dietz, drew a large crowd. The 7th, 8th and 10th grades are going to Silver Lake for their end of year class picnic.
The Great Depression - schools were forced to close or drastically reduce their teaching staffs. Those teachers that remained found their salaries reduced. Schools had to economize and "recycle" materials. The school support staffing at local, county, state, and federal levels were all reduced contributing to a decline in education. The students suffering from malnutrition showed little interest in learning and attending school.
Circa 1930 - The Lannon School Notes recorded the happenings at Lannon Graded School, penned by various students and teachers for inclusion into the weekly Menomonee Fall News.
Question - The Lannon PTA - when did it begin; there was a Historian - where are the old records? In a Sussex Sun article, "Photo evokes memories for surviving Lannon students", by Fred H. Keller, 10/15/2002, talks about a 3-ring binder book titled, "History of the Lannon Parent Teacher Association 1930 - 1957". The information below was found in this History book that Mr. Keller carefully put together from nearly discarded materials found at Lannon School.
1930, October 16 - In answer to a call (request, not phone call) from Mrs. H. C. Wells, 29 residents of Lannon met at the "Little White Church On Thursday evening to decide if a Parent Teacher Association could be formed. The church was too cold so the group adjourned to the Lannon School. There the decision was made to form the PTA. Charter Members were Mrs. John J. Flanagan, Mrs. O. V. Fragstein, Mrs. Glenn D. Harmon, Mrs. W. J. Mueller (correct spelling is Miller - Grandmother of this Editor), Mrs. Henry M. Nugent, Mrs. E. J. Vanderboom, Mrs. J. C. Walters, Mrs. A. P. Walters, Mrs. H. C. Wells, Miss Esther Flanagan, Miss Marie Groehl, Miss Ella Hilgert, Mr. Albert Feltes, and Mr. Robert Stewart.
Officers elected that night were, Mrs. Wells, President, Mrs. A. P. Walters, Vice President, Mrs. A. L. Guis, Secretary, and Mrs. Glenn D. Harmon, the Treasurer. Miss Esther Flanagan was appointed "Program Chairman." The PTA wanted to use the "Little White Church" for a meeting place but the infant organization had no funds and the church building needed repairs. Mr. Alvin P. Walters told the PTA that the Village might purchase the church and use it as a Community Hall since no other existed in Lannon. In the meantime, the PTA used the church building as it was. That night they decided that the next regular meeting on October 29th would be in the form of a Halloween party for the children.
1930, October 20 - PTA first Board meeting hosted by Mrs. Wells to discuss the Halloween party. Also discussed was the appointment of "Room Mothers" for each school classroom to assist in getting parents to meetings, participate, etc.
1930, October 29, at the PTA meeting/Halloween party, Mrs. Henry Nugent was elected Historian, Mrs. James Loden, the Membership Chairman, and Mrs. A. L. Wilson, the Hospitality Chairman. The 128 children present performed, singing "When It's Springtime in the Rockies." Two comedy films followed with Mr. Harold De Lany operating the "moving picture machine". Mr. Stewart, the Principal, secured the films from Waukesha. Game Activities were selected and sponsored by Mr. Stewart, but because of space limitations, children were randomly picked to participate while the others watched.
1930, October 30, the PTA Board met to discuss the party's outcome, it was very successful, but the voluntary offerings collected did not cover party expenses, even though each Village Board member donated 75 cents each. Mrs. Frank Schneider was appointed Budget & Finance Chairman. The group planned their first fundraiser, A card party to be held on November 13th at the "White Star Hotel", Mr. Straittner, proprietor. (Farmers & Merchant Bank of Menomonee Falls donated fifty chairs, and the card ladies provided tables to use at the event. There were five tables of Schaafskopf, five tables of Cinch, and eleven tables playing "Five Hundred.")
Armistice Day Program, November 11, 1930 - the school children sang the National Anthem, more songs and had recitations.
1931/Prior - When Lannon played basketball against Sussex, the games where held across the street from the Sussex school in the Lee's Building where the hoops were 8'9" high. Later that year Sussex's community hall was finished with a fine gym.
1932 - Orval Cullen was interviewed by Fred Keller for an article appearing in the Tuesday July 30, 1996 issue. In it are pictures of his 1st grade class in 1932 and his 7th grade in 1939. He tells of how it was still the Depression and wondered how his mother was able to afford the $1 to buy the class picture? In 1939, the school had five rooms with the classes broken up as follows: grades one-two, three-four, five-six were located downstairs; grades seven-eight, and 9-10 were upstairs. (Editor's note: perhaps the enrollment during the 1938-39 school year wasn't as high as previous years - in prior years at least the third grade meet in the old Village Hall building on Main St.; also, many times the schoolhouse is described as a four-room building - what changed and when? ). Mr. Cullen also mentioned that the old two-story wooden school house didn't have indoor toilets even as late as May 1939.
1932, September 22, The PTA held its' first regular meeting of the new school year in the new Village Hall (the former "Little White Church"). Mr. Frank Gumm (a teacher at Lannon School ?), a member of the congregation that built the church, talked about its' background and a little about Lannon's history.
1933 - The "New Deal" federal programs provided funds and programs to revitalize school conditions. School buildings that were left to deterioration were repaired and expanded. WPA workers helped install indoor sanitary plumbing, and other safety/health needs.
Post Great Depression - Conservation was widely practiced in schools. To get students involved in the revitalization process, flower shows were held in schools, landscaping and forestry programs were implemented to restore school grounds. Those students requiring special attention found it through the newly created positions of "County Social Workers".
During the 1933-34 school year, the PTA had the following committees: Program, Finance & Budget, Social, Welfare, Weighing & Measuring, Publicity & Library, Child Welfare, Red Cross (these last two were combined under one chairman), and Dramatic.
1930's: mid - the over-crowded, two-story Lannon State Graded School moves its' 3rd Grade class to where the Lannon Village Board held its' meetings at the present day China Doll Inc., 20481 W. Main St. (Note: business closed in Oct., 2000)
1937 - "My father was principal of the school from 1937 to 1942 and I attended first and second grades there with Miss Alice Knoebel as my teacher from the fall of 1940 to May or June 1942. Two corrections -- we spell our name Pejza, not Pejsa. My father also spelled his first name as Philip, not Phillip. My father taught 9th and 10th grades, as I recall in addition to being principal.
You have to remember that I was a very young student there sixty years ago, so my memory of events that long ago is somewhat faded. The school building was brand new when I was there. I do remember that there were several assemblies, one at Thanksgiving and one for Lincoln's birthday, probably for Christmas too. There was also a carnival of sorts -- my mother told fortunes in one booth. For a nickel or so, you could "see a night view of Lannon" -- they took you into a darkened classroom and pulled up a window shade. I remember that on November 11, probably both in 1940 and 1941, there was a minute of silence in all the classrooms to commemorate the armistice at the end of World War I. Classmates of mine were Allan Cawley (from a farm west of town) and Judy Walters, whose folks I believe ran the grocery store at the corner. The old school was still standing kitty-corner from their store but was unused.
In those days there was little job security for teachers -- employment was at the whim of the local school board. So about every five years my dad would look around and find a better job. He had come from Lublin, WI, up in Taylor County, where he had been principal of a 4-room school. So Lannon was a step up. At first we lived in a house on the outskirts of town. Then for about two years, we lived in Menominee Falls, before moving back to Lannon, about a block south of the school, next to a garage. He left Lannon after 5 years to take a job teaching math at Campion High School, a Catholic boarding school in Prairie du Chien, run by the Jesuits. He couldn't find a house in Prairie du Chien right away, so it was October 1942 before the rest of the family moved."
On October 15, 1937, Lannon School published its' (first ?) newsletter; Vol. 1 No. 1 of the "HIGH LIGHTS" at 2 cents per copy. later on the name became simply "HIGHLIGHTS". The newsletter/paper contained general schools news, plus activity in each of the classrooms,. Local community news was also published. The first Editor was Katherine Feltes. The purpose of the newsletter/paper was to inform parents about work done in school, and to give pupils practice in writing articles for a newspaper.
1938/Sept. 1 - The Menomonee Falls News runs a story "School Bells Beckon to Youngsters Tuesday"; in the article, the "Required" and "Optional" classes offered by the MFHS are listed. The 9th and 10th Grade courses probably reflect the curriculum at the Lannon State Graded School.
1938 - the last graduating classes from the old-two story wooden school held their Commencement Exercises at Ische's Hall on Friday night May 23 at 8:00 p.m.
1938 /Dec. - Boy Scout Troop 25 is reorganized with Lannon State Graded School PTA as the sponsor. Principal Philip Pejza submits the registration form to the Potawatomi Area Council No. 651 Region No. 7. The Troop will meet in the Club Room at the old school on Wednesday at 7:15 p.m. Two Patrols were initially formed: Eagle Patrol consisting of Patrol Leader Gerald DeLany, Assistant PL Syd Gissal, scouters Myron DeLany, Francis Boyle, Melvin Golner, and James Duncan; and the Wolf Patrol consisting of Patrol Leader Jerry Walter, Assistant PL William Guis, scouters Donald Cawly, John Walsh, Vernon Lemke, Carmon Cirrillo, Louis Fischer, Frederich Richard Fischer, Joseph Walsh, and Norman Wildt. Melvin Mathiak became a scout in troop in March 1940 but dropped in February 1941 due to lack of interest. Troop 25 was rechartered by the School at least through 1942.
Reference Sources: "From Farmland to Freeways: A History Of Waukesha County" edited by Ellen D. Langill and Jean Penn Loerke; the article "The History of Education in Waukesha County" by Ellen D. Langill; "Public Education in Wisconsin" by Conrad C. Patzer, Superintendent of Practice Teaching - Milwaukee State Normal School, 1924. Issued by John Callahan, Wisconsin State Superintendent of Schools; "Memoirs of Waukesha County", Theron W. Haight, editor, 1907; the works of local historian Fred Keller, some of them printed or reprinted in the Sussex Sun newspaper; and the microfilm Menomonee Falls News articles and "Glimpses of Menomonee Falls - Past and Present" - Menomonee Falls School History contributed by Carol Wildt, at the Maude Shunk Library; and the microfilm Waukesha Freeman articles at the Waukesha Public Library; plus the historical archives held by the Waukesha County Historical Society Museum; in addition to interviews with current or former Lannon residents: Keith Richard Gissal, Donald E. Miller, Shirley DeLorm (nee Wandsneider), and other individual input.