When country schools served Greene County’s kids

SCRANTON, Iowa, Oct. 30, 2016 — Sometimes when Marilynn Hoskinson, of Jefferson, thinks back on how she started her education in the “Hardin No. 6” country school, west of Spring Lake Park, she is still amazed at the job that her teacher Miss Liberty Maye Mattson was asked to do.

“There were 20 of us in that one-room schoolhouse, we had all eight grades represented and she taught us all by herself,” Hoskinson.  “That teacher had her hands full!” 

But there were learning advantages for Hoskinson, who attended the country school from 1931 until late in her fourth grade year, when her family moved from a farm into the town of Grand Junction.  “I swear, for me it was like a Head Start program,” she said. “I learned so much by listening to the older kids recite their lessons.” 

She’ll discuss the impact of country schools on Greene County and share her recollections as a student in one of them when the Greene County Historical Society gathers in Scranton for its Friday, Nov. 4, meeting. “I’m also going to invite people in the audience who attended country schools to share some of their stories, too,” Hoskinson said. 

marilynn-hoskinson-serving-chili
Marilynn Hoskinson, who will present the program on country schools, is a frequent volunteer for the historical society. Here she’s shown serving chili after a “cemetery walk” a couple years ago.

A lunch will be at 12 noon at the Scranton United Methodist Church.  Historical society members, who pay $8 for lunch, are asked to RSVP to their regular community contacts by Wednesday, Nov. 2.  The public can also make reservations, for $10 each, by calling program coordinator Ces Brunow at (515) 370-5531.  If you make a reservation but do not attend, you will be billed for your meal’s cost. 

The program, which is free, will begin at 1 p.m. in the church sanctuary. 

Hoskinson said when formal education was established in rural Greene County, “the general plan was to put a schoolhouse on each section of land, meaning there would be up to nine in a township.  In some cases, there wouldn’t be that many because some sections were broken up by the river or creeks, or by areas with a lot of timber.”  There are old maps of the county showing more than 70 country schools. 

Most students walked a mile or so to school unless the weather was rough.  Once it got really rough, Hoskinson recalls.  During the legendary blizzard of 1936, school was canceled for five weeks “because no one could get there,” she said. 

How’d she find the transition from country school when she joined the students in the school in Grand Junction?  Because she had advanced a grade or two in the country school, she was nearly two years younger than many of her Grand Junction classmates.  “I was confident in my studies,” she said, “but I felt like a real nerd otherwise.  I didn’t know how to dress like the town girls.” 

After graduating from Grand Junction High School in 1944, she went on to a long, successful career as a nurse’s aide and then secretary at then-Greene County Hospital in Jefferson; secretary to the Jongewaard physicians; wife, mother and then 30 years with Home State Bank. At the bank, she was promoted from bookkeeper to officer to manager of the old “red bank” office that Home State operated on the corner where the Fareway Store is now located in Jefferson. 

Hoskinson has long been active in the historical society.  For at least 10 years, she has volunteered during the Greene County Fair to portray the school teacher in the “Bristol No. 5” country schoolhouse that was moved next door to the historical society’s display building on the fairgrounds.

Our Tom Morain given major Iowa history award

AMES, Iowa, Oct. 19, 2016 — Greene County native Tom Morain, long-recognized as one of the leading authorities on Iowa history, received the top award of the Iowa Museum Association when its members met here on Monday, Oct. 17.

Morain, who grew up in Jefferson, is now director of government relations at Graceland University, in Lamoni, where he also teaches and assists with the honors program.

tom-morain-mugshot
Tom Morain

He formerly served as director of Living History Farms and also was administrator of the State Historical Society of Iowa.   He has taught and shared Iowa history at Graceland, Iowa State University, several other colleges and across the state as a speaker for the Humanities Iowa program.    He has consulted on the development and displays of local history in the museums across Iowa, including our Greene County Historical Society Museum in Jefferson.

One especially notable achievement in his career came early-on, in 1988, when he authored the book “Prairie Grass Roots.”  That 287-page book is a well-researched and well-written portrayal of the history of Jefferson and Greene County from settlement up through the 1930s.  That followed an oral history project he conducted in 1979, when he did in-depth interviews of more than 40 Jefferson residents.  In 1989, that book won the prestigious Benjamin Shambaugh Award from the State Historical Society as the best recent book focusing on Iowa history.

He has often said that his love of local and Iowa history can be traced back to his childhood, when his father Fred Morain was editor & publisher of the Jefferson Bee & Herald and kept bound volumes of the newspaper stored in the basement of the family home.  The Morain boys would often pull out a particular year of old newspapers, put the big book on the ping pong table and spend hours reading them.  Tom’s brother Rick Morain followed their father as editor & publisher of the newspapers, and now in retirement writes the weekly “Greenery” column for the Jefferson Herald.

You can read a story from Graceland University Tom Morain’s winning of the leadership award of the Iowa Museum Association by clicking here.

And, on Tuesday of this week, Morain was interviewed by Charity Nebbe on Iowa Public Radio’s “Talk of Iowa” program, and you can listen online to their 30-minute chat by clicking here.

Program in Rippey shared town’s baseball history

By NANCY HANAMAN

RIPPEY, Iowa, Oct. 10, 2016 – Former players, coaches, fans and many others gathered for the Greene County Historical Society program about Rippey’s baseball heritage on Friday, Oct. 7, at the United Methodist Church here.

Following a “ball park meal” of hot dogs, brats and hamburgers served by church members, community leader & historian Mary Weaver opened the program by leading those present in the Pledge of Allegiance and a rousing rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” accompanied by Dick Bardole.

Weaver shared some of the early baseball history, including a story about Rippey’s first team, founded in 1888, which played under the name “Hardscrabble.” Later town teams were known as the Rippey Merchants and the Rippey Demons, the latter coached by Pat Daugherty, who went on to become a top college and professional coach.

Those teams helped build the town’s love of baseball, and that led to Rippey having one of the first lighted ball parks – and one of the finest diamonds – in the state.  In fact, the Iowa High School Athletic Association hosted at least five high school state championship games in Rippey.

A panel of former Rippey High School and town team players Dan Peters, of West Branch, Iowa, and Lester Zanotti, of Omaha, and Ron McNeil who grew up in Jamaica and later was principal and coach at East Greene High School, responded to Weaver’s questions about their experiences with baseball here. Peters and Zanotti played together while in high school in the mid 1950s.  Zanotti went on to play for the University of Iowa and also in the U.S. Army, and Peters signed a professional contract and played in the minor leagues.

Many memories were shared by former players and others, including Cindy Anderson Cole, daughter of Walt and Nadine Anderson. She talked about her memories of being at the ball park with her dad and racing to retrieve foul balls. John Munson brought a catcher’s mitt stuffed with horse hair that had belonged to his father Willis Munson. Baseball uniforms and other items were also on display for viewing.

Lester Zanotti, Dan Peters and Ron McNeill (left to right), all of whom have deep roots in Rippey baseball history, told stories and answered questions when the Greene County Historical Society met at the United Methodist Church in Rippey on Friday, Oct. 7. Zanotti and Peters were two of the best Rippey High School players in the 1950s, and also played on the Rippey Merchants town team. McNeill was a principal and coach at the former East Greene High School, which served Rippey, Grand Junction and Dana. (Photo by Nancy Hanaman)
Lester Zanotti, Dan Peters and Ron McNeil (left to right) telling stories and answering questions about Rippey’s baseball heritage (Photos here by Nancy Hanaman)
Artage Zanotti, another former Rippey High School player, brought along a scorebook from the 1940s.
Artage Zanotti, another former Rippey High School player, now of Charles City, Iowa, brought along a scorebook from the 1940s. At left is program moderator Mary Weaver and at right is Artage’s brother Lester Zanotti.
A classic Rippey High School baseball jersey, made of wool.
A classic Rippey High School baseball jersey, made of wool.
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