Former students of Lee one-room schoolhouse hold reunion

2023 - Front row: Dave Jordal, Joanna (Beardsley) Kemper, Kathleen (Thorsen) Lutz, Linda (Sanderson) Jordal and Glen Johnson. Back row: Charles Thorsen and Allan Prestegaard.

Reunion commemorates 75-year mark

LEE — On Sunday, April 30, a reunion was held of the former students of the Peterson School, a one-room schoolhouse that was located on the southeast corner of Reynolds Road and Woodlawn Road in rural Lee.

The majority of students who attended the school were of Norwegian descent and members of the local Lutheran churches, so it was fitting that the event was held at Calvary Lutheran Church, in rural Lee, where many of those in attendance are still members to this day.

The original Peterson School was built on land donated by Nels and Ragnilda Peterson in 1885. In 1917, a new schoolhouse was built at the same location, and operated until 1952 when the one-room schools of the area were closed and the children began attending Lee Grade School.

Some of those in attendance continue to live in the same home that they grew up in when they attended the Peterson School, including Charles Thorsen and Allan Prestegaard. Amazingly, nearly all of the same families in the former school district still live on the same family farms as when the school was in operation 70+ years ago.

There was even one married couple in attendance, with both David Jordal and Linda (Sanderson) Jordal having attended the school.

Those former students and spouses in attendance included: Mr. & Mrs. Allan Prestegaard of Steward; Mr. & Mrs. Charles Thorsen of Lee; Mrs. Kathleen Lutz of Rochelle; Mr. & Mrs. David Jordal of Rochelle; Mr. & Mrs. Jim Kemper of Compton and Mr. Glen Johnson of DeKalb.

There were also several in attendance with other connections and family members who had attended the school including: Mrs. Cheryl Johnson of Lee; Mrs. Deb Hueber of Steward; Mr. & Mrs. James Johnson of Shabbona; Mr. Alex Johnson of Chicago and Mr. Ron Arne of Rochelle.

A number of interesting stories were told, including those about the various games that were played during recess and the logistics of one teacher teaching eight separate grades.  It was noted that each morning began with the students reciting various adages for the teacher, such as, "A penny saved is a penny earned."

Many of those in attendance enjoyed reminiscing about their former teacher, Miss Alice Tysdale, who taught at the school for many years until its closure. They expressed their appreciation for her effort and strictness which helped them later in life. It was noted that Miss Tysdale would walk over two miles to teach at the school every day until the parents of the district banded together to purchase her a car.

Mr. Charles Thorsen noted that his mother, Gladys (Peterson) Thorsen, had an especially unique connection to the school. Her grandfather donated the land for the original school. Her parents both attended the school. She attended the school, along with all of her siblings. She taught at the school in the 1920s, her children attended the school, and then after its closure, it was remodeled into a home, where she lived from 1959 to 1995. Since 1995, the home has been occupied by her grandson, Michael Thorsen.

The former students enjoyed watching a 1948 home movie of children playing at the school. Many of the viewers, now in their 80s, recognized themselves from many years ago in the vivid color film.

At the close of the event, a photo was recreated with those in attendance standing in the same order as when the original photo was taken in front of the school 75 years ago.

An enjoyable time was had by everyone in attendance, with many remarking how nice it was to have grown up in a simpler time, and how they now cherish these friendships that have been in existence for more than 80 years.