Anoka County history: School not just about books, exams

by Brian Boldt

The former District 28 school-house sits along Highway 47 in Ramsey.

The last classes in the building were held in 1947; after that the building served as Ramsey’s town hall until 1977.

The life of a student at the District 28 school-house started at 9 a.m. and ended at 4 p.m. — with an hour at noon devoted to recess.

Outside of their studies, students enjoyed a variety of extracurricular activities.

Recess was one of the main events.  It could almost be considered a school subject.

Lasting one hour, recess went through many makeovers throughout the years.

In comparison to the current large set of trees that hover over the school-house the early period grounds was open land.

Today, the building is surrounded by shaded grass; unlike when it served as a school and the trees had not yet matured to provide the cover they do today.

Grass was always torn up due to constant playing by the students.  In the early years, at the south back side of the school was a field that student’s used to play football and baseball. The kids brought their own equipment.

Unfortunately, the field was dotted with “land mines” of manure.

In the back of the school is a large pond that was used during the winter for ice skating.

Currently the pond is now a swamp with grass and brush, but at the time, the water was clear enough to see crabs and tadpoles beneath the ice.

Another game was played on the pond in the spring when it would begin to melt and the ice became “rubbery,” — students would slide on the ice, causing some children to go into the open pond.  In warmer seasons students would use it to collect frogs, turtles, and crabs.

By the 1940s, the only items that existed for recess were a teeter-totter and a set of swings located at the entrance of the school.

Students improvised by bringing little bags filled with shelled corn that they would play in the game ‘Annie, Annie Over.’

This game consisted of two teams of four or five kids on each side of the school. One team would throw the bag and holler, “Annie, Annie Over!” If the other team caught the bag they would gain a point. However, if they missed, they would yell, “Pigtail,” and someone else would throw the bean bag.

Students also took part in singing songs with each other during music class. They held “basket socials” throughout the year where they would exchange lunch baskets with one another.  This gave an excuse for the boys who liked certain girls to become closer.

But one event that they looked forward to on a yearly basis was organizing and participating in a Christmas play. With extra lights borrowed from the community, a stage, which consisted of planks, was set up, and screws in the wall ran a wire across the room for a curtain.

A real Christmas tree stood lit up by candles — this would only last for so many minutes before they had to be blown out for fear of a fire. Students would perform their play and held a special Christmas dinner afterward.

Outside of their studies, students were kept busy and pushed to go beyond the classroom.

Extracurricular activities were a subject on its own. As a result, the students had a good time and turned out good because of such an education.

Editor’s note: Brian Boldt is a volunteer for the Anoka County Historical Society.

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