LET’S COOK: The spirit of the Wolford Wolves
My first introduction to the Wolford Public School was back in 1984. I clearly remember the fine tour that I was given of the school by Miss Thompson, the business teacher at that time. It just so happened that I was dating Jan Thompson, and little did we know what an impact the Wolford community and the Wolford Public School would have on our lives.
With the announcement of the closing of the school came a flood of memories. Here is a short trip down memory lane with a few of the thought-provoking and wonderful encounters that I came to know about the Wolford Wolves and how the green and gold captured the heart of many.
When I visited Wolford for the first time I was greeted by a young student by the name of Durwin Hochstetler. As I exited Miss Thompson’s classroom, he said “Hello and welcome to the Wolford School; you must be Miss Thompson’s friend, and I am Durwin, one of her students.” I will never forget that conversation-right by the hallway water fountain. His point of respect, consideration and genuine manner was impressive. I came to realize that this was the Wolford way, and thus the reason Jan felt so at home there.
Durwin played basketball that evening and what an impressive player he was. Looking around the gym it was easy to see that the Wolford community had a pride that just could not be hidden. On the stage was the pep band and joining the students were community members of all ages also playing instruments. The school was neat and the waxed floors shown like a new copper penny. (Just like they looked on the final graduation ceremony last Saturday!)
This first impression of Wolford never changed in the 23 years that Jan taught at the school. As a young married couple, we delighted in spending time there. It was impressive to see the deep pride that the junior class mothers took in presenting an outstanding lunch counter at games. Only homemade pies in a great variety graced the counter. When musicals were presented, this lunchroom was converted to a mini sewing factory with eager volunteers from every age help to stitch together a stellar production. Sewing machines were everywhere, and once again, that Wolford pride and spirit abounded.
Jan and I were blessed to chaperone several senior class trips to New York City, Orlando, San Diego, and Washington D.C. just to name a few. Monies raised from concessions help pay for these educational trips rather than having a prom. Never once was there a time when we needed to be concerned about the behavior of these students. Before we traveled, meetings were held with parents and students and parents always reinforced the concept that the students were representing something bigger than themselves-it was their entire school and community.
As one looks over the school composites that hang in the hallway, you realize that Wolford never really had large graduating classes. They were small in numbers but big on doing your best in education, music, community, and serving others. This common denominator among all classes has served them well.
While taking school pictures at Wolford I had the opportunity to enjoy noon lunch several times. The very capable hands of Eileen Pieterick and her assistants served up many a home-cooked meal. Her potato salad and chili were just two my favorites. Jan recalls many years ago when Eileen and Joyce Peterson at Christmas time would hand decorate each student a snowman cookie-literally too cute to eat-another simple joy of being in a small school. And who could forget the faculty going in at 10 a.m. for a “quality check” on the homemade buns that were just coming out of the oven! The smell of bread baking permeated the hallways. The lunch room had huge south windows, and the walls were painted in sunny yellow. This cheerful atmosphere made for a cozy lunch time.
Larry Zavada has been employed at the Wolford School for over 35 years. He came to Wolford as an elementary teacher and in time moved into administration. His efforts in managing the school have significantly assisted in allowing the school to remain open and continue its tradition of excellence. His modulations in writing grants, seeking alternative classroom education, and attention to educators, staff and the maintenance of the school are to be commended.
Several years ago John Ydstie, NPR correspondent, spoke at a Wolford celebration. He brought to our attention that he was once asked how he could interview kings, queens and presidents with such confidence having only attended such a small school. He went on to tell the story about Mary Jacobson, who taught junior high at Wolford. She taught his class writing and the rules of punctuation. Mary showed the importance of this content by having every student take the test until every student passed the test perfectly. Upon completing this task, Jacobson mentioned now that everyone in the class knew the rules of punctuation, they could go to Rugby, Minneapolis, and even London and be proud that you understand and can use proper punctuation. It was a lesson that Ydstie never forgot.
Another lesson in character was tested a couple of weeks ago when the difficult decision was made to close the doors after the 2019 graduation. Everyone knew that this day would come and that the Wolford School would close. It had been the elephant in the room for several years. In fact, even in April of 1984 Superintendent Don Wick assured Jan that if she took the business position, she would have at least three years to teach there.
The Wolford Public School has had a remarkable run. We can only wonder at the many gifts this place has bestowed. Recently at the spring music concert, director Dave Halvorson reminded the audience to not cry because it is over, but to rejoice that it happened. This sentiment was reiterated in the final graduation ceremony last Saturday, as well. May the Wolford Spirit remain forever in our heart. Go, Wolves!
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