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Denton Community
Historical Society

Tales & Trails


Dr. Glenn Turner

I went to summer school and worked some for the Phillips Petroleum Company. Phillips had purchased the State Oil Company where I had worked some before. We moved across the street to 608 S. 31st street and had a two stall garage. My mother and sister worked for the Lincoln Telephone Company. My mother was the cook in the cafeteria and Berna was secretary for one of the officials. Edward was working part time for Phillips and taking classes at the University. Phillips later gave him a job as auditor and he quit school. It was a good job but he was on the road all of the time. Most of his assignments were in Iowa.

The Rokeby school board offered me the job of cleaning the school house for the beginning of the 1929-30 school year and I took it. It gave me an opportunity to become familiar with everything before school started. I also had the opportunity to meet the three teachers who would be teaching with me. These three women were new in Rokeby and all lived in Lincoln. Two were married and the third was single. All three were experienced teachers. The one who was to teach with me in high school had her masters degree and had taught in College View the previous year. Her husband was teaching in Eagle. They needed transportation to and from Rokeby and I agreed to do it for five dollars each per month. The fifteen dollars would take care of gas and oil. We had traded the Model T Ford Roadster in on a new Ford Model A sedan. It was a two door sedan. When Edward took the auditing job he had to buy a car and I bought his share of the sedan.

The 1929-30 school year in Rokeby started after the State Fair was over. Most schools did this because so many pupils were involved in 4-H activities. There were twenty-six pupils in high school and a few over forty pupils in the elementary grades. There were two rooms upstairs and three rooms downstairs. One room upstairs and two downstairs were used by the high school and the other two were used by the elementary school. The building was crowded. The high school had approved status in 1928-29 but became minor accredited in 1929-30 because it had all grades nine through twelve.

In addition to the high school and elementary school building there was a community hall one block west. This was available for school use for basket ball, plays and other activities. The high school had had no athletic activities in 1928-29 and no other extra-curricular activities either. It was decided to change this. A play was given to raise funds for purchasing athletic equipment. It was a success.

The subject matter for the high school was the usual schedule for small high schools. I got the school board to hire a part time music teacher. Manual training was taught every other year in one of the rooms downstairs. 1929-30 was the year it was to be taught and I had to teach it.

I had experience with a high school newspaper so I started a mimeographed newspaper and it was called THE ROKEBY RUSTLER. It was published every two weeks and I was the sponsor. Copies of the paper were sent to all rural schools within a reasonable distance of Rokeby. This was done to let the pupils know about the high school and interest them in attending it when the completed the eighth grade. The county paid tuition for rural school pupils to attend the public high school of their choice. At the time the tuition was three dollars per week.

The high school joined two activities associations in 1929. They were the Mudecas Association and the Little Six. The Mudecas Association was a large group of southeastern Nebraska high schools located in non-county seat towns. It included about eight counties. The name Mudecas stood for music, declamation and athletics. A declamatory contest, a music contest, a basketball tournament and a track and field meet were sponsored each year. The association was organized in 1926. The membership when Rokeby joined was approximately twenty-five schools. Some schools did not compete in all contests. The Little Six was an athletic association composed of Cheney, Denton, Malcolm, Raymond, Rokeby and Walton high schools in Lancaster County. It was organized in October, 1929.

Rokeby entered all contests but declamatory in the Mudecas Association. It had been held before the school joined. The basket ball team made the semi-finals in the basketball tournament. The team was second to Denton in the Little Six league.

The Lancaster County Superintendent’s office sponsored a declamatory contest open to high schools outside the city of Lincoln. Rokeby entered and won two trophies in oratory and dramatic reading. They were the first trophies ever won by the school.

The basket ball team did real well for the first year. Rokeby won nine and lost six games during the season. Home games were played in the Community Hall. The hall was lighted with a Kohler D.C. light plant. There was no electricity available in rural areas.

During the summer of 1930 the school board built an entrance addition to the school building and cement side walks to all out buildings. This was a needed improvement.

I attended summer school and was ready for school when it started after the State Fair. The same teachers were back for a second year. Typewriting was added to the curriculum. Ten typewriters were rented and placed on tables in the room that had been used for manual training.

The girls had no competitive sports. The State High School Activities Association outlawed girls’ basketball in 1924. I wondered why they couldn’t play volleyball and asked an attorney to check on it for me. He wrote me stating that the girls could compete in any sport but basketball. I got this information to other schools and several organized teams. The first high school girl’s volleyball game was played between Rokeby and Malcolm. Rokeby won 27 to 23.

In April a meeting of superintendents decided to form a county high school activities association. This was to include all high school in the county outside the city of Lincoln. They were Cheney, Davey, Denton, Firth, Hallam, Hickman, Malcolm, Panama, Raymond, Roca, Rokeby, Sprague-Martell, Waverly and Walton. A committee was selected to draw up a constitution and activities were to begin in the 1931-32 school year. I was chairman.

The school building was too crowded with all twelve grades in it. The high school had increased and the grade school had decreased in enrollment. It was decided to move the elementary grades to another location and use one instead of two teachers. This was possible by using a large room in the rear of the Community Hall. It was also decided to tear out the partition between the two large rooms in the school building and make an assembly room. This was done during the summer of 1931.
I attended summer school at the university and was ready for the 1931-32 school year. As usual, it started after the State Fair. An additional high school teacher had been hired who could teach vocal music. A part time instrumental music teacher was also hired. He was a professor at Union College. He organized a school orchestra and gave free private lessons to pupils. This was the basis of a good orchestra. The high school enrollment was forty eight pupils. This was an increase of twenty two pupils in two years. The new assembly room was a welcome asset. The high school now had an adequate assembly and three class rooms.

The Lancaster County Activities Association was organized and began its first year of activity. All fourteen high schools became members. The activities sponsored were a one-act play contest, a declamatory contest, a basketball tournament, a volleyball tournament, a music contest and a track and field meet. Some schools did not enter all events. Rokeby won the girls volleyball tournament by defeating Waverly 45 to 41 in overtime. The team was undefeated during the season.

As usual I attended summer school in 1932. I had one difficulty. I was in the College of Arts and Sciences and needed two years of Spanish to graduate. This meant four semesters of the subject. I had three but so far fourth semester Spanish had not been offered in summer school. I complained about this and the head of the department said they would try to offer it in the summer of 1933.
The 1932-33 school year opened at the usual time. The class rooms had all been painted and a small office had been built for me. This had been done by closing off one end of a hallway outside the assembly room. It was big enough for a desk, table and three chairs. The desk was an old time roll top desk. It would be an antique today.

I was elected president of the Mudecas Association and considered it an honor. It took some time but I was used to having a lot to do and being able to get it done. I got to know a lot of superintendents in southeastern Nebraska school districts.

Having two good music teachers got results. We won the county music contest and were second in the Mudecas. We also won the county one-act play contest. The Mudecas did not have one. The girl’s volleyball team set a record for high scoring. They beat Sprague-Martell 106 to 8 in a regulation game. In those days a game consisted of two fifteen minute halves. This meant Rokeby averaged three and one half points each minute throughout the game. We received a lot of publicity. The basketball team had a winning season. 1932-33 was a good school year.

The stock market crash of 1929 had brought on a financial depression and it was getting worse. The federal government was trying to provide work for the jobless. Many people were without work and sufficient food. A lot of younger people today know nothing about the great depression except what they have read or been told. Those who lived through it will never forget it. Many were on relief through no fault of their own. The federal government combated the depression with three organizations known as the Public Works Administration, The National Youth Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps. These organizations operated on a nation-wide basis and did much to help the needy. The Public Works Administration was known as PWA. 

The National Youth Administration was NYA and the Civilian Conservation Corps was CCC. All three were criticized by many but many people would have had difficulty without their help. There was also the Works Progress Administration known as the WPA. The PWA financed projects and the WPA handled the entire operation. WPA was better known to the public than was PWA. Together from 1933 to 1939 PWA and WPA invested more than six billion dollars and about five billion man hours of labor in construction, about ten per cent of all new transportation facilities built in the United States during the period, thirty per cent of the new hospitals and health facilities, sixty five per cent of the city halls and courthouses and seventy per cent of all education buildings. 

In the nine years of its existence the CCC took some six and a half million young men from the ranks of the unemployed, paid them thirty dollars a month (most of it automatically sent to the home folks) and put them to work planting two hundred million trees, fighting pine-twig blight and Dutch elm disease, digging drainage ditches and fish ponds, building fire breaks and reservoirs, clearing beaches and camping grounds and even restoring historic battle fields. (This information on PWA, WPA and CCC came from a book in my library.)

NYA was a junior edition of WPA. It provided jobs for boys and girls of high school age. Work was provided in schools and colleges. There were also locations where youth could earn money doing many things under the instruction and direction of skilled personnel. Street signs, park benches, tables, and similar items were built. There were also locations where girls were taught and practiced home economics.

I attended summer school at the University of Nebraska in 1933. Fourth semester Spanish was offered and I took it because it was the last requirement I needed to get my Bachelor of Arts Degree from the College of Arts and Sciences. I received my degree in August and immediately applied for a permanent high school teaching certificate. This certificate was a life certificate and was good for teaching in grades one through twelve in any public school in Nebraska. I did not attend the graduation exercises and received my diploma in the mail. It had taken me twelve years instead of the usual four years to earn it and it had not been easy. I had determined to get a college education and had finally done it.

The 1933-34 school year was my fifth year at Rokeby and during that time the school had risen from approved to fully accredited status. I had worked hard for this and was proud of the accomplishment. The physical plant was not the best but we had good teachers and a capable student body. We were low in quantity but high in quality. We competed with schools with much larger enrollments. The basketball team was the best we had. The team lost to Cathedral (now Pius X) in the finals of the district tournament. Cathedral won second place in Class B in the state tournament. During the regular season Rokeby beat Sprague-Martell 53-10. This was a high score in the days of the center jump after every basket. Teams seldom scored more than thirty points.

Elizabeth and I were married during Christmas vacation on December 26, 1933. We didn’t tell any one until after school was out. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. No man ever had a better wife. We decided to stay with Elizabeth’s parents (George and Mary Loos) instead of living in Lincoln. My mother and sister rented an apartment close to their work. Edward was gone most of the time on his auditing assignments. We paid board and room and both Elizabeth and I helped her folks with their work. The summer of 1934 was hot and dry. The depression was getting worse and the drought made farming difficult. The wheat harvest was over by the Fourth of July. I remember shocking wheat and pitching bundles for fifteen cents an hour. The corn didn’t mature and was cut up and put in trench silos for animal feed. It was a rough summer for everybody. In Lincoln many people slept on the State Capitol lawn at night. There was no air conditioning and sleeping in houses and apartments was difficult. Day time temperatures were consistently over one hundred degrees. Those who lived through the summer of 1934 will never forget it.

Roger was born October 1, 1934 in Lincoln General Hospital. He was a fine baby and was the center of attention for his parents and grandparents. Elizabeth used to put him in his basket on the piano bench and he would reach up and finger the piano keys.

The 1934-35 year was a busy one. The school board had the WPA put a new foundation under the school building and do a lot or repair work on the building. The WPA also remodeled the Community Hall and made it better for school use. The high school won the county one-act play contest, was second in the track and field meet and third in the music contest. The high school also won a regent’s scholarship and an alternate. This was the first of several the school was to win.

It seems that I write mostly about school activities. This is because that is what I was doing. In addition to teaching four classes each school day, I had charge of boys’ baseball, girls’ softball, basketball, girls’ and boys’ track and field, volleyball, declamation, one-act plays and school plays. The only activity I didn’t participate in was music. If a progressive knowledge of music was required to be promoted from grade to grade in school, I would still be in the first grade.

We were getting into the middle of the “dirty thirties”. In addition to the depression and lack or rain we were subject to many dust storms in the thirties. States were hard hit by dust storms because there was very little soil moisture. The dirty winds caused dust drifts just like snow drifts. Red dust from Oklahoma blew into Nebraska. In some states there were times when there was so much dust in the air that cars had to keep their lights on.

I’ll always remember the 1935-36 school year because of the severe winter. We had a lot of snow and extremely cold weather. During the year, I got up extra early each morning and helped my father-in-law with the chores. He milked all the cows and I fed them and did other things to help. During the winter months the snow and cold weather made all the work very difficult. The warmest place was in the trench silo where I had to go to get feed for the stock. I don’t think any man could milk as many cows each day as my father-in-law. I never learned how to milk a cow but Elizabeth could milk and helped out often. The snow and cold weather caused us to cancel six out of fourteen basketball games. The county road crews couldn’t keep all the roads open. They drifted shut continuously. I walked to school most of the time.

We had forty-eight in high school in 1935-36 and exchanged school papers with thirty-four other high schools. We gave a play to raise money for new basketball suits. They were black with red letters and numbers. Adams beat Rokeby by one point in the finals of the Mudecas tournament. The school had its first alumni banquet in June of 1936. Although the high school is gone the graduates still hold a reunion in Lincoln every two years.

During the summer of 1935, the school board remodeled the big shed on the school grounds and made it into a good general shop building. The big difficulty was the lack of electricity. Hand tools had to be used.

The 1936-37 school year kept me busy. We had eighteen freshmen and thirty-one tuition pupils from adjacent rural school districts. The shop teacher resigned in the middle of the year and we were fortunate in securing an excellent replacement (Mr. Alpers) who was a graduate of the University of Nebraska. He was working on a masters degree.

The Rural Public Power District brought electricity to rural Lancaster County in 1937 and the school and Community Hall were wired. The hall had an old Kohler D.C. unit and it was junked. Electricity made it possible to use power tools in the shop and the school board bought everything the shop teacher needed. During the 1937-38 school year the Rokeby general shop was used as a model shop by the University of Nebraska.

The 1937-38 school year kept me busy. We had fifty-five students in high school with forty tuition students from eleven rural school districts. Our fall school play had a record attendance of three hundred and fifty people. Our one-act play won fourth place in the state contest in Holdrege after winning two district contests to qualify. We lost our shop teacher to the Columbus High School at the close of the school year. He was too good for us to keep.

During the summers of 1935-38, I had a girls’ softball team in a league in Lincoln. The team was called Rokeby but not all the girls were Rokeby girls. Elizabeth and I used to drive to Hallam to pick up two Busch sisters who were excellent players. Our pitcher was Maggie Anderson who lived several miles east of Rokeby. She was a big girl and an outstanding pitcher. In the summer of 1937 we played Syracuse with the winner going to the national tournament. We lost. Syracuse took three of our players with them. They didn’t win the championship but lasted until the semi-finals.

The 1938-40 school years at Rokeby were good years. We discontinued the school paper because it got to be too big as far as time and work were concerned. I still have bound copies of the nine years it was printed. They were used as source material for a lot I have written about the years 1929-38. The only county basketball championship Rokeby ever won was in 1940. We beat Roca in the finals. This made two championships in my year at Rokeby, one in Mudecas and one in the county tournament.

In the summers of 1938-40 I attended summer school to work on my master’s degree. Graduate work was not easy but I had plenty of time to study. We didn’t have much to live on but we managed to get by.

The 1940-41 school year started out much the same as all others. However, in the first week in November, I was offered a job as a field representative with the National Youth Administration. I think our program at Rokeby had impressed the state administrator and she offered me the job for two hundred dollars a month on a twelve month basis. This was a big salary in 1940 but a very small one today. I asked to be released at Rokeby and one was granted. The board advertised for a superintendent and the superintendent at Byron took the job. My years at Rokeby ended in November of 1940.

I am proud of what was accomplished during my years at Rokeby. When I left the high school was fully accredited and had enough tuition pupils to pay the salaries of all the teachers. We competed successfully with school three and four times our size. I found out that hard work pays off in the long run. Rokeby graduates did will. Wallace Rasmussen, a 1931 graduate became president of Beatrice Foods and later chairman of the board of directors. He had no formal education beyond high school.

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Webmaster - Kathie Harrison
Denton Community Historical Society of Nebraska