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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.

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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 of Shaw were wooden. Each day I walked 3 blocks to this corner 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 wall. The basketball backboards are on the outside wall of the gym and were added after I no longer went here. In warm weather everyone would ride bikes to school. Shaw school sat on it's own city block. During the fall and spring the whole south side boulevard of the block here would have bikes parked on it. Typical bikes were five speed Sting Rays with the large shift handle, ten speeds Schwins with two small lever shifts on the frame, 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.

Click to enlarge 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).

Click to enlarge This view is from near the SE corner toward the once shady center of the buildings' east side. One lone 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 kitchen. 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.

Click to enlarge 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.

Click to enlarge This is the view from near the NE corner of Shaw playground looking west. It 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.

The fall 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.

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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?

Click to enlarge 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?

At top right you see a tree reflected in the window, along with my fingers.

Click to enlarge 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 looking 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 who held 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 that reluctantly. 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.

Click to enlarge 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.

Click to enlarge Click to enlarge 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. During 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 jeans.

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.

Click to enlarge 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 playground got 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 at me!

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.

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