Home | Columns | Photos | Books | Biography | Mental Health | Links

Barry Schrader


I currently write a column each Tuesday for the DeKalb Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website each week and be added to the archives.

The Articles started December 2007.


If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates to catch up.

Archive Page

Showing off the old school

By Barry Schrader.................................June 22, 2009

Tom Schlieben didn’t get a chance to dip Alice (now Whitney) Stroberg’s pigtails in the ink wells at North Grove School in first grade because the ink wells had been removed from the desks by then.
That is something I learned from talking with those two schoolmates recently who went all through grade school in the tiny one-room school on Brickville Road north of Sycamore. Tom remembers that once on a dare he climbed the flagpole out front and touched the big ball at the top. Of course he was many pounds lighter in those days, so he admitted he wouldn’t try that again. They both recalled the big pump out front, which still stands today and still provides potable drinking water to anyone who knows how to use it. In their school days, which went from first grade in 1946 through sixth or seventh grade, they used a bucket and dipper to quench their thirst, then later a ceramic crock was added inside the school with a spigot for getting a drink.

Tom Schlieben and Alice Stroberg.

Tom said they all brought their lunches and left them in the front cloak room. For a special treat, sometimes a mother would bring in a tureen of soup or chili for the students. A typical school day consisted of classes in arithmetic, English, history, geography and penmanship. There were typically 15 or 20 students in all eight grades in any one year. Their teacher all through grade school, Mrs. Hilda Clark, had a policy of letting them eat lunch outside only if it was 72 degrees or hotter. But they got plenty of exposure to the outdoors during recess and after eating lunch. The play equipment consisted of a large slide, rings to swing on, and two swings. No computer games or iPods?
There was an old upright piano that the teacher used for music making, and they both remember reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of the school day. Tom claims he never took any schoolwork home at night, but Alice says she did.
Both transferred to Sycamore schools, Alice when going into sixth grade and Tom a year later in 1952, when the country schools were mostly closed in the county. He felt they were behind the town kids who had more special resource teachers and additional learning materials. Alice said the biggest difference she remembers was not being able to wear jeans but instead skirts or dresses in town.
Rural families loved their neighborhood schools, and the North Grove Community Club kept the building well maintained for social occasions even after it was no longer used as a school. As a result this is the only one-room school in the county on its original site that is used for educational purposes today. Sycamore teachers bring classes there for learning about rural school life 100 years ago.
And this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, Alice and Tom and several other alums will gather to show off the school to the public. It will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday. Here’s a trivia question to ask them: Did the girls’ or boys’ outhouse have more holes?

Home | Columns | Photos | Books | Biography | Mental Health | Links

The columnist can be reached via email at :


or by snailmail at:

Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115