Chelsea School Memories
Monte Manka Remembers 1930s Kansas School Days
He may be an octogenarian, but Monte Manka has a great memory for events of his 1930s childhood. On this page, he shares the fun times at Chelsea School in Butler County, Kansas.
The town of Chelsea is long gone, covered by the waters of El Dorado Lake, so it is important to preserve the memories of those early days. Browse on down the page to find out what it was like in the good old days, the time of Monte's childhood.
(photo provided by Monte Manka)
Here Are Monte Manka's Memories of 1930s/1940s School Days
Most of the photos and all of the words below are his.
School Yard Games of the 1930s
The Teeter-Totter: we had two. Several times when the student population dwindled down to two, Melda and I did not need but one teeter-totter. The old boards had splinters and when you jumped off, once in a while you had to visit the teacher and her needle.
We had marbles. I never was too good a shooter and usually lost all my marbles, holds true today.
Our teacher bought a softball and bat and a couple gloves and we played a brand new game. She read the rules and we played by the book. If you hit the ball hard enough it would get lost in the weeds and while they were looking for it you could go home. Our schoolyard was not grassy, when the wind blew hard you couldn't go out of the schoolhouse to play because the dust would fill your eyes.
We played Hide and Seek, outside the schoolroom. We had the coalhouse and the two outside privies, and a big Elm tree to hide behind. Sometimes when the coalhouse ran low on coal, it made good hiding place because it was so dark inside.
In the wintertime, we would play Fox and Geese, in the snow. With all the big boys I usually ended up being the goose, oh well. I wasn't very coordinated as a youngster and I never seemed to get any better.
There were no Darts, Horseshoes or anything fun.
We played a lot of tag. I was pretty fast and could win, until some older boys or girls moved in. I was usually IT most of the time then. The older ones would protect the younger ones and I was left out to dry, story of my life.
We played ANDY OVER- throwing the ball over the schoolhouse and if the one on the other side did not catch it, they were out.
Most of the time the teacher supervised the games. We had one teacher that supervised, among other things, one of the eighth graders. They kissed and held hands and all that sissy stuff.
We made up our own games when she was inside. We had a cable that run through holes in the posts that fenced in the schoolyard dirt. If you had a pal you could walk the cable between the posts, you didn't dare slip and straddle the cable because it was to embarrassing to discuss with the teacher (a woman) while you were screaming your head off.
I see the playgrounds of today and wonder what it would have been like to have nicely mowed grass, basketball hoops, bats and balls to have to play with in the thirties.
It goes to show, kids will play whether they have fine toys or nothing but dirt. Imaginations are great and they were put to good use on the playground. With only the dirt schoolyard, one tree, two swings, and a coalhouse we survived and had fun. For eight years, my gosh you say it must have been boring, we did not sit around feeling sorry for ourselves.
We Had a Swing Set
In about my third year, of school, some men came and put in a swing set. There were three swings. We took turns swinging when there were four or more kids.
Once while running for a swing Manual fell and hit his cheekbone on the wooden seat and cut his cheek wide open. He bled and bled. The teacher finally got it stopped and I was elected to go home with him, in case he started bleeding again I could get him help. He knew a small amount of English and I was to be his interpreter if we had to stop at some farmhouse on the way to his home. I felt very important being entrusted with his life, I thought, and walked the mile to his house and back to school.
(1936 - Photo of Luis, Dorothy and Miss Sager at Chelsea School)
Where Is Chelsea, Kansas?
When the El Dorado Lake was expanded in central Kansas, the town of Chelsea was flooded and is no longer visible.
Teachers at Chelsea School
We had some great teachers. Their job was to teach, administer first aid, mediate the foolish arguments, mete out the punishment and keep us from being bored.
For the thirty dollars a month, and room and board at some farmer's home, I have to give them credit for being so dedicated. Many of these teachers spent their own money on construction paper, and a pan full of gel to make a stencil to make several copies of a test, and other things for the kids.
What Students Wore in the 1930s and 1940s
Monte Manka - "Chicken feed and Hog feed sack dresses were the mode of the day for the girls. Bib overalls were the dress for the boys. The shoes were for Chores, play, school and polished for Church and Sunday school. I had matching Blue Denim shirt and Blue Bib Overalls (glad you cannot see my shoes). Bobby Brant, front row had the latest in light colored overalls and shirt. The Brant boys were ranchers and wore nicer clothes. The poor farmers wore blue bib overalls."
Monte Manka Shares His Memories
Some of these memories have been shared on the Our Echo website and some on the History of El Dorado Facebook group. Some are memories that Monte emailed to me. (By putting them together here, we hope more people have a chance to read his stories)
1938 Chelsea School Photo
Here's what Monte shared about this photo. The children shown are:
Back Row (left to right): Billy Brant (died in a plane wreck), Monte Manka, Melda Welty, Barbara Sontag
I was curious about the plane crash and searched on ancestry.com and through Google to find out more about him and his brother (below). No luck.
Middle Row (left to right): Keith Redd, John Sontag, Leslie Manka (died in a train wreck), Dorothy Jean Welty, Georgiana Bennington
Front Row (left to right): Bobby Brant (died in a plane wreck), Sheldon Redd (So it appears there were about 6 families with children in this school photo: Brant, Manka, Welty, Sontag, Redd and Bennington)
The photo was taken in 1938 - Chelsea School District #10.
I hope the families of these children will someday google their name and find this photo.
(photos provided by Monte Manka)
Encounter with Bullies
There was an old barn to the west of the swings, across the fence, and it was off limits. One day two older boys enticed another young kid and me into the barn. They tied us up and told us that if we yelled they would stomp on us.
I heard the bell to come in, after lunch hour, and I couldn’t get loose. I was crying because I knew I was going to be late. The teacher had seen the two older boys take us into the barn and she told them to let us go. After they untied us and we were inside, I could hear the willow switch striking the boys bottoms. When they came into the classroom they had been crying and I laughed to myself. Gee I felt a lot better.
Our schoolyard was not grassy, when the wind blew hard you couldn’t go out of the schoolhouse to play because the dust would fill your eyes.
On bad days, we would have spelling contests. We would choose sides and the starter would spell a word and you had to take the last letter of the word and spell a word starting with that letter. I usually got tax, ox or Fox and I could only spell one word that started with an X. After that, I was eliminated.
Of course, we had musical Desks. The teacher would wind up her Victrola and put on a record and we would march around the desks. Never was too good at that either, especially when there was only two of us in school.
Several times, there would be twenty girls and boys in school and that made it more fun. Some of the older girls would read to us during a bad dust storm. We would go outside, seemed to be less dust than inside. The old school house had cracks in the windows and around the sills and the dust would come in by the buckets full and swirl around inside the room.
Chelsea School Photo Album - Photos Provided by Monte MankaClick thumbnail to view full-size
You Can Still Buy an Old-Style School Bell Today
Monte and the Snake
I captured a garter snake, non-poisonous, and was chasing the other kids with it. I headed for Georgiana B. She started screaming and she wouldn't quit. The teacher came out and it took several minutes to quiet her down. She was hysterical, I didn't know that she was deathly afraid of snakes.
My punishment was dusting the blackboard chalk erasers for a week, after every one else had gone home. This made my chores at home later and cut down on my playtime and I never did that again.
Playing in the Wheat Field
My Dad had a field next to the schoolhouse. When it would rain and freeze we would take our sleds to the North end of the field. We made sails with a broom handle and a chicken feed sack and the wind, in the sail, would carry us to the south end by the schoolhouse.
School Supplies from the 1930s - Are Still Made Today
Penny pencils, tablets of paper with a picture of a big Indian Chief on the front cover were the tools we had to use. We usually had crayons; some kids had a big box of 16 different colors. The crayons had to last the year and if they were broken every broken bit was used in some project, nothing wasted or thrown away.
Such good times, Such terrific memories, Such friends, Such a loss and now there is several feet of water over the foundation of Chelsea Dist. 10.
District No. Ten, Chelsea Kansas, goodbye.
Monte L. Manka
More of Monte's Memories - of Chelsea School
- First Day School Tools - Our Echo
Nostalgic poem about back to school shopping in the "good old days."
- Yesterday, Chelsea School - Our Echo
Monte's essay about memories of school friends and teachers.
- School Superintendent - Our Echo
Visit of Phillip Higdon(BUTLER COUNTY SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT) - a delightful memory poem by Monte Manka
- School's out - Our Echo
All kids look forward to summer vacation. Here's Monte's poem on the topic.
- Chelsea School is now a Barn - Our Echo
What happened to the school after it closed? Here's the story.
- Chelsea School Lunches - Our Echo
What filled the lunchbox carried by young Monte to school in the 1930s?
© 2014 Virginia Allain