Second-graders visit Rockford
by TERRY KONKLE
President, Rockford Area Historical Society
This week, Kathy Christensen, who is an officer (recording secretary) in our society and a long-time volunteer helper with the second-grade museum tours, has written the following information on this yearly event. My thanks go to her for her positive efforts.
Usually in May, when the snow has gone and weather warms, second-graders from Rockford Public Schools have a chance to visit our town as part of their curriculum to learn about Rockford’s local government and history. Students from all eight of the district’s elementary schools participate along with their teachers and the many helpful chaperones that accompany them. Each class takes turns visiting the Little Red School House and the Pioneer Cemetery located by North Rockford Middle School. They also come downtown to tour the Rockford City Offices, the Rockford Fire Department and the Rockford Historical Museum. In most cases the students and adults walk from place to place and usually have lunch from one of our local eating establishments.
At the museum, we cover early life in Laphamville, now Rockford, and the ongoing development of our area. Our primary volunteer speaker is Linda Critchell, a retired Rockford elementary school teacher. Linda speaks with the students about the logging industry, a major industry in Michigan, and how the trees were cut, floated down the river and processed at the mill. She discusses the building and running of Smith Lapham’s saw mill here on the Rogue River, and the part it played in the fundamental beginnings of Rockford. Using artifacts from the museum, she covers the many aspects of early life at home without indoor plumbing and electricity and how people coped with the inconvenience. With pictures on the wall, she makes sure they see Smith Lapham and tells them about a train wreck in Rockford when the White Pine Trail was, in fact, a railroad track for the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad.
All of the items we have in the museum are donated by Rockford residents. So, with the help of loyal museum volunteers, the students have a chance to see and ask questions about early attire worn by women and children, the school and sports memorabilia from our schools, an antiquated washer and icebox, a Victrola that still can play an old vinyl record, Ranger fishing reels made here in Rockford, items brought home from several wars, dial telephones and much more. There are books and cameras and an old student desk.
The students’ enthusiastic interest is a delight to those of us who help. We love these student visits because it gives us a chance to show off articles from the “old” days, and some of us remember them all too well.