[Mary Elizabeth Mruzik nee Werner in 1994 writes: “Here is the “speech”, I delivered to my classmates at my 60th High School reunion in Nebraska City, Nebraska.”]
High School Reunion
Thank you, Ollie, for bringing us together on this special night. You are the sparkplug that has kept the class of 1934 functioning so well.
Nebraska City [was], “The Town that Gave the World a Great Idea”, and we were lucky enough to have lived here.
Recently, I was approached by a six-foot-three bearded man, who told me he was a pupil in my Special Ed class once, long ago … a first or second grader at the time.
“I’ll always remember one thing that you taught us,” he said.
I went over the possibilities - - loyalty, industry, honesty, reading?” What could it be?
“It was this: ‘in the school rest room, when you wash your hands, use only one paper towel.’”
That kept me humble … but it got me to thinking. What do we really remember from our school days?
Let’s go back now, before Grunge [music], Madonna, car jackings and the like, to the time of Calvin Coolidge, May Baskets, fruit showers for the teacher, giant firecrackers, free samples of Wonder Bread thrown on front porches. About 1922, we entered school. We were five or six years old - - all except Donald Groves, who was four.
I apologize to those of you who attended 14th Street School, or 6th Street School, or Greggsport, or others. My memories are of Second Avenue School.
It was a scary enough time, but to make it worse, because of overcrowding, they put some of us in the dark basement, in a room next to the coal bin. Later, we were placed upstairs in Anna Renyold’s class. I recall she taught phonics with illustrations. The letter S was the sound your Mother’s tea kettle made when it boiled. Fair enough. I wonder what she did with the letter Q?
I seem to connect Louise Homeyer’s second grade with music. She led our singing with her umbrella as a baton, and when her arms were raised for the high notes, we were treated to an intriguing sight of an expanse of purple bloomers.
Grade school operettas were the rage, so our school was on the stage of the wonderful Overland Theater. We sang, “Meet Me Tonight in Bubbleland”, waving balloons on a stick. There was some criticism afterwards about our turning away from the audience to watch the singers behind us, but we were enthusiastic over our debut. The second performance took place the next night. My Dad said that he’d rather be hung than sit through another session, so I didn’t get to keep my balloon.
I guess we learned numbers, reading and penmanship. I don’t recall any academics, but I do remember another operetta in 1925, called “The Magic Wheel”. It had soldiers and witches in the cast, and a great many birds - - cuckoos and canaries - -. Robert Hawley was one of the parrots, according to an old play bill. (Robert Hawley, retired from the FBI got a laugh out of that).
Gayle Groves, Luella Driebus, Wilma Sharp, Marie Vogt and I were among the bird kinder running amok in gauze.
In 1927, George Arnold (Harold’s Dad) was president of the PTA, so our class got to entertain at the school’s pie social. Our class had real wooden shoes as we clomped to a Dutch folk dance.
About this time, we had an adventure down at the Missouri Pacific train station. We were herded down there to see a preserved whale laid out on a flat car. The teachers told us: “It’s not the whale that smells - - it’s the formaldehyde.”
Do you remember the first day our school got a new slippery slide? The whole school lined up for twenty minutes, for that thrilling three second ride.
Then there was the “sweetheart” bob. Edith Dixon came to school with one. The bangs had a point in the middle, and the rest looked like a heart. How we admired that!
Then there were two things that were sacred in our classrooms - - the pencil sharpener - - (you begged permission to use it - - only if it was absolutely necessary) and the new, long pieces of chalk (we were given the stubs - - only the teacher could break in new ones).
Miss Andrews was our pretty third grade teacher. We all were saddened when she quit to be married. Teachers were automatically out, unless single or widowed.
About that time, Gayle Groves had a birthday party and she invited the whole class. That was my first lesson in complete democracy.
The City Park was a play area, but one time it was the scene of a wonderful battle. Gretchen Lane and Sylvia Hall, had a misunderstanding at school. There was some posturing and name calling, but not enough time at recess before some teacher stood on the steps and rang a large bell, for a good fight to start. The class scheduled a fight at the City Park, right after school. We all went a mob that circled the combatants. Faces were scratched, some fists flew. We all yelled encouragements, then the pugilists went home. It was a grand afternoon.
In the 6th grade, someone knew a butcher at Mueller’s Meat Market, so he brought a cow’s eye to school. Al Souders, who planned to be a doctor, volunteered to do surgery. We crowded around to watch, but the teacher elected to stand over an open window.
We were the first seventh grade to enter the new Junior High in 1928. The school’s operetta was Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. The cast consisted of:
Narrator – Norman Littrel
Shemsaddin, Captain of the robber band – Elmer Roth
Abdulla – first robber – Merrill Rosenberger
2nd Robber – Harry Laudenschlager
3rd Robber – Russel Cowles
Mrs. Cassim – Grace Jones
Abdul – Charles Farris
Morgania, slave of Cassim – Marie Vogt
Mustapha – son of Ali Baba – Richard Cleve
Ali Baba – Bill Beard
Fatima – daughter of Ali Baba – Ruth Brown
Mrs. Ali Baba – Mary Elizabeth Werner
Prince of Ispahan – Harold Arnold
Prologue – Joan Wade
Robbers – Robert Hawley, Oliver Joiner, Keith Flogerson
Maidens – Ruth A Hill, Ruth Thygeson
Dancers – Luella Dreibus, Gayle Groves, Wilma Sharp
In November, 1930, thieves broke not the Junior High and ransacked the building. They stopped in the Domestic Science room long enough to eat a jar of fresh peach pickles.
Some of the kids were working at the Nebraska City News Press now. Paul Catlin worked for the Omaha World Herald. Wade and Paul Fields were becoming track stars. Buzz Smith was dancing on roller skates. Ollie Joiner was becoming a fine musician, Jack McIntyere was a wizz of an athlete. Joe Sims, a guard on the football squad was voted most valuable player. Did he really run barefoot?
We slipped into high school. The administration conducted a poll to determine what road we’d choose after graduation. There were a number of would-be accountants, farmers, librarians, teachers, business men, secretaries, but out of that whole group - - one missionary, Scoot Thygeson, the kindest, most generous person in our class. Superior student, President of the Girl Reserves, a loving, giving girl. She hasn’t changed a mite - - for she went into social work, a church bolunteer, a sponsor of a foreign exchanged student - - the list goes on and on …
Nebraska City had a band that played for parades and concerts in the park - - but also, had a Civic Orchestra – conducted by George Stroble. Richard Cleve and Robert Hawley played violins in it and were the librarians.
Our class was well represented in District Commercial Contests – Wayne Hutchinson, Marie Vogt, Harold Arnold, Robert Hawley, Luella Driebus, Gayle Groves.
In a senior skit about a court case - - who looked most like a judge, and played him to perfection? Wayne Hutchinson, our class president.
In 1933, the Athletic Department had a deficit, so the Dramatic Club gave three one act plays - - all proceeds going to help out.
One was Chickens Come Home. Bob Lipscomb was in the cast. The Mad Breakfast was another. A practical joker brings a wealthy man to a boarding house, telling him he’s visiting an insane asylum. The cast had Scoot Thygeson, Marie Vogt, John Gebbie, and Harold Arnold in it.
I’d like to speak of Love Cruikshank now. The lucky girl lived right across the street from our grade school. My earliest memories of Love was during a severe thunderstorm at Second Avenue. She sat in front of me, and as thunder crashed and the wind whipped the trees about, she whispered, “Metal attracts lightening” … and then she placed her scissors on my desk.
Love could have been a professional actress - - instead she chose to write, for newspapers and is at present, doing a novel. She was the funniest character in our Senior Class play “Girl Shy”. The cast consisted of
Tom – A.E.Souders
Oke – Bill Roberts
Caroline – Love Cruikshank
Anthony Arsdale – Harold Renold
Sylvia – Ruth Thygeson
Dean – George Thompson
Peaches Luella Driebus
Asma – Jean Wright
Birdie – Mary Elizabeth Werner
Barbara - Evelyn King
Chuck Mayo – Bill Beard
Alfred Tennyson Murgatoyd – Harold Hunt
I don’t remember the play at all - - but I do recall that one character forgot his hat, and someone backstage threw it out to him – causing our director, Merritt Whitten to throw a tantrum.
The press clippings stated that between acts, the high school orchestra, under the direction of Charles H. Bratt played selections that “were a credit to the school (GOOD OR LOUSY?).”
I’d like to close with - - do you remember?
The Frontier Hotel
Carmel Crisp Shop
Sherwoods’s Shoe Shine Parlor
Good Butter Shop
These teachers and administrators - -
Lillian Hanks, Ruth Stroble, Miss Hansen, Elizabeth Downey, Buela Beabout, Miss Ahearn, Ruth Schelberg, Sara Whitten, Corrine Shewell, Evertt Kreizinger, Charlie Place, Myron Shrader, Ida Roberts, Anna Martin, Gene Ballard, Selma Barney.
And here’s one from the fourth grade – newcomer, Harriet Harper, who on the first day she entered, put five sticks of gum in her mouth and chewed them to wow us half – stick amateur chewers?
I haven’t mentioned everybody’s name who is here tonight - - I apologize - - please accept my thanks for your friendship. We’ve gone through a depression and several wars and the rigors of old age - - but thank God we have happy memories - - we’re still moving - - remember our class motto - -
“If We Rest We Rust.”