Skip to content

Fond Remembrances of Jacksonville Grade School

May 12, 2021

Sixty Years Ago, this May

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

                Sixty years ago, this May, Jacksonville Grade School, in Blanford, Indiana, rang its bell and closed its doors for the last time.  The two-story brick schoolhouse was built in 1914, the year my mother was born.  During the last year in which classes were in session–1960-1961–my sister was in the final class of eighth-graders to be graduated, and my cousin Carole and I were in the fifth grade. 

                On that last day of the school’s existence, most students dressed up in their finest clothes–Easter outfits for many of us.  In one of our old photo albums are square photographs taken on this day.  All photos were taken outside, in front of the main door of the school.  This main door faced south and led to a flight of stairs that took one to the upper story of the school.  All floors in the upstairs were wooden.  To the left and to the south side of the upper level was the classroom for the fifth and sixth grades which, during that final year, were taught by Mrs. Bennet.  To the right of the wooden stairs and on the front side of the building was the seventh and eighth grade classroom.  Outside this classroom, in the large hallway, was a small wooden desk for the principal who was also the teacher for the seventh and eighth grades.  On this desk was the only telephone in the school.  During 1960-1961, Mr. William Payton was both the principal of the eighty-eight students and the three other teachers, as well as my sister’s teacher. 

                On the north side of the upper story was the auditorium.  A stage with a heavy green curtain (green because our school colors were green and gold) stretched across the east end of the auditorium.  On this stage, one year or more before beginning school, I performed “Wee Willy Winky” in a long, heavy flannel night gown for one of the school programs–my first stage performance and my first performance of a poem.  For PTA meetings and some other events, benches filled the middle area of the auditorium.  In the back or west end of this room was one long table on which were placed the library books for our school.  Periodically, Jacksonville Grade School received books from the Clinton Public Library (seven miles away) so that JGS students could borrow these books to read at their homes.  Being able to go to the “library” to pick out a book was a treat even though I frequently went to the Clinton Public Library in the summer. 

                During each autumn, the PTA held a fall festival:  after a dinner downstairs, everyone gathered in the auditorium for games to raise money for the school and to provide special entertainment for the townspeople and their children.  The “Cake Walk” was an exciting event where one could win a homemade cake–especially an angel food cake–if one were fortunate enough to be on the lucky square when the music stopped.  The music came from an old Victrola; a PTA member was in charge of lifting the arm up from the record in order to stop the music and declare a winner of the “Cake Walk.” 

                Other games included a penny toss and a ring toss.  When my cousin Carole, Kathy (another classmate), and I were in the fifth grade, we took our turn at being in charge of the dart/balloon game.  When I was younger, I delighted in helping my mother at the “Fishing Pond,” wherein a child would pay to “fish.”  When the other PTA member through the line over the partition and into the small room where my mother and I were at the southwest corner of the auditorium, my mom would open the clothespin at the end of the fishing line and attach a small toy or trinket from a variety of options.  A couple of slight pulls on the string let the child and other PTA member know that the time had come to reel in the catch.  Such simple fun!

                The fall festival was an event to which all looked forward and greatly enjoyed.  Although I have no idea how much money was raised by this one-evening event, the annual fall festival certainly raised our community spirits of our hometown of approximately four hundred people. 

Are you wondering about the name of the school?  Our town was really a melding of two very small towns.  The north side where my family and I lived was originally called “Jacksonville”–probably due to the number of Jacksons who first farmed the land.  While I lived in my hometown, some members of the Jackson family still worked a farm in the area and also farmed our small field.  When my sister and I sold our Blanford/Jacksonville family home, a younger generation of the Jackson family purchased our beloved family home.  The south side of our small town was referred to as “Blanford.”  When the post office was established in Blanford, all of the area eventually most often was called “Blanford.”  Nevertheless, sometimes, one may still hear a reference to “Old Jacksonville” to refer to the north side of our rural community.

                On my kitchen wall, I proudly display the commemorative plate of Jacksonville Grade School.  On the off-white plate is a line drawing of the façade of the school.  Both the drawing and the label “Jacksonville Grade School/1914-1961” are in magenta.

WORDWALK NOTE:  Please return to WORDWALK next week for more remembrances of Jacksonville Grade School.

Best wishes to all of the graduates of the Classes of 2021 and their families!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

May 12, 2021, Wednesday


From → Uncategorized

  1. Susan Mckendry permalink

    Alice–I really enjoyed this post. Your descriptions are so thorough and interesting. I especially like the way school events were part of the town’s social life, and I can just picture you reciting the poem. I was lucky to attend a small school also. I know the large consolidated schools have their advantages but we were the lucky ones. –Sue

    • Hi, Sue–Thanks so much for your comment on this post!  I do agree with you that we were the lucky ones to have attended such small grade schools that were the center and love of the community.

      Take care, and enjoy this lovely Wisconsin weather!

      Alice and Willow

  2. Carole permalink

    Kudos and thanks for the excellent job in refreshing my memory, Alice! I had totally forgotten about some of the details. A few months ago when Indiana friends visited us, they did not remember that our hometown school even existed; but my JS plate quickly provided the proof. Those were definitely good times and quite a village atmosphere, which brought a smile to my face today.


    • Hi, Carole–Thanks for adding your part to this post!  Despite all of your moves and mine, I am glad that we still have these memories and the Jacksonville Grade School commemmorative plates! “We are the Golden Bears–no one any prouder!”

      Take care–Alice and Willow

  3. mfanyo permalink

    Thanks for sharing these special memories of Jacksonville Grade School, Alice! What enriching social and educational experiences our hometown elementary school provided us! The Fall Festival was a highlight every year, and I was certainly a fan of the “Cake Walk.” Although I remember the music of the Victrola, I also recall that some years a guest would play the old upright piano that was in the auditorium and stop playing in the middle of a song to determine the winner of a homemade cake! I thought that was more fair because the pianist looked at the music and could not see the walkers to know who was near the magic square. How excited I was when I won a delicious Angel Food Cake, not made from a box!

    I wonder if any groups have a “Cake Walk” these days. What fun it would be to have the grandchildren plan a Cake Walk for the family and guests and offer a homemade cookie instead of a whole cake—made from a box would be fine, too! Let’s have a Cookie Walk this summer or maybe a S’More Walk! Sounds like a good time!

    Love to you and Willow,

    • Mary–Oh, yes, I do recall your winning an angel food cake in the Cake Walk.  Your idea for a “Cookie Walk” is a great one!  Also, I remember the upright piano in the auditorium and will write a little something about it in my final piece about Jacksonville Grade School–not elementary school.  Thanks for adding your comments on this post.

      Enjoy this May weekend!

      A & W

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: