As you can see of these “before” photos of the Westboro school, the building was already in extremely bad shape and in a state of collapse. Due to the danger, it was necessary to demolish the building.
For Westboro residents and former Westboro students, not many buildings in town housed so many memories as the Westboro School. Vacated of students and faculty in 1995, the building had since sat empty, slowly crumbling away over time and collapsing upon itself. Recently, enough funds were raised (and are still being collected to pay the bill) to hire a demolition crew to take down what was left. It only took a day and a half for the iconic structure to be reduced to a pile of rubble, but the memories didn’t die with the crumbling building. Some of those memories were shared online:
Melanie Riley – “I have lots of fond memories from this school. In case you didn’t know, you could slide from the very top staircase at the north office all the way to the basement on the hand rail.”
Jerri Harbin – “I started working there in August of 1983. I have fond memories of the staff, the kids, and the school board. We were like a family.”
Jo L. Shineman – “My first teaching and coaching job was there. I loved it there and will never forget the students I had the privilege to work with.”
Judy Carnahan – “I remember having to evacuate the school when a couple of boys decided to put limburger cheese on some radiators. What a stinky mess.”
Ann Schlueter – “I loved my elementary years here; proved that money, technology and accommodations don’t make an education. Teachers and involvement from parents made this a great place. Oh and the Submarine Sandwiches, Friday Citizenship Assemblies, hamburger in a basket, Santa at the Christmas program and field day…those helped, too.”
Julie Renken Hurst – “Merry go round. Tangler. Thanksgiving dinner. It was a good place to be a kid…”
Heath Nuckolls – “Elephant ears…Navajo tacos! Great food for sure. Loved Halloween and Nancy hiding, was it a skeleton, somewhere in the school for someone to find. The ‘dungeon’ locker rooms. Not being able to cross the gravel road until 1st grade. The tub in 1st grade classroom. Dodgeball!”
Jennifer Mather Lesher – “I attended school at Westboro K-6th (’81-’88?)…best memories ever! I grew up right up the hill from the school (family still lives there) and I would wait until the morning bell rang, then I would run as fast as I could down the hill to school so I wouldn’t be late! My husband Corey and I held our wedding reception in the gymnasium 21 years ago.”
Jane Walter – “My teaching career began at Westboro in 1978. I loved being a part of the Westboro school family for the 16 years I was there. I had so much fun teaching kindergarten. So many wonderful, warm, and fun memories.”
Holly Gray – “In Westboro, you got 3 recesses a day and often after the last recess there was left over dessert in the kitchen. So many wonderful memories. So glad I got to go to elementary school in Westboro!”
Darrin Chambers – “I played a few jr. high basketball games in the gym. I remember they resurfaced the floors and it was so slick you couldn’t stop. Basically, there were no traveling violations called that evening.”
Mindy Savery – “We lovingly called the playground the playground of death. Almost every single piece was made of metal and could really hurt you if you weren’t paying attention. But I loved that playground. It taught me to be aware of my surroundings.”
Many former students expressed their love for teacher Mrs. Walkinshaw and how she took students on trips to her farm. Several recalled that she loved pink and often wore pink jewelry and pink dresses and even had a bunch of pink flowers at her farm. Many also fondly mentioned the fun they had on the “Ocean Wave,” the merry-go-round at the school.
Even though the building has not been kept up, the friendships of classmates and faculty have stood the test of time. Every year, alumni gather at the Westboro Fire Station to reminisce at their banquet. This year marked the 120th annual gathering. This past banquet was a huge success as the fire station was filled with Westboro students from many classes. Sharron Brown, who helps coordinate the banquet, provided some Westboro history that she had. In the February 24, 2005, Tarkio Avalanche, an article ran with some history of the Westboro School District:
In 1880, the town of Westboro was established and a school for its children was set up in the second floor of the Morse Hotel near the east end of Main Street. In 1882, the first Westboro School was built on the west side of Monroe Street and one block south of Main. As is typical in the Midwest, in July of 1883, a tornado blew through town, taking the entire building with it. Not one scrap of wood or piece of the building could be found. In that same year, a two-story schoolhouse was built on the same location with two rooms on each floor at a cost of $1,500.
In 1898, the first graduating class of the new Westboro School System held graduation ceremonies. As the school district grew, the decision was made in the early 1900’s to begin construction of a new building for the Westboro School District.
A memorial history of the school also appeared in the February 24, 2005, Avalanche. The history was written by Charlie Martin (Westboro High School Class of 1966) with many other Westboro graduates contributing information, including George Laur, Butch and Norma Mather, Marlin and Warren Tiemann, Betty Poptanycz, Dean Hall, and James Quimby. The following are some excerpts from that article:
The cornerstone of the brick schoolhouse on the north side of Westboro was layed in 1917 and the first graduating class is listed as the class of 1920. While the high school was in operation between 1920 and 1967, approximately 713 students graduated with an average class size of 15. The numbers are derived with some extrapolation from the class pictures which are housed in the Westboro Fire Station. The class pictures for 1923 and 1924 are missing. Though the high school education ceased in 1967, the building remained in use until 1995 for grades kindergarten through 6th.
Several country school districts reorganized when the building was erected. Morning Sun, North Star, Moulton, Hazel Grove (Chicken Bristle), Emporia, Walden Grove, Eureka, and Blanchard are some of the local districts that, at some point, began sending kids into Westboro. Some of the country districts sent all of their kids to town and some kept the country schools going for grades 1-8 and sent the high school aged students to Westboro.
Around 1925, the district purchased six Ford school buses to pick up students on rural routes which were supervised by Jack Teague. Prior to this, the students were brought to town by team and wagon or came by foot. In 1946, the school began serving hot lunches with Minnie Sipes being the first cook for the school. In 1955, the Hazel Grove Country School building, better known as “Chicken Bristle,” was moved to the school grounds and positioned south of the school to house the band and music room upstairs and industrial arts on the lower (basement) level. The district eventually sold the building.
The “new” gymnasium was built in time for use during the 1950-51 school year and was one of the first “non-cracker box” gyms in the area. The building was heated by a turn-of-the-century steam boiler. A gurgling or hissing steam radiator was in each classroom, with teachers fighting to keep temperatures within reason. Usually there were two elementary grades in each classroom and the kids stayed put in their home room except for recess, music class, and going to and from the cafeteria. The two grades per room is obsolete now but often the younger of the two grades got a headstart on next year’s curricula when the older grade was being drilled. The high school students moved around a bit more between available classrooms and the study hall.
The rural population irreversibly dwindled and was the kiss of death for the Westboro High School in 1967 and finally the elementary in 1995. With the economics of running the school becoming less and less cost effective, and for the good of the kids, the school was finally abandoned.
Unfortunately, over the years the building did not receive any upkeep and the roof eventually caved in, and the structure could not be saved. It became a danger with kids playing in it so it was a necessity to tear it down. However, as shown here, the memories of the Westboro School will last forever.
Kloseks of Tarkio began the demolition on Tuesday morning, June 26, and the schoolhouse was already knocked down by the next afternoon.
The demolition of the school was quick. It only took a day and a half to reduce it to one level of rubble (below). Kloseks of Tarkio did the demolition and the Westboro Wildcats Baseball Team is raising the money to pay for the demo. If there is any money left over after the expenses have been paid, the team is planning on using the extra property space to create a playground area for the ballfield.