An Extended Family; the Training School at ISTC in the 1930s

An Extended Family

The Training School at ISTC in The 1930's


Ruth Elizabeth Sanderson

In the 1930's College Hill functioned like a separate part of Cedar Falls, almost like a company town. This clannish situation was not without advantages to the children of the area. The Training School, located in a very central position on the College campus, was the elementary and high school those young people attended. The students lived within a school district bordered by 18th Street and Main and a rural area west of the College campus. “Country kids” and “town kids” were distinctions at school which were friendly. By contrast, “downtown kids” and “downtown school” meaning Cedar Falls High School, expressed a heated rivalry. The fact that TC High could take on larger schools, Cedar Falls, and even East and West Waterloo, and frequently beat them at sports was a feather in the school's cap.

The Training School students knew a great number of the 300 or so pupils enrolled in grades kindergarten through 12. It was possible to know not only classmates, but their brothers and sisters as well. Older farm boys who drove cars picked up all their neighbors, but otherwise no busing was necessary. In town everyone walked, and that included going home at noon for lunch. If a student returned to school for an event in the evening, the person could easily have a grand total of blocks walked for the day of more than 75.

Walking enabled students to know the locations of one another's homes and to have knowledge of parents' occupations. They might be employed in farming, operating businesses or rooming houses on the Hill, or serving on the staff and faculty at the college. Many of the Training School teachers lived near the campus, and students were apt to see them in situations outside school. One of these places was the College Sunday School and Church, an interdenominational chapel service in the College Auditorium.

A Training School student enjoyed the use of many College facilities; the tennis courts and College library, to name only two, but there were unofficial privileges as well. The College enrollment during the Depression was small, but the 127 acre campus provided plenty of room for Hill kids to ride bikes and roller skate on the campus walks. Although the ebb and flow of college life deeply affected the lives of children living on College Hill, their real education took place in the three-story training building.

Teachers at the Training School held Masters degrees and, in some cases, Doctorates in their special fields of study. My favorite subject was English, and my English teachers in junior high were Miss Mary Caldwell and Miss Marna Peterson. In high school Miss Margaret Divelbess made assignments which I still remember. Required memorization passages from the classics still come to my mind these decades later. Dr. Marguirette Struble made it possible for her students to read French, but what was more unusual at the time, to speak the language. Miss Myrtle Stone taught business courses, and from her I learned the useful skill of typing.

Our school days would not have been complete without home economics, taught by Miss Rose Hanson. Boys' physical education was taught by “Coach” N.O. Schneider and girls' physical education taught by Miss Mae Ruppel. Miss Dora Kearney taught algebra and geometry. In high school we could elect several subjects, and I took physics from our principal, C.L. Jackson.

Miss Louise Hearst, sister of Cedar Falls poet, James Hearst, taught high school geography. Dr. Erma Belle Plaehn lived near my home on Clay Street. I remember one rainy day while walking home, Miss Plaehn sheltered me with her umbrella. Miss Plaehn's good-natured concern extended far beyond keeping a student dry. She wanted her pupils to be aware of the great social changes of the 1930's. Many of our social science lessons were motivated by headlines of the day.

It is easy for me to remember the number of students in my graduating class of 1937. There were 36 seniors that year. My closest friend, was Barbara Jean Bujer, dark-eye, curly-haired, vivacious Barb, who was also a Clay Street neighbor. Some of the petite girls were Alice Scanlon, Norma Huff, and Margaret Jacobsen. Alice was the smartest girl I knew. Margaret had mature poise which I wished I would someday acquire. Doris Stokes had brown eyes that flashed, and Ruth Helen Bobzin and I often sat near each other. We chatted more than our teachers liked us to do. Pauline Larsen was another girl with lots of smarts. Dorothy Piemann and Marjorie Anderson had something high school girls don't always have, dignity. Other girls with whom I enjoyed walking home from school were Betty Lockwood and Lucille Dutcher. Evelyn Ritchey, Frances Stevens, a cute blonde, Roberta Chaplain, a good-natured, tall girl, and Kathryn Haffa, a sportswoman, were among my friends. Arletta Refshauge, a girl whose country home was within walking distance of school, often invited classmates to ride her ponies. Arletta was well-liked by everyone.

In the 30's giving nicknames was popular, and I will mention a few. Some names given to classmates are unmentionable, but strangely enough, the worse the nickname, the more affection was shown. “Stub” Harland Troy and “Bomber” Bernard Horgen had names in the acceptable range. “Mouse”, “Skinny”, and “Lard” were on the edge of the less printable ones. Charlie Rummel was a small but flashy athlete. Wayne Shaw as quiet, John Barriger, tall, and Ed Ericksen and Kenny Nelson were two country boys.

In those days making a telephone call on a rural phone meant yelling, something soft-spoken people like Ed and Kenny must have found difficult to do. Vernon Rasmussen invited our whole class to his country home for an old-fashioned sleigh ride. Joe Hansen was an all around athlete, as was Milo “Mike” Jensen, that impossible jokester and tease. Johnny Colville was a whiz at remembering historic dates, and Bob Richards was good at scientific subjects.

Tom Short, another tease, once embarrassed me by reading a poem in class entitled with my first name, Ruth. Albert Paul, Morton Nelson, Craig Fullerton, Harland Riebe, and Jack Fuller shared with me the questionable pleasure of being professors' kids. When college students sat observing at the back of our classes, the professors' kids bore a burden, name recognition. It wasn't too bad, as long as one's classmates didn't think of a faculty kid as a “twerp”. (1930's teenage slang: a peculiar or weird person) Jim Cronk was a special friend to me, and when my classmates honored me by choosing me to be May Queen, Jim was my attendant. Vivian Lindberg was a friend from my first Cedar Falls neighborhood at Campus and 22nd Street.

My experiences at the Training School only came into being because of my real family. My parents, Floyd and Esther Lambertson, made it possible through my father's pursuit of an academic career and my mother's creative ability and homemaking skills. Our family had lived near several other college campuses before moving to Cedar Falls in 1930. Teachers College provided the family with its longest stay in one place. My two brothers, Bob and Keith, and my sister, Dorothy, all graduated from Teachers College High. With the coming of WWII, my own family dispersed and so have my high school classmates. Yet, I do not forget my real and extended family, and I never will.

Written on May 2, 1983

Ruth (Lambertson) Sanderson

Fort Morgan, Colorado

Note: Ruth E. Sanderson died on July 30th 2014 at the age of 95. Her long-term memory remained clear, and she frequently reminisced about her experiences at Teachers College High. It is quite evident to me that this was the time in my mother's life when she was most happy.

Ruth's family moved many times before her father accepted the position of Speech Professor at ISTC. The experiences of changing schools and trying to make new friends often left Ruth feeling lonely and outcast. Fortunately for Ruth, that all changed when the family moved to Cedar Falls. The fact that Ruth remembered the names and experiences so clearly, even in the last years of her life, is evidence of how much she loved her school and her extended “family.”


Submitted by Michael F. Sanderson to UNI Archives on March 19, 2015.