A Former Student Remembers Reed School
By Gordon V. Smith
We all have lifetime experiences, with some of the most vivid recollections being those that occurred in the formative grade school years. In the spring of 1939, my parents took a vacation and brought me to stay with my grandparents, Rudolph and Helena Suckow, who lived on Route 10 outside of Neillsville. For six weeks I attended the one-room Reed School as a first grader, having come from a large urban school in Gary, Indiana. The shift from the large school to the one-room Reed School could have been traumatic, but I was well received by the teacher and fellow students at Reed. I could mesh with my first-grade classmates, who probably numbered six. The fourth graders tended to bully us first graders, but the seventh and eighth graders were quite protective and became our heroes. My cousin, Glen Suckow, was a classmate and we walked to school together. And then, after school, who wouldn’t like to come home to grandma’s? It was an enriching experience and, having lived on the East Coast most of my life, I have never found anyone else who ever had a one-room school experience!
With those memories and that unique experience in mind, while visiting my cousins, Linda Suckow Grottke and Ardith Poppe, both of Clark County, I parked in front of the Reed School to recall memories. This included the exact spot outside where the teacher took me aside for a firm lecture on good behavior. Perhaps stimulated by the “good behavior lecture,” the thought entered my mind that Reed School might well be preserved, since it was in good condition and could serve to re-create the one-room school experience for current and future generations.
Our family foundation bought the school, contacted the Wisconsin Historical Society, and has worked with their staff in restoring the school. We agreed that a fourth grade program allowing students to visit the school for a one-day experience, including outhouses, would be stimulating, educational and hopefully memorable for them. To accomplish this, our foundation is funding an endowment to support this program and ensure the continued first-class maintenance of Reed School.
My grandparents, cousins and the people of Neillsville who I interfaced with as a youngster all provided values that I carry with me today — hard work, high moral standards and an outreach to others. Restoring the Reed School is a means of paying back.