Forada School History
We thank Wayne Brezina for providing this information about the Forada School:
FORADA SCHOOL HISTORY
The history of the Forada School actually starts a few years before the school opened. The location on the eastern shore of Maple Lake in Douglas County saw activity of a different sort for several years as the site of a portion of the famed Red River Oxcart Trail (Also known as the Abercrombie Trail). The trail just happened to bend around the lake on top of the ridge where the school was to be located. The initial trade in buffalo hides and meats expanded to include grains, moccasins, and other skin garments going southeast and then liquor, tobacco, cloth, food, guns, and other goods by the 1840s and 1850s. The oxcarts left deep ruts that local historians could still track in the 1960’s and 70’s. Perhaps the proximity of the trail inspired Holis Boyd to homestead near there in 1865. Being civic minded, he donated land to establish a public school up on that ridge. (He went on to become Judge of Probate for Douglas County). County records show that District 3 was formally established on November 23, 1867. After the school was built, Anna Schifley from Philadelphia came to serve as the first teacher. The school was built with a small entry and then a large room with a stove in one rear corner and a cloak area in the other. There were windows on the south, east and west sides of the building, but none on the north side, where the main blackboards were mounted.
In 1902, the building was moved a short distance across the Glenwood Road (now County Road 87) to allow right of way for the Soo Line Railroad. We have no records of names for the nineteenth century students, but they likely included names of some early county settlers, many transplanted from the East.
With the arrival of the rails, European immigrant families stopped off to settle around Maple Lake. The good soil was likely made more attractive by the prospect of good fishing. Before very many years, children of these immigrants were attending the little school located a mile south of the settlement of Forada, established in 1905. In the succeeding years, many of these families would send a second generation to that school house. In at least one case, a third generation ( Bradly Brezina, and there may be others among the Zaviskas, Muziks, and Vickermans) attended District 3 before consolidation made it a memory.
The grounds included a sizeable woodshed at the southeast side of the schoolhouse. By the 1950s, however, heat was provided by an oil stove. Behind the schoolhouse, on the north side, were boys’ and girls’ outhouses. These were tempting targets on Halloween and it fell to the School Board members to go out and set them back up. No one would ever confirm a rumor that a prankster or two might have fallen in during the tipping.
There was also a pump, a flagpole, and a metal swing set. The school ground had plenty of room for games. In good weather, softball games would be played at recess. Tag and dodge ball and Alley-over were other games. Alley-over would use a basketball or soccer ball and would be played over the schoolhouse roof. It helped to be older and bigger to get that ball over and that became a rite of passage. In the winter, fox-and-goose tracks would be laid out and playing that game kept students warm at recess. Snow forts would be built and snowball wars would be fought. Sometimes, students could take sleds across the road and the railroad tracks and slide down the slope to the lakeshore
Inside, during the school day, each class would take its turn at the table and chairs next to the teacher’s desk as the teacher would cover about four subjects a day. Back at the desks, students would do homework and read. There was a wonderful, if limited, library of books that opened up the world to students. The world also went by on the railroad tracks. During the first half of the twentieth century, students would be fascinated by the sound, power, and smell of the steam locomotives that would pull the trains through. Then, in the 1950s, they would see them gradually replaced by the quieter diesel locomotives. Ever so often, a passenger train would speed through and one would wonder where the people on board were going.
The highlight of the school year was the annual Christmas Program. There would be songs and carols, plays, pantomimes, skits, and recitations. The school board would arrange for a plank stage with a curtain stretched on a wire across the front of the school room. Seating would be desks plus blocks and planks. There would be refreshments and treats provided by the moms afterward. Present exchanges would be organized by drawing names and of course, Santa would pay a visit. Memorizing that poem or skit or play was always a big challenge. There were lots of nervous children and parents when the time came to get up there in front of everyone and perform. The older students developed their leadership skills helping the younger ones rehearse and prepare for the big night. Everyone came. Grandmas and grandpas, moms and dads, aunts and uncles, neighbors and friends came to enjoy the performances and the chance to visit.
Another special activity that involved planning and practice was the Spring Douglas County Schools Music Festival. All the songs performed had to be rehearsed. Many years, props and costumes had to be made to be used because the school would be assigned to provide the pantomime performance for a particular song.
Many of the students would walk to and from school. Most lived within a mile, but some lived on farms north and west of Forada, or east and south down to the Pope County line and partway around the south side of Maple Lake. During bitter winter weather, parents would give rides. Most of the time, the walk to school would provide the major part of our physical education. It was not uphill both ways as many old timers would have you believe. In fact, the roads were pretty flat. When the kids were brave, but careful, they would use the railroad tracks as a shortcut.
Many of the students that attended in the early part of the twentieth century ended their formal education with their eighth grade graduation ceremony. They were needed to help on the farm or with their father’s business. Gradually, members of most families were able to go on to high school in Alexandria and perhaps even college. One former student even came back to teach for a year at the Forada School. One teacher, Mrs. Hattie McClellan, had the distinction of teaching one generation in the 1920s and then returning to teach a second generation in the 1950s. For a while in the early 1950’s, eighth graders were sent to the Junior High in Alexandria.
In 1958, the school board built a new two room school in the Forada town site. The school was not quite ready for the start of the school year. School had to be held in the old City Hall for the first month. The new school was built of concrete block and boasted indoor bathrooms. An added bonus was a ball field built south of the new school. The building still basically served as a one room school with the second room being used for physical activities. The old school was sold and eventually was replaced with other buildings on the site. The new school served students until the end of the 1970- 1971 school year when consolidation took place and all students were bused to Washington elementary school in Alexandria.
The one room school exists now only in pioneer museums. It will exist in our memories and hearts until we have all passed on. The education we got was sound and we probably picked up more social skills in that multi-class environment. Forada School served the area for 105 years, giving us the world and shaping our community. Many students have settled around Forada and have contributed to the community life. Many others return often to the locale to see family and friends. Others have spread around the country and return once in a while. All carry memories of a special childhood, of young and old friends no longer with us, and of experiences and lessons that made us responsible adults.