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St. John School to be torn down

End of an Era

POSTED August 26, 2011 12:51 p.m.
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KAREN LA PIERRE/

Pictured above is St. John School, the Catholic...

HOISINGTON — Dubbed Hoisington’s finest school by "The Catholic Advance" when it was built in 1930, St. John School will be torn down in October, marking the end of an era for Catholic students. The school had already closed to students in 1990 due to low enrollment.

Students were taught at the school for 60 years, grounding them in the Catholic faith. When the school opened, it was a source of pride in the diocese for both its modernity as well as its beauty.

According to an article in "The Catholic Advance" Nov. 15, 1930 edition, "Barton County has nine parishes and St. John’s at Hoisington is the last to erect a school for Catholic children, but it takes justifiable pride in having the finest in the country . . .The school is the last word in modern construction and equipment."

The building is 100 feet long and 57 feet wide, said the Advance. It had a basement used for winter chapel, dining room and kitchen furnished with the latest modern amenities.

The first story had four classrooms, a large library, and the second story had an auditorium, stage and two large rooms that were converted to class rooms.

"The classrooms are furnished with the most modern and hygienic furniture," said the article. "Each child was given an individual desk with a swivel chair that was adjustable to insure perfect posture and correct height, thus making class time not a burden but a joy."

The auditorium had a capacity of 400 and was equipped with furnace fans that could be used in hot weather for cooling. The first year, the school had an enrollment of 117 students.

Times have changed and the school became a liability and fell into disrepair due to being empty for two decades. It also had some water damage, so it was decided by the parish to tear it down. The activities once held there are now held at the new parish center, including education classes.

The school still holds fond memories for students who once attended there, and they have mixed feelings about the school being torn down, ranging from the practical to the sentimental.

Long-time Hoisington resident Francis Behr attended the school from 1935-43. "I enjoyed my years there," said Behr. He realizes, though, that the building was not being used.

He remembers the school being staffed by nuns and that three grades were held in one room. There were three classrooms— 1st, 2nd and 3rd in one room, 4th, 5th and 6th in one room, and 7th and 8th in one room. The junior high teacher was also the principal.

School days were a bit longer in those days, running from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Behr particularly remembered the Christmas programs where the younger students were in a rhythm band and the older students were in the school orchestra.

A student from the 1980s, Ben Demel, appreciated the small class sizes when he attended St. John School. "I felt when we went to high school, we were a little ahead," he said. "No one struggled."

He appreciated the strong foundation he received in the Catholic faith, playing intramural sports which brought the classes together and the family atmosphere.

"It is sad to watch the building go down," he said.

Another former student, Debbie Dolechek, also had good memories of the small, close-knit school with the family atmosphere. She remembered the hot, homemade lunches and was not at all happy about the building being razed. "I was really upset," she admitted.

The memories of the school will remain. "After so many years of being at the heart of parish life, it became part of the parish legacy," said Father Robert Schremmer, in the centennial edition of parish history printed in 1992 and referring to the closing of the school.

The quote still applies in October, 2011.


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