Shaw Elementary School
Here is a tribute to my elementary school - Shaw School - which was located
in Austin, Minnesota.
The school was named for
O.W. Shaw, a
prominent member of the community and at the time the
President of the First National Bank.
The original portion of the school was built in 1916 and
consisted of eight classrooms. Four more classrooms and
the gym were added in 1937. A third expansion took place in
1948 when eight classrooms, a cafeteria, library, four workrooms,
and office space were added. I attended here from second grade
through sixth grade -
roughly September 1965 to May 1970. Shaw School was torn down
shortly after these pictures were taken in 1993. Shaw needed
extensive repairs and it was felt the cost was unjustified.
The school was razed and on the one city block it formerly
occupied whole houses were moved in from the
flood plain. The nameplate "Shaw School",
seen in the photo above, is located above the door in the
picture directly below.
This is the view from the SE corner at Shaw School and shows the
south side of Shaw. This picture shows the building added in
the second expansion in 1937. The gym is the farthest away part
of the building. The classrooms are the closest. I never
attended class in
this part of the building, but I remember that the floors in this part
were wooden. Each day I walked 3 blocks to
from my home. Each time I passed a Model A Ford parked in the
driveway of Mrs. Wells, and elderly woman who was famous for
attending every High School graduation ceremony. I don't
remember if she lived long enough to see mine. But she
did drive that old Model A Ford around town.
I was one of the few who headed home east from the SE
corner, many more kids headed directly south.
The fence was never here when I attended.
Every space on the Shaw
playground was a "territory". This SE corner was for first and second
graders. fifth and sixth grade territory started at the south door
and wrapped around the gym to the N. W. corner.
The classrooms you can see are for first and second graders.
first graders had the
bottom two classrooms
and one on the second
story. This building expansion was filled out by one of the second
grade classes. Each grade always had three classrooms, with no more
than twenty students per classroom.
I used to ride my bike
over here to Shaw School and hit
tennis balls off the
are on the outside wall of the gym and
were added after I
no longer went here. In
warm weather everyone
would ride bikes
school. Shaw school sat on it's own city block.
During the fall and spring the whole
south side boulevard of the block here
bikes parked on it. Typical bikes were five speed Sting Rays with the
shift handle, ten speeds Schwins with two small lever shifts on
older style 3 speeds with a lever shift on the
handle bars, along with various single speed bikes.
I once came back to Shaw when I as in my twenties and marvelled
how small the gym was compared to the size it held
in my memory. Every spring, the school held a carnival
in the gym. Every kid who went to Shaw should remember the carnival.
You wandered around in the gym playing various games of skill and chance.
The big price was a kind of thin wooden walking stick with a wooden handle.
It being elementary school, myriad sword fights were bound to break out.
Here is the view of the playground assigned to the first and second
graders. Second grade, my first year at Shaw, was all about playing
marbles. Everybody, it seemed, came to school carrying a marble
bag. Generally, you played for "keeps". We didn't draw circles:
we played without boundaries. . You just whipped your marble at the
other guys (and girls) marble and hoped to hit it. We also used
"steelies" (ball bearings). When I was taking these pictures
it started to rain slightly, but soon quit and got nice. This
view is back towards the SE corner (my walking corner).
This view is from near the SE corner toward the once shady center
of the buildings' east side.
tree remains - the giant American elms
that once gave shade are long gone. This view shows the front entrance,
which is the original part of the school. Walking into this
front entrance one walked directly toward the office. A left turn
took you up stairways to get to the second and third floors.
The second floor had two second grades and two third grade classrooms.
The third floor was for one fourth and three fifth grade classrooms. There
was also a teachers lounge on the third floor. One time for a fire drill we all
got to exit via the window in the teachers lounge and walk out on
the roof. The things you remember.
Past the front entrance you see the part of the building that
was constructed during the final expansion of Shaw school.
The bottom floor consisted of the small library and a third grade classroom.
Across from the classrooms deeper into the building was a cafeteria and cafeteria
The second floor had two fourth grade rooms. Across from them was the auditorium.
The North side of the school, both
floors, were long hallways. I show a picture from one of these
hallways later. The West side of the school was only half a
block long. The first floor was (two?) kindergarten rooms.
The second floor was the sixth grade area and a library. The
sixth grade area didn't have fixed walls - it was originally
a work area. We rotated between rooms made up of large
dividers that got pulled across the width of the room.
The area by the NE corner was
for third and fourth graders. Here, from the sidewalk to the
building, was where we played "pump". One person started out
"it" and whoever he tagged help tag others until everybody
was caught. Oh, if your were that last person! No amount of
fakes or juking could avoid everyone trying to tag you.
I can still picture
Mrs. Brown, the playground lady. She must have been in her
late 50's. She always wore a dress, and in the winter a
grey wool coat. With frosted, gray, beehive hair,
deep red lipstick, and half-glasses she
circled Shaw school
dispensing jump ropes that hung from her neck and playground
discipline. To a wild boy, her disposition seemed crabby,
but she could be very kind too. Mrs. Brown prowled the
schoolyard before school and during the noon
hour. I walked home each day to eat my lunch, but hurried back
in order to play on the playground
before lunch recess was over. My mom worked, and often would
start lunch for me but leave before I finished it.
This is the view from near the NE corner of Shaw playground looking
shows the newest part of the building built in 1948. Both the
first and second stories are long hallways. When third
grade commenced the marble fad stopped abruptly. In second
grade one of my best friends was Greg Cummings. We lived
about a mile apart, and being second graders, had trouble finding each
others' houses. I only went to his house once.
I remember him laughing as he threw one of his younger
brothers diapers around the basement.
of third grade arrived and I looked in vain for him. One fall
day after school I walked to where he lived and rang the doorbell.
His mom told me that that summer swimming at the lake he came up under
the dock and hit his
head and drowned. It must have been painful for his mom to have
to un expectantly give out that information at her doorstep, but I guess
it would have been pretty hard to make things worse, if you think
about it. At least he was remembered. You wonder why his life
had to be so short.
If you click on this photo to enlarge it you can make out the
flagpole about midway down the building. Kids
always hooked one hand around the pole then ran around and
around and around the pole. Well, I did.
Here is the decorations that adorn the area over the door in the
picture above. Strange choice of pictures, don't you think?
They all seem to deal with transportation. Are these meant
to suggest ways to escape from going to school?
I like this picture - it's so forlorn. The picture is taken through a first floor
hallway window and is of a child's drawing.
Like a defiant captain of a sinking warship
refusing to strike his colors, I hope this
art hung in the hallway to represent us until the wrecking ball took the
building down -
a symbol of all the minutes and hours and days and weeks and
years and decades of life lived by so many children in this
building. There were joyous
moments with friends, sad moments for those children who knew only
ridicule, bored afternoon hours, and how many
triumphant last days of school?
right you see a tree reflected in the window, along with my fingers.
This is the western end of the school. The bottom floor holds two or
three kindergarten rooms - I am the least familiar with this part of the
school. The door you can see above and to the left of the number "5"
of the date printed on the picture is the door the sixth graders entered
to go upstairs to the sixth grade room. We had an experimental deal
going where three teachers team taught and the students moved around
between three rooms defined by folding doors. I remember Mr. Gartner,
Mr. Johnson, and one other guy (Mr. Peck??), plus one really nice
female student teacher, Miss Pronzinski. Think giant beehive, large
breasts, and a great figure.
Right outside this door the most infamous incident of sixth grade
occurred. Robin had a cast on her arm. Someone held Mike
while she clunked him across the forehead with it. She knocked
him out. A whole day was spent trying to get to the bottom of
Mike. Robin's guilt was already established. I got called to the
interrogation room eventually. I had been right there afterwards
in my smart-ass way calling for people to back up and give Mike air.
I wasn't being as helpful as it seems. My friend Beth told me, "You
should have seen your face when the Principal (Mr. McCarthy) came
into class and told you to come with him". I was pretty
scared. It was ever established who held Mike for Robin to hit.
The only high school reunion I have attended is my 20th, and
I took pains to talk with those I went to Shaw with.
The consensus was that Blake and Willy did it. No big deal in
the grand scheme of things.
Lawsuits were unheard of back then. Robin, a troubled girl,
got suspended for a week. She moved away that summer.
In third grade, the teacher always had me help Mike read.
He struggled mightily. Today, I think he would have been diagnosed
as dyslexic. I later learned that his vocation was as a specialized welder -
intelligence wins out, I guess, no matter if you struggle.
This view is of the southwest corner of the school. It was the fifth and
sixth grade area. Across with the covered windows is the gym. Above
and to the left of the double doors is the original building. The
double doors lead down into the boiler room. The
first floor of the original building is Mr. McCarthy's office and
the school secretaries office
and the nurse's office. The window visible at the extreme
left is a kindergarten room.
A huge focus of this outside area was kickball. We used a basketball
sized red rubber ball, handed out by the Mrs. Brown.
Mainly boys but some girls played kickball before school and during
lunch recess. Patty, Beth, and Sue were good
athletes, plus good looking in the scheme of grade school. For the
most part, I was a pretty much an over-competative jerk. But hey,
I was a kid.
Its hard to make out from the small picture, but above the double
doors you can make out tin sheeting covering some pipes that
run to the roof. I saw my brother's friend Ronny climb those
pipes and get up on the roof. He threw balls that were on the
roof down to us. The tin was the custodians answer
to his scaling the building - still there after 25 years.
If you walk along the jutting kinder garden room in the picture
above and take a left you enter the courtyard created in the third
building expansion of Shaw school. The ground has been black topped.
my time at Shaw this area was ostensively grass and sand.
There were two sets of monkey bars, one little
for the kindergartners and one larger for the older kids.
There was sand under each piece of playground equipment. Both
were just a ladder straight up, a ladder section across, and
another ladder straight down. Older kids would climb up on
the horizontal section of the larger monkey bars and sit. Or
you could jump from the edge of the grass, swing on one of
the horizontal poles that made up the horizontal ladder,
and kick out
backwards to land back on the grass.
The first floor windows of the picture on the right are
cafeteria kitchen windows. The second story windows are
those of Miss Jones's classroom, my second grade teacher.
The third floor windows are those of my fifth grade teacher
Mr. Grover. One day in fifth grade my friend Howard and I
were playing under Mr. Grovers' window. Just some goofy
fifth grade stuff. I remember we were asking the important
question, "Given the choice between saving his family or
destroying the fifth graders, what would Mr. Grover do? -
GET THE 5TH GRADERS!" We heard a voice up above. It
was Mr. Grover in the window. "Really interesting, guys",
he said. We were freaked out. In our grade school way
we thought we were in for it. No further mention of this
was made by Mr. Grover, however.
Mr. Grover's classroom was the scene of our Dress Code Protest.
It was 1968 and finally the edict came down that yes, girls
could wear PANTS (not dresses) to school. Well. David Gross
enlisted the boys in a protest movement - we would wear ties
to protest the girls wearing jeans. It lasted part of one
day. Oddly, we grew to appreciate girls wearing
I spent my kindergarten year at Banfield - afternoon session.
Near the end of the year our family moved to a rented farm
outside of the city. Instead of being bused 4 miles into
a city school, my brother and sister and I were sent by
bus 16 miles to Rose Creek. Something about the farmers getting
cheaper taxes to be part of the rural school district. Anyway,
last year on my hunting trip I decided to stop by Rose Creek
elementary and see if my old schoolroom was there. Half the
building had been raised and rebuilt, but my first grade classroom
was still there. The woman in the office thought I might like
to talk to the Principal. Yup. Mr. Grover. We had a nice
visit. I remembered myself as a wild difficult kid. He
remembered, "You were always a good student". Well, I have
that going for me.
Here is my last picture of old Shaw. Note the kid with no shirt
on playing baseball. If you look closely at the other picture of
the gym (above) you will see his buddy batting. The Shaw school
a lot of use, and not just during the school day or the school
year. The fifth and sixth grade area hosted many a pick up game.
If I just sit and think, I can still remember so many little details
of grade school, but am starting to get forgetful.
Every day in
the afternoon of second grade
Miss Jones made us put our heads down on our desks for a short
time. Each day was someone's turn to say how long - you chose
from between five and ten minutes. At Halloween, our party
started after nap time. It was my turn, and to be a smart ass
I made everyone nap for ten minutes. My classmates were mad
My third grade teacher was Miss Sylvia Hansen. We put on a
play, and I got to be the male lead. Some stupid play about
a princess. Third grade was when we learned to write in
cursive. It was also when we learned to read maps. This was
the first time in any subject that I
struggled. Later, at the end of college, I went to the
learning center and was diagnosed with Dyscalculia,
or having trouble with spacial relationships. Mike, I guess
that makes two of us with undiagnosed learning problems.
Fourth grade was with Miss Distad.
It's also the grade where I had to start wearing glasses.
Miss Distad was a kindly woman. I remember the day she
found cigarettes in Roger Bowers coat. They fell out in
the cloakroom. Anybody else have a cloakroom in their grade school
rooms? Roger said he bought them for his dad. In those days,
he probably did.
Fifth grade was with Mrs. Anderson. I think this was my first
married teacher at Shaw. She got Miss Distad's old room on the
third floor, so I had the same room two years in a row. Mrs.
Anderson was on to me. I rushed through my work just to get
it done, and she tried to get me to slow down. Friday mornings
were "free time", I always make forts out the 1950 style legos
she brought to school that had been her sons'. These things didn't fit together tight,
and would actually fall over if you just stacked them high.
She started to teach us a song about the fifty states.
"Fifty, nifty, stars on the flag that bellow
so beautifully in the breeze ...", then you would name the states
in alphabetical order. We only learned the song through Georgia
then, inexplicably quit. Oh, Mrs. Anderson, how DOES that song end?
Sixth grade was experiment time. The junior high had
seven periods, so our sixth grade experimented with periods,
too. We had "feel-good" math, just do as much as you could.
I was at a disadvantage in junior high as a result.
I also took a timed reading test and, half-way through, started
the second half on a new sheet of paper. I forgot to had the
first half in: Mrs. Knutson wouldn't accept it. She didn't like
me. As a result, I started the long booklet reading program
at the kindergarten level.
Back in those days, you didn't go to your parents to fix things,
you just soldiered on. So I tried for a while to keep up, then
after a while the goal was so daunting that I just gave up.
The lesson I did learn from this to apply to children as an adult
is that if a child's goal is unattainable he won't even try.
I attended Shaw school during the Vietnam war.
Of course we discussed
Vietnam in class. For a singing program in sixth grade, we had
to make a change in the lyrics of one particular song. The song,
"The Ballad of the Green Berets", was popular. We sang it for
our program, but one of the young mothers in attendance had just
lost her husband in Vietnam. Instead of singing, "Fearless men
who jump and die", we were directed to sing, "Fearless men who
jump and fly". Geez, so as not to make her sad, why sing it at
all? One of my classmates got messed up on LSD.
We took a few long field trips by bus - including a trip to the state
capitol. We began to sort ourselves out
based on strengths and weaknesses. We began as drifting innocents, but
left Shaw school at terminal velocity set on course to
smash into our teenage years.