Traverse City Record-Eagle

September 10, 2012

School bell silent reminder of earlier education

By Terry Wooten
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---- — Recently I was given the bell to the old Creswell Country School.

It now rests on a shelf above my desk with the muzzle loader I shot when I was ten, and grandma's ceramic elf perched on a green log. The bell is usually quiet. All the little kids it called in from recess have grown old or passed on.

Sixty-some years ago the owners moved the one-room school to the other side of the road. They renamed Creswell Road. They cut the wooden floor out of the back half of the building and turned it into a farm repair shop and tractor garage.

The aging John Deere tractor I built Stone Circle with is now parked there. The front half is used for storage.

Golfers headed down McLachlan Road to A-Ga-Ming pass right by Creswell School. They don't remember the fairways they'll play on were once woods, fields and pastures children crossed to answer the bell's call.

Old school buildings dot the countryside like shrines to an earlier and very different age. A couple miles northeast of my hometown stand some cement steps on the edge of a field. Gormer School has disappeared. The steps look like a surreal gateway into another time.

Maybe some starlit night I'll visit Creswell School with the bell. I'll stand on the crumbling steps under the sparkling dark and ring it, and see what happens.

Bruce McLachlan

We lived ten miles north of Elk Rapids.

Creswell School

was right on the southeast corner

of U.S. 31.

I went to that school through seventh grade.

Dad went to Creswell School

and grandma went there.

Three generations.

Then they closed it,

and I came to Elk Rapids.

When I was a youngster

dad was clearing land

behind the Creswell School

for our sweet cherry and apple orchards.

I can remember the stumps.

To get the stumps out in a hurry

dad was good with dynamite.

He had to be careful

with us kids coming and going

to and from school.

Boom!

Pretty quick things would start dropping.

Rocks would fall out of the sky.

It's surprising how far a rock will fly

before it falls down.

They usually did dynamiting

on Saturdays and Sundays

because it was too dangerous.

Audrey Kaiser

While dad was sick

I was in kindergarten

and stayed home a lot

to play cribbage with him.

One day they made me go to school.

When I came home dad was gone.

I think that's the reason

I never liked school.

I learned to write my name

copying letters off a laundry soap box.

My older sister showed me how.

Ellsworth has a big hill

on the west side of town.

We lived on top of that hill.

The school

is at the bottom.

There were two bells that rang.

One was five minutes before school,

and the last bell.

I ran to school.

In five minutes

I could leave my door

and be at my desk

with my boots and coat off,

by the time the last bell

stopped ringing.

I was scared to death of indoor toilets.

I would run up the hill

to use the outhouse at home.

Dorothy Merillat

I never was a goody-two-shoes,

but I was a good kid

and a good student.

Carl went to South Milton School

through eighth grade.

He was in ninth grade

and I was in eighth

when we met.

I don't think he dated any other girls

but me.

He's quiet.

I think I intimidated him.

The kids who were valedictorians

often came from country schools.

When you attended a country school

all classes were in one room.

You listened to the teacher

teaching other classes.

Kids learned more.

Betty Dunham

Our Kalkaska school burned

when I was in fourth grade.

It was on Cherry Street,

and held all classes

from kindergarten to twelfth.

I had written a poem

where I pretended to be a pencil.

It was about

how I got from being a tree

to a pencil.

I won a prize

for the best poem,

and it burned up that night.

That was a disaster for me

I'll never forget.

I can't even remember how it went.

Poet Bard Terry Wooten has been performing and conducting writing workshops in schools for 28 years. He is the creator of Stone Circle. Learn more about him at www.terry-wooten.com.