Students at Whittier Elementary School are learning more than just what they read in books.
Since January they have been interviewing people who used to attend or teach at the school, from the 1920s to the present, and are hearing the real stories that are not in the history books. The school is marking its 60th anniversary.
Fourth-grader Joshua Hermerding interviewed Mr. Alderman, who was a student 62 years ago and now works with his father. Alderman said he brought a frozen bee hive to school in sixth grade on a Friday and left it there over the weekend.
"The hive melted and when everyone came back to school Monday there were bees buzzing all over," said Hermerding.
Hermerding also found out that during the war, students brought metal cans to school that were used to build planes and tanks. They also gathered milkweed pods in the low lying area known as the fill, south of Evergreen Cemetery. The pods provided buoyancy in life vests and helped save sailors.
Fifth-grader Audrianna Wallin interviewed her aunts and father, who attended Whittier, and they all remembered playing volleyball and kickball. They also told her the playground equipment was not cemented into the ground.
Wallin heard that when the school acquired a new wooden gymnasium floor the janitors didn't let anyone on it.
"Once in a while the students would talk nice to the janitors and they would let them in with slippers on to shoot a few hoops," she said.
The students who went to school in the 1920s remembered Louise Barrett. She was an eighth-grade teacher and a principal. The students remembered her as strict and someone they didn't want to mess with.
"She would have the janitor ring the bell when play yard time was up, and when the bell rang we had to stand at attention in straight lines," wrote Edna Luttman Brittany. "Miss Barrett would sit on a step stool in the school and observe everyone. We had to sit perfectly still. We weren't allowed to be bad."
Roy Hoffman wrote that Barrett had a ruler and if students didn't behave the ruler would go across the fingers.
"I remember the principal using a ruler on the knuckles of one kid, who thought it was cool to bring his hunting knife to school," he said.
Brittany also shared a story about her brother, Euguene, and his friend, Ross Campbell.
"One day they got caught throwing spitballs," she said. "For punishment they had to stay after school and make 200 spitballs and throw them on the floor. Then they had to get on their hands and knees and pick up all 200 back up off the wood floors. My brother got an infection in his knee and ended up going to the hospital."
Stewart Mills attended Whittier School from 1933-1940. He remembered being on the basketball team and running against the other schools' athletes at Lincoln, Lowell and Harrison schools. Whittier won most of the events and Lincoln was its biggest competitor.
Roy (Pete) Macpherson, a student in the late 1930s to early 1940s, remembered his first-grade teacher, Miss Walsh. When he misbehaved, she put him in the closet in the back of her cloakroom, where she made coffee on a hot plate.
"I told her that she should not put students in there and that I had burned myself on her hot plate," he wrote. "She then decided to put me out in the hall. However, the janitor and I were friends and we visited in the hall. That frustrated her and she didn't know what to do with me."
Keith Meland, a student from 1943-1947, recalled President Roosevelt's funeral and the polio epidemic. Meland was seriously ill for much of his second-grade year with "trench mouth." He was tutored by his grandmother, Myrtle Cain Olson, who taught at Czech School near Nisswa. Olson's brother was the mayor of Brainerd in the 1920s.
"I did recover from the illness after I became one of the first civilians in the United States to be treated with penicillin," Meland wrote.
Also in the late 1940s, Lyle Steffenson remembered Mrs. Nelson using a switch on a couple of bad boys. He was in a classroom across the hall from Nelson's class and his teacher would open the door so the students could hear the boys getting their behinds switched in the office.
"I remember the 'thank you chair' or the 'think tank,'" wrote Jordan Jansen, a student from 1986-1992. "What it really meant was, 'Thank you for not talking to me while I'm here thinking about my behavior.'"
Ben Shaw, a student from 1991-1995 recalled the school square dance. He and his friend, Dmitri, crawled behind the curtain on the stage where the speakers were set up.
"We came out and I jumped off the stage," he said. "Dmitri followed me and when he did, his foot caught the cord of the speaker and it came crashing down off the stage and broke open.
"Everyone stopped and stared. ... Ooops!"
Three years ago Aric Anderson remembered when Mr. Humrickhouse dressed up as GI Jane for Halloween.
Stories for the new millennium are in progress.
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