The Lutheran School has long been a vital part of the church’s life. The education of young people in matters both of worldly knowledge and of Christian truths was a primary concern for Zion Lutheran Church from its very inception.
In the fall of 1901 the school began under the direction of Pastor Herman Meier with 14 students. Rev. Meier was the faculty until 1909 when the congregation employed individuals to assist him. These temporary teachers included Student Wysmann, K. Frese, M. Bredehoeft, G. Groerich, and J.A. Bairnbaum.
At first the school was modest in its enrollment due to the complications of transportation. Getting children to school and picking them up was not a quick or trivial chore as it is today. Many young people attended nearby country Ischools instead and made special efforts to attend a special catechism class. Others came to the Lutheran school, but not without some difficulty.
No one interviewed for this history actually laid claim to having to walk 7 miles to school, barefoot, against the wind, and uphill both ways, but many did reach school by foot. Martin Kletke remembered walking several miles into town for school, on occasion being picked up by passing motorists. On one such occasion he received a ride from a lady from North Carolina by the name of Mrs. Wright. It seems this self-same lady had two sons by the name of Wilbur and Orville, who became somewhat famous.
For those who lived further out in the county, walking was not really an option. When Julius Kirmse was old enough to go to school, his parents had a neighbor boy come live with them who was old enough to drive a horse with single buggy and also attend the school so that Julius could be taken to school in Alva. This was done until Julius was old enough for driving and caring for the horse or mule. His father had trained a mule called “Old Jack” for single buggy harness. This didn’t make Julius too happy since children at school made fun of the mule.
Teachers and Students
The continual growth of the school, facilitated by easier transportation and, surely, the school’s growing reputation for excellence, necessitated the calling of a permanent teacher. Thusly, in 1915 Mr. Martin Lorenz was called directly from the Concordia Teacher’s College in Seward, Nebraska. He remained until 1917.
The duration of stays for teachers in the early years was relatively modest. The following list offers a reference point. Mr. Theodore Schroeder, 1917 to 1921; .Miss Mae Fikwart , 1921 to 1922; Mr. E.H. Hafner, 1922 to 1925; Miss Ruth Brauer, 1925 to 1926; Mr. Erich Jahn, 1926 to 1928; Mr. Harold Meier, 1928 to 1945.
Harold Meier represented the first long stay by a teacher. His teacherage ran concurrently with Pastor Hoyer’s stay, save that Teacher Meier left a few years earlier than Hoyer. Mr. Meier came to Zion directly out of Seward and was installed on August 26, 1928.
Meier, a noted disciplinarian (known on occasion to send erasers into flight), was regarded by all to be an excellent instructor. The school day would open with prayer, followed by catechism class on Monday, Wednesday and Friday or Bible history on Tuesday and Thursday. Memory work played a significant role in the children’s educations. Even hymns had to be memorized, which seems to remain a fairly pained recollection for many. Throughout the history of the Lutheran school, it was renowned amongst local teachers in secondary education for the high quality of education which graduates had received. Ironically, over the years, many children of the congregation have had to move away to find careers which satisfied the high level of educational achievement they had attained. The Lutheran school surely played no small part in getting them started.
As in Hoyer’s stay, the period of Meier’s service here witnessed a multitude of changes. In 1928, already, the idea of building a new school had been entertained by some in the congregation. The notion, however, suffered abandonment as the necessity did not appear great enough to warrant such efforts. Ironically, the new school, proposed in Meier’s first year, would be built just after his departure.
In 1936 the school got running water. And in 1938 the continued expansion of enrollment compelled the congregation to employ a second teacher. The first person to fill this role was Miss Ruby Krenz of nearby Selman, Oklahoma, a member from Zion Lutheran Church of Buffalo and a graduate of Northwestern State College of Alva, Oklahoma. Enrollment in 1939 was forty-four.
After Ruby Krenz,left, many assistant teachers served, many of them being vicars:
John Bredehoft (vicar) 1940 to 1942 (Jan.); Mrs. Harold Meier,1942 (Jan to May); Mr. Earl Krupp (vicar), 1942 to 1944; Mr. Glenn Kollmeyer (vicar), 1944 to 1945; Mr. Norman Folkers (vicar) , 1945 to 1946; Mr. Kenneth Degitz (vicar) , 1946 to 1947; Mr. Carl Tammen 1946 (Sept.); Mr. August Leitz, 1946 (Oct. to Dec.); Mr. Fred Trinklein, 1946 to 1947; Mrs. Clyde Murley, 1947 (Sept. to Oct.); Mr. Harold Kuechle (vicar) 1947 to 1948; Miss Hettie Easterley, 1948 to 1949.
Parish Hall (Temporary While Building the New School)
New School Building
The latter part of the 1940’s was chaotic for the additional reason that the schoolhouse had reached its capacity due to steady growth in enrollment. Both rooms of the school were filled, and so on February 24, 1946, the voters’ assembly resolved to build a new school. The committee which was appointed consisted of Oscar Kletke, Russell Rauh, Louis Engelken, Wm. Dubben and Wm. Kirmse. A roadblock appeared immediately as materials could not be found due to war shortages.
Finally in 1947 the project could be undertaken. The original schoolhouse, church, and even parsonage was auctioned off for $700. The structure was removed from the lot in the first days of May, 1947. Building commenced as soon as this move had been completed under the direction of John Hein, builder and contractor. Nine months later the building was done.
The new school building, a red brick structure, featured a full basement with a stage and kitchen, and a main floor with 3 classrooms, an office and library. The final cost of the building reached $60,000, approximately $50,000 more than the church building itself built 36 years earlier.
The school building was dedicated on the mild winter day of February 1, 1948. Now the children could enjoy this modern facility after having spent the interim period in the basement of the parish hall. The new building was justified by continual growth in enrollment. In 1949 the school boasted 57 students. In 1950 it served 56 students, 48 of whom were church members. The school’s reputation often contributed to the inclusion of non-Lutheran children and in some cases brought new members into the church.
Mr. Helmkamp brought some stability to the revolving door of teachers of the late 1940s.
Upper Grades (4 – 8)
The desks from the old school building were mounted on skids and were used in the new school building.
Lower Grades (1-3)
After the new school was built, there were a series of teachers: Miss Hettie Easterley, 1948-1949; Miss Sara Schnute, 1949 to 1953; Mr. Milton Schmidt 1952 to 1957;..Ms. Eldeen Einspar .1953 to 1954; .Mr. Robert Hartman, 1954 to 1962.
Mr. Hartman provided Zion with another long teacherage. Hartman, like many other teachers, was remembered as being a strict disciplinarian as one had to be. He was not, however, without a playful side, as he was known to, while playing organ in church, play for the offertory songs such as “Home on the Range” to see if anyone would notice. He seems to have gotten away with it.
The next teachers were: Miss Margareta Christian 1958 to 1960; Mr. Ben Marxhausen, 1958 (spring); Miss Esther Hepting, 1960 to 1962; Mr. James Burnside 1962 to 1965; Ms. Kristine Kanning .1962 to 1965; Mr. Loren Cooper, 1965 to 1967; Mrs. Hildegard Kirmse,1965 to 1966; Ella Lehl, 1966 to 1967.
Lutheran School Closing
The end of this substantial list also indicates the end of the Lutheran day school. One of the saddest chapters in the church’s history is undoubtedly the demise of the school. The causes which led to this event were various.
One such reason, and sadly the most controversial, was the growing reality that the public schools could offer things with which the Lutheran school could not compete. Sporting activities as well as other extracurricular opportunities simply lay beyond the realm of possibility for a smaller parochial school. When some families were more inclined to send their children to public schools instead, enrollment declined. Others argued, sometimes quite demonstratively, that the benefit of a Christian-based education far outweighs the advantage of sports and such like possibilities. Regardless of where one stood on the issue at that time, it is hard to deny that the ebb and flow of our society has gone in the self-same direction. Schools dominate the time of young people to the loss of the church. The same pattern contributed as well to the decline of the Walther League and other church youth programs.
A second major contributor to the declining enrollments was the shift in policy which disallowed public funds or buses to be utilized in delivering children to or from parochial schools. This baffling change was detrimental to both the Lutheran and the Catholic parochial schools. In a final note of irony, one of the great challenges before the school at its inception, the conquest of which led to increasing enrollment, was the hurdle of transportation. Now, 66 years later, it was transportation problems which helped deliver the death blow to the school.
During the 1962-63 school year enrollment had already dropped to forty-three. By 1964 the congregation conducted studies to investigate the growing problem. In 1966 the school could claim only 24 students. In a special meeting held on June 18, 1967 a motion was made to advise the board of education to close the school temporarily because of low enrollment. The motion was seconded and carried. The teacherage was sold. It is impossible to estimate what the members of the congregation thought of the inclusion of the phrase “temporarily” in the recommendation; whether they ever expected the school to open its doors again.
But after 20 years of serving as Sunday School classrooms and a temporary place of worship during the building of the new church, the school doors reopened in 1991 as a daycare/preschool.
The new venture was under the leadership of Sherrie Miller at the daycare and LeiAnn Lohmann and Lesa Schoeling in the preschool. Subsequent daycare directors have included Verneida Cox, Roxie Martin, Esther McIver, and presently Lesa Schoeling. In the preschool, teachers have since been Janelle Newman, Kim Lohmann, and presently Heather Higgins. Eight years after this new beginning, and having felt its way through the early stages, the daycare/preschool can be proud to be considered by many the finest in Alva. When one door is shut, God opens another.
1902 – 1967
- The contents of this blog were mostly taken from the Zion Lutheran Church – Alva, Oklahoma 100 year celebration book “Zion Lutheran Church 1899-1999 Alva, OK”. The texts were reformatted as well as various spelling, grammar and other modifications were made