Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Interweaving Paths and Stories

Glinda writes:

Our histories are full of story. Often layers and layers of interwoven stories appear over time and across time. You start out one place and then you wind up someplace else. Rich text emerges. Such is the case in this photo, which popped up from Della Brenz's album.

Della Brenz was Mother's Aunt (and Sister to Mother's Father Fred Brenz). While no date is given, I suspect this picture was taken about 1909 because of its placement in her album which carries dates of 1906-1910. Since Aunt Della was born in 1886 (d. 1968), she would be in her early 20s in this picture. Aunt Della graduated from the State Normal School in Kirksville, Missouri. The primary function of such schools was preparing teachers, which were in short supply at that time.

After graduation, Aunt Della taught school for a few years. She is pictured here in the front row and the middle of her 30 students. Mother marked an "X" so we would know exactly which one she is. Judging by their size, I would suspect the children are about 4th grade.

We are not exactly sure of the location of this photo. Mother says Aunt Della taught at Willard School in Kirksville, Brashear, and possibly Trenton, Missouri. Curiously, we have family links to all 3 of these schools. Diane Selby Bloskovich (Mother's Daughter-in-Law, who married Son Brian) went to Brashear Public Schools. And Grandson Bransen Bloskovich went to Trenton Public Schools.

So who went to Willard School? Several family members did, especially in the early 20th Century when family members lived along Centennial, Burton and Mary Streets. Mother went to Kindergarten there. Her Sisters Thelma Louise Brenz (later Griffin) and Ruth Irene Brenz (later Wells Glassburner) went there. Mother says Dad went to all 6 grades there. His Sister Anna went there; we believe his Sister Mary and Brother Joe went there, although we cannot as yet confirm. At the end of the 20th Century, Grandson Brennen Bloskovich went to the 1st half of 1st Grade at Willard until the new lower elementary school was complete. (Photos below: 1st: Willard School built in 1899 and opened January 1900. 2nd: Willard School later.)

A little more information on Willard School: In the northwest part of Kirksville, Willard School was named in honor of Frances E. Willard, an educator and reformer of that day who gained renown for her work in the temperance movement (A Book of Adair County History, 1976, page 237). Two buildings have carried her name. I am not sure if they have both been on this site. Mother remembers the older school, which was built in 1899. It opened for classes in January 1900, although it was not yet complete (Violette, A History of Adair County, 1911, page 180). I am not sure when the 2nd Willard School was built.

In the mid-1980s, Mother's Sister Thelma Louise wrote: "On our trips to Grandmother's, we had to pass the pickle factory--and sometimes we were given a pickle by one of the employees. The Willard School was on down the street. Aunt Della used to teach there. She was engaged to the principal, but he was in World War I, and was killed."

Aunt Louise shared later memories: "I walked to Junior High from West Mary Street for 4 years. I walked with the Heaberlin girls, Anna Bloskovich and Frances Bubany and Mary Frkovich. I would see a cute little boy with short pants and barefooted, and little did I realize that he would some day be my brother-in-law. He has been a real brother to me and his name is Jack Bloskovich." The picture below was probably taken earlier than Aunt Louise's junior high days, judging from Aunt Ann's size. However, the cute little boy on the bottom left in short pants is surely Dad.

Photo below: Dora Bloskovich and her children about 1922: Front: Jack and Joe; Back: Anna, Dora (Mother), and Mary.

Glinda's notes and questions:

(1) Can you identify the school in Aunt Della's picture? When did Aunt Della receive her teacher's diploma from the State Normal School?

(2) When was the 2nd Willard School built?

(3) I also note considerable life and vitality in the pictures of her children. What was it like to teach or to be a student at the turn of the last century when formal schooling in such large facilities was still relatively new?

(4) I had no idea (or perhaps had forgotten) that Aunt Louise knew Aunt Ann (which is what we called her) and Dad. I also did not know that Aunt Ann and Aunt Louise were so close in age. Aunt Louise was born in 1914; Mother and I think Aunt Ann was born very close to the same time. We are looking for the year.

(5) When I look at the interweavings here, I am in awe that family members a century ago could somehow have walked the same paths we would walk. Did they know? What paths do we walk now that someone 100 years from now will then walk, and we will only be a distant dusty fragile memory?

(Edited: 3/5/08)

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