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Wheatland school celebrated
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ELLINWOOD — Remember the good ol’ days of the 1950s and 60s? In retrospect, those days may not have all been "good", but nonetheless, can all be looked at as part of early life for persons in their 50s and 60s. The price of gas was 30 cents; eggs and a gallon of milk were 54 and 49 cents respectively; stamps, four cents; and the cost of a new home was $18,000. Wouldn’t people give anything for that now?

Small towns cherished and worked hard at keeping the hub of their community thriving--their school. Additionally, country schools were still thriving, with several in Barton County just recently built: Red Brick (still there, east of Doonans), Country Side (NW of Great Bend), Walnut Valley (east of Great Bend on 96) and Wheatland, south of Ellinwood. Some of the greatest stories told by pre-era and baby boomers alike were their experiences and fond memories of country schools. They were unique. They offered a setting not matched by their counterpart schools "in town." They served up an education full of character and team-building, etiquette, and respect; love for country life and support for/of the community and township; camaraderie amongst students and their teachers; and a whole lot of country school events and activities; and in the eyes of the kids—a whole lot of recess.

Wheatland School, District 105, in Comanche Township south of Ellinwood, was believed to be the last surviving country school of Barton County. It became the hub from the merge of districts 38, 24, 47, 49, and 69 and officially became known as Consolidated District 105. Built in 1949, the school doors opened for education in 1950, and served an abundance of baby boomers in a populated area of southern and southeast Barton County. Attendance there made it the largest rural school in the county and was served by the tenure of two County Superintendents, Edna Sheldon Shinn and Marie Hester. From its inception in 1950 to 1953, the school was served by three faculty, Vivian Carver, Virginia Carver, and Verle Ivan Wright. The fall of the ’53, Lorrayne Eveleigh joined the staff for first and second grade, making it four. Then in 1955, the Kansas Department of Education made it mandatory that a school with four or more faculty have an administrator. Stanley Ringering, a school board member at that time, contacted Joe Hickel, who had just completed his master’s in School Administration about coming on board. Hickel was more than pleased with the quality of faculty he served with, often praising them as outstanding. Hickel served for eight years and then joined the faculty at Ellinwood, teaching history for three years before becoming the elementary school’s principal after Walter Bollinger’s retirement in 1967.

There was a new principal hired in the fall of ’63, by the name of Lloyd Shepard, from Pawnee Rock, but he only served for one semester. Making due from within the district, Millicent Meyer served as acting principal for the second semester until the board hired Merle Gentry, who served until the school’s consolidation with Ellinwood in 1966.

From a parent’s standpoint, the school offered a place that all their kids could attend up to the point of entering high school. Siblings were often found only a wall apart or for that matter, maybe even in the same classroom, but different grade, as teachers manipulated two grade levels each. It was not uncommon to find three or four brothers and sisters, plus an abundance of cousins separated only by a few doors and forty feet down the hall.

To most, the sandy-laden country school was always known as Wheatland, but for the early years, was really just known as District 105. The given name of Wheatland came to pass as a result of a "give the school a name" suggestion box at the desire of faculty, staff, and PTA at the time, eight years into the young district’s life. Students of each grade were each able to suggest a name, with several surfacing as favorites. Carol Hauser (Lenhart), a fourth grade student at the time, was credited as submitting the name that came to represent much of what the area at the time represented, "a wheat land," the majority of what was planted was wheat at the time. It was stated that her mother, Delores, had some input to her daughter’s name choice. Delores suggested to her daughter, that the name should have something to do with "wheat." Carol then added the word, land, to form the composite. So, by 1958, the name Wheatland came to be, and stood as a landmark location, even to the current day.

The Wheatland Committee would like to extend an invitation to students (parents and students’ families), faculty, and staff from 1950-66, along with their families to take part in the reunion celebration. Mark July 16 on your calendar to be a part of Wheatland School Reunion in conjunction with the 2011 Ellinwood After Harvest Festival. Email the Wheatland Reunion Committee to either grandmavikass@embarqmail.com or wtsk@embarqmail.com in order to obtain more information and updates. T-shirts commemorating the occasion can be ordered for a nominal fee; see updates for more information. Personal contact will be through email only. Neat things are being planned. Don’t let this one pass you by!