Rockford Area Historical Society News & Update

Terry Konkle Photo by Cliff Hill
Terry Konkle Photo by Cliff Hill

Terry Konkle – President

Sometimes things happen which change the plan that I have for a column. This week I was going to cover the “Nugget of Rockford history” question, but I am going to do that next week. Why? Because I received a letter from Helen Hessler, a 1932 Rockford High School graduate (Helen Kies), that details a part of our town history as she lived and recalls it. Here is what she wrote:

Terry Konkle January 2, 2013

In thinking of the photograph of Main Street and Bridge Street, I thought you may be interested in some other information of what that corner used to look like.

I attended the first and second grades in a two-room school, located behind a grocery and dry goods store which is now the Rogue River Tavern. This school was situated on the alley that ran between Bridge and Courtland Street, and at the back or east side of the businesses on Main Street. There was a small yard on the Bridge Street side of this school.

I wanted to start school in September of 1919 since my sister (two years older) would be going to school and I didn’t want to be left at home. At that time I was only three years old. The rule was that you could start school at age four. I turned four in November and entered the first grade in January of 1920. In the Spring of 1920, the district did away with the half-year program and the teachers decided which students would be able to skip the last half of that grade and which needed to stay behind. I entered the second grade in the Fall of 1920, still at age four until I turned five in November.

All first and second grade students attended this school, while third grade and up went to the big two-story school on the corner of Main and Division. This is, until that school burned. A resident of Rockford had traveled to California and came back telling of seeing one-story schools out there. That began the process of building a new school on North Main St., which was already under construction when the two-story school burned. I remained in the small school on the alley, while my sister attended the fourth grade in the Baptist Church until the new school was completed in the spring of 1923.

The move to the new school also brought about the first “kindergarten” in the area.

The small two-room school on the alley was soon referred to as a warehouse. I’m not sure if the district retained ownership of the building or if it was taken over by a local business. I assume it eventually became part of the store that backed up to it.

Across the alley from the school, to the east, was an old house where the “village blacksmith” lived with his wife and two daughters, Lola and Beatrice Geesey. After the blacksmith moved to the country, his daughters stayed in town since there were no school buses. Lola went to live with and work as a maid for the Victor Krause family at the southeast corner of Division and Monroe. Beatrice went to live with and work for Harley and Wilda McCall in the first house south of the Chevrolet Garage (now Chase Bank). Wilda worked as the bookkeeper for the Chevrolet Garage, owned at that time by Jay Smith. These were the days when having a maid was quite popular, but it also allowed the girls to continue going to school without worrying about transportation.

I recall sitting on the front porch of my Aunt Ann Church’s home (the second house south of Division, on the west side of Main St.) watching the school burn and the belfry drop. We had gone to town in the evening after my father had finished the milking. It was dark outside, but the fire really lit up the town.

In another article, discussing the strip of stores on Courtland, where Aunt Candy is now, I recall the drug store on the east end at Main Street, owned by John Morrison. Next (moving west) was Erland Hubbard’s Funeral Home, then came Stuart Fowle’s insurance office. The next building was Roy Morningstar’s barber shop which later became a beauty parlor owned by Marion Berry and Eloise Jackson (Benham). The building on the west end was the home of Roy and Francis Morningstar and later became the office of Dr. Peppler.

Helen Hessler

One way of learning about the past is by experiencing personal accounts from people who lived it. This positive, informative letter gives details that might not be found in other places.

Thank you Helen Hessler for sharing your knowledge of Rockford history!

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