Ballard School Ballard School was typical of the many one room schools that were found throughout Towanda Township. It was established in the early 1860s on approximately one acre of land on the northwest corner of section 34 of Towanda Township, The current day address would be the southeast corner of 1500 North - 2100 East. The school was named for nearby land owners Frank and Harve Ballard. The first building was replaced with a larger one in 1869. This building was used until 1915 at which time it was extensively remodeled. I started attending Ballard School the fall of 1944 and this last building is the one I will describe. It was a single story building approximately thirty feet wide by 40 feet long. The front door (the only door) faced the west. The exterior was covered with stucco. The north side of the building had four long windows that could be raised for ventilation. The south side had three small windows up high. You could not see out these windows while standing on the floor. These also would open for ventilation. When you entered the front door you went down a short hallway directly into the main room. On either side of the hallway were the cloak (coat) rooms. Once you were in the main room you would turn left to enter the doorway to the boys cloakroom or right to enter the doorway to the girls cloakroom The blackboards filled most of the wall in front of you. A door at the right end of the blackboard provided entry to the small room where coal and corncobs were kept to fuel the stove. Ballard School was probably unique in that it had indoor toilets that were probably installed during the remolding in 1915. Most one room schools of that era had outdoor privies. The doors to there toilets were at each end of the wall the blackboard was on - the one on the left for the boys and the one on the right for the girls. There was no running water in these toilets. They were merely a deep hole - on top of which a base , that had a lid and seat like we use today, was attached to the floor. I'm sure some chemical was added from time to time as no strong odors were present. At the right, in the front of the main room, was the stove. It was rather large, approximately six feet in diameter, with a sheet metal jacket over the cast iron firebox. Ballard was noted as the first school in the county to have a stove of this type for the safety and comfort of the students. During the winter months the teacher would arrive early and get the fire going in the stove. Often when the students arrived the building was not completely warmed and we would sit in a semicircle around the stove and place our feet on the stove jacket. Water was provided by a well. A sidewalk led to the porch and front door and the well was located adjacent to this sidewalk. A cast iron pump with a long handle was affixed to the well platform. By pumping the handle water would magically appear from the spout. Each morning the older boys would fill a drinking water bucket and place it in one of the cloakrooms. A ladle was available to fill your cup. All eight grades were housed in the one room. Desks were in rows facing the blackboard with the smaller ones on the left and gradually getting larger as you looked to the right. The teacher's desk was at the back of the room. The desks had cast iron frames with a wooded top. Under the top was an area for storage of the student's books and supplies. The front of each desk served as the back and seat for the student who sat in front of you. These units were attached in line to the floor and could not be moved around.
Recreational equipment consisted of a couple of swings and a merry-go-round. The merry-goround was a metal circle about eight feet in diameter. It had an upright axle and a wooden platform with handholds on the side. You would grab on and ran around the circle to make it go. When you were happy with the speed (or too tired) you would jump on and enjoy the ride as long as it lasted. Softball was another activity the students engaged in. A field was set up in the corner of the grounds. Both boys and girls in all grades participated. On occasions the Ballard group would play other nearby schools - Merna was located two miles to the east and Barnes two miles to the west. The school that won was usually the one with the most older kids. In the winter time sledding down the hill in front of the school became the most popular source of recreation. Transportation to school was not provided.. You got there the best way you could. On days with good weather the students would usually walk or ride a bicycle. The roads were all gravel which made this a challenge. Two miles was the longest distance any student lived from the school. During inclement weather the parents would usually drive the students to school or car pool with a nearby neighbor. The one room school served as a center for social life in the small community surrounding it. Christmas programs, musical programs and field trips would often bring the neighbors together. The men in the school district served as school board members and would participate in the upkeep of the building and grounds. In 1947 a vote was held and it was decided that Unit District # 5 would be formed and that Ballard School would become part of the new district. In the spring of 1948 the last classes were held at Ballard School. That fall the yellow school buses began picking up the students and transporting them to larger attendance center. The building and grounds were sold. The Ballard School building was torn down and a private residence took its place. Written by Dale M. Sutter
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Illinois State University, Milner Library, Normal, IL, 61790 - for the Towanda Area Historical Society/Towanda District Library
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