Pictured are the remains of the Westboro, Missouri School building.
Submitted by Beverly Clinkingbeard
Westboro School is now a heap of rubble. It needed to happen, as for years it was stripped of all dignity and respect, and where it once harbored safety for staff and children, it was now a hazard. Still, there is that nostalgic corner reserved for happy and funny memories. There is security that a solid old building offers a community and town. That will be missed.
At 100 years of age the school building had stood the test of time. The planners and builders did a good job, and in the end, it isn’t the building that succumbed first, but the social setting of population lack and changes of a farm community that no longer could fill the classrooms.
It was lofty plan that launched a building program for a new school. The desire that encompasses almost every parent – our kids should succeed further than the parent and grandparent – was as alive then as now. Blanchard’s school had burned and they were building a new brick and mortar building in 1917. Amity College in College Springs had ceased to be and they had a new building underway for elementary and high school students in 1917. Northboro had remodeled their school in 1915. It burned and in 1923 their high school students enrolled in either Blanchard or Westboro until their new school was built. So the surrounding area towns were making school improvements too.
At the time schools were built on much the same pattern, but smaller in scale, of courthouse buildings. Enter either the front or back door and one was faced with steps going up or down and at the top or below, there was a platform and classroom doors, and more steps going up on either side of the building to another floor that offered the same plan of platform and classroom doors. A short flight of steps took one to the superintendent’s office, which was quite small and held file drawers of records. High school classes were generally on the top floor.
Building a new school wasn’t without a few bumps. According to the Westboro Enterprise, “School was dismissed on Friday of last week and again on Thursday, this week. Too cold and no heating arrangements. To use a slang expression, the contractors seem to be playing horse. According to the contract the building was to have been turned over all complete, August 15 . Owing to unavoidable occurrences, 15 days extra time was granted on the time, September 3, time for school to open, found the building uncompleted. The upper story was in shape so that the high school was opened up there, but the heating plant was not complete. Ten days more was required by the contractors, and so it has been from time to time for seven weeks. The furnace man says the delay is or caused because of the war, (WWI) making it almost impossible for him to get material. We don’t know how much of this is true, but we do know it is getting time of the year that we need a fire in the furnace if we have school.” There were 48 high school students that year.
The school officers taking the criticism was the Board of Directors. Etched in the cornerstones, “Erected by Consolidated School District No. 4, Atchison County, Missouri – 1917 – H.W. Underhill & Co. – Arch’t. – Weeks Const. Co. Builders.” The names of the “Board of Directors, J.W. Peck, President; J.H. Flack, G.E. Peck, G.W. Daniel, J.L. Filson, P. Utter, Sec’y. and W.H. Shough, Treas.” Meanwhile, State Superintendent, Url Lamkin, issued his approval and recommended, “. . . based on the excellent educational spirit of the community, the board add a teacher in high school and one in elementary level.”
In 1950 the district launched building a gymnasium that was the envy of many schools. It included a generous stage area with heavy theatre style curtains and lighter weight curtains that could be slid where needed to accommodate drama entrances, music presentations and dramatic plays. Bleachers lined the south wall and for basketball games and other occasions they were filled with the local folks. Over the years superintendents and teachers moved through the doors and traversed up and down the steps. It took someone to keep the school clean and cooks to keep the children fed. There were secrets to keep, good grades and less than good grades dispensed to the students. Students were urged to stay in school because “the world needs trained men.”
In 1917 graduation exercises were “given at the town hall Monday night and here again the class was greeted by a full house.” There is no mention why it was held at the town hall, but space may have been a factor, as the gymnasium in the new school wasn’t as spacious as the town hall, or perhaps parts of the school remained unfinished?
The next article will be a follow-up of stories from the school days of students and graduates. If you have a story of excellence or orneriness you’d like to share, call Bev at 660-984-5494. Anonymity is guaranteed; no questions asked. Truth is important.
As of today, the first phase of Westboro School demolition is done, but there is more clean-up before the project is finished. Many have already offered their time and equipment. Finances are still needed to see demolition to completion. If you would like to help, send donation to: Westboro School Demolition Project, c/o Alan McNaughton, 13971 Satchel Ave., Westboro, MO 64498.