NEWTON— If you attended a country school, you probably have memories of the teachers, classmates and curriculum that added up to a unique educational experience.
An annual reunion for students who went to those schools in Harvey County was started in 1947, when it was held at Gem School, north of Sedgwick.
As it marks its 70th year, the reunion is being opened to a wider group of students.
"We have now opened it up — it's for anybody who went to a rural school, anywhere, because we're disappearing," said Beth Vannatta, president of the reunion committee.
This year's reunion will be held from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Oct. 29 at Grand Central, 122 E. Sixth St. in Newton.
Attendees can register to win door prizes, including gift certificates from local stores, and are asked to bring a covered dish and tableware.
"We eat and talk," Vannatta said. "What is really interesting when we get together are the stories that we tell."
Whether you experienced country schooling firsthand or overheard tales from friends and family, you are welcome to share them at the rural schools reunion.
"School was interesting," Vannatta said. "It was an excellent education."
Vannatta has memories of taking her baby doll to school, a distant cousin picking up kids in a buggy to take them to school, making baskets on May Day and her own mother teaching at several country schools after the children in the family were grown.
"I went to first grade at Prairie Flower," Vannatta said. "Miss Woolery was pretty as a picture, but she was cross-eyed, so you never knew what eye to look at."
It was there that she remembers being taught to read along with another first grade girl, with each of them sitting on one side of the teacher.
"We had quite a rain spell and there was a lot of water in the creeks, with a lot of crawdads," Vannatta said. "She wanted to know if they bit, so they gave her one and yes, it bit. It clawed her on her hand, which gave her quite a shock."
In the second grade, Vannatta attended Fairview school.
"They had schools in every section, because everyone walked everywhere," Vannatta said.
Vannatta recalls her older brother, Alfred, would crawl out of his desk and along the floor to leave school early.
"They would pull more tricks," Vannatta chuckled, "but it was wonderful schooling."
She appreciates now the intermingling of grades that was necessary in country schools.
"At that time, the older kids looked out for the younger kids, the younger kids looked up to the older kids and we all heard everybody's lessons," Vannatta said. "You learned from kids older than you. You learned respect for people and we don't have that anymore."
Students who attended public or private country schools are invited to attend the reunion and bring memorabilia such as school books, pictures and more to display.
Vannatta said she plans on bringing some of her favorite "The Teenie Weenies" storybooks to the reunion.
"We'd better do it while we can," Vannatta said. "People really do enjoy it."
For more information about the Harvey County Rural School Reunion, call 316-830-2185.
Contact Patricia Middleton by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her stories on Twitter at @MacSentinel.