Country school celebrates 150th anniversary

Pure Nebraska
Published: Aug. 31, 2023 at 12:21 PM CDT
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TABLE ROCK, Neb. (KOLN) - A one-room school officially known as Pleasant Valley Country School District 32 is marking its 150th anniversary. To local residents, it’s known as the Rock School.

The Rock School was built in 1873. “It looks like how it did when mom and dad when to school here 65 years ago, or 70 years ago for them,” Rock School supporter Alan Fritch said. Fritch’s parents Rudy and Dorothy attended the school, and he has a picture of them outside of it as kids. “Dad grew up about a 1/2 mile east of here, mom grew up a 1/2 mile south of here,” Fritch said. “They walked to school together through grade school. They got married, they lived on the farm until they passed three years ago at age 87.” Alan has other attachments to the school as well. “My grandfather Rudy Fritch Sr. went to the school here. And then my great, great grandfather James Fritch Sr. was one of the three stone masons that built the facility 150 years ago.”

Many people have memories of the school, including two brothers who went there. Their names are Larry and Ron Gilbert. “The thing of it is, the teacher was law,” Ron said. “Back then, if you had a discipline coming, the teacher took care of it. Whatever the teacher did was ok with the parents, because it was going to be worse when you got home.” The one-room school concept was interesting to Larry. “I went only two years, kindergarten and first grade, and you got to listen to all of the classes ahead of you,” Larry said. “I sat up front, probably a reason, but (the teacher) would have kindergarten through 8th grade you know, and you could hear all of that going on, and it was fun.” Former students admit there was some mischief. “Sometimes we got in trouble, but it was clean trouble,” Larry joked. “The kids today look at what we did back then, and probably say that wasn’t any fun, but we didn’t know any different. We made our own fun,” Ron said.

As the school marks 150 years, it’s looking good as new. A new swing set and see-saw outside makes it look like students could attend here today. The school closed in 1956, and fell into disrepair for a time. “The building was in bad shape, it had been used to store hay,” Rock School Foundation president Howard Blecha said. “We just thought it was getting to the point where we needed to tear it down or do something.” The community decided to restore it in 2013, and by 2016, they had given the building new life. “One of our neighbors is a stone mason by trade, and he came in and tucked all of the rocks,” Blecha said. “He got some of them straight, and he was able to put all of the rocks back together.”

This little country school was built so long ago, but when locals gather inside to share stories from the past, you can almost imagine what they were like as students. Even the front drawer of the teachers desk has memories inside. All of the teachers who taught at the school signed their names to a long list. “It just means a lot to have this, and neighbors still come together. The grandsons of two of the students here come and mow the yard every week.” The hope is that this school can continue to stand as a monument to the past.. and a reminder of how things used to be. “It’s pretty incredible,” Blecha said.