By Judy Reed
Last week we ran this picture and asked people to call and tell us if they were in the picture. We said we thought it might have been taken at the old Nelson Center School on 19 Mile Road about 60 years ago.
Boy, did we get phone calls! Most were from people who attended Nelson Center during those years and said they didn’t think it was from that school, because they didn’t recognize anyone in the photo. One person called and said she thought it might be East Nelson school, because her husband thought he recognized himself in the photo, but not really anyone else. It turned out, however, that the photo was of neither one of those.
The person who brought the photo in took it back to the original owner, and got more information. It was of a class at Huggard School, on 21 Mile near Tisdel, in Nelson Township. Huggard Church began in the school house, then later built on property adjoining it.
Dave Newton, 75, who owns the photo, positively identified several members in the class, including the teacher, and his sister, Karen, who died while attending there. According to the written recollection of the teacher (provided by the Cedar Springs Historical Society), Karen Newton died during Lois Caldwell’s second year of teaching. She started teaching there in September 1945, which means the photo was taken in either 1945 or 1946.
“We had sad times, too,” wrote Caldwell. “In the winter of my second year of teaching, Karen Newton, a much loved student, died of spinal meningitis. We all mourned and wept together.”
That reportedly was one of the last photos the Newton family had of Karen.
Caldwell wrote that in September 1945 she had signed a nine-month contract to teach at Huggard School, for $1,100. She had twelve students in her class that first year.
She recalled that the schoolhouse, with its attached wood shed, sat on one acre of land, and that two paths ran to the two “privies” at the back of the lot. All water supplies came from a hand pump. The yard was mowed with a hay mower in the fall before school “took up.”
Caldwell noted that the people of the district were very helpful and interested in their children and school. “They took me ‘under their wing’ and I became a part of the community,” she wrote. Living in Sand Lake, she sometimes couldn’t make it over the muddy roads to the school in the spring in her 1937 Ford. So she sometimes stayed with families and enjoyed many home-cooked dinners.
She recalled one spring when she and a male teacher took the whole seventh and eighth grade to Detroit on a field trip in her car. She also recalled a field meet at Sand Lake’s playing field. She said that Pierson, a larger school, had won the banner for years. But this year it was snowing, and Pierson’s students were reluctant to go out for the events. But Huggard kept winning ribbons, and when all was counted Huggard had won the banner. They took it back to the school and hung it in a place of honor. She said it was their only victory over Pierson.
Teaching at Huggard School
Copy of a letter retrieved from the Cedar Springs Historical Museum