Sue Hart: An education at Turner School, and a lifetime of West Ely Road memories
MARY LOU MONTGOMERY
Sue Hart has lived in the same house on West Ely Road - located just west of Hannibal, Missouri and adjacent to where Veterans Road now intersects – her entire life. She has vivid memories from her childhood, including neighbors who lived in a nearby two-story yellow house: Ada Goodrich, born in 1877, and her mother, Ella, born in 1856.
The Goodrich house, across the road and a bit to the east of Hart family’s small acreage, was located on the current site of Calvary Baptist Church.
Ada’s mother Ella was the widow of William A. Goodrich of Shelbina and daughter of Mark Twain-era Riverboat Pilot William Robbins. Sue Hart remembers the burlap apron that Mrs. Goodrich wore, and how the mother and daughter passed many hours in the home’s sitting room.
The Goodrich women – considered old fashioned to Sue Hart’s youthful eyes - had a big Packard, which they drove into town on Saturdays. The Goodrich family owned the farmland to the east of the Hart’s property, including a pond that was situated about where Sherwood Estates subdivision is now located.
As school children, “We would go down there, climbing two fences to get to the pond” in order to ice skate, Sue says. Ella Goodrich would go up to the second floor of her house and look out to see if the children were there, and then would call the sheriff to shoo them off.
Ella Goodrich died in 1948, and her daughter, Ada, died two years later – the same year Sue Hart graduated from Hannibal High School.
From her burial spot at nearby Bear Creek Cemetery, “I’ll bet Mrs. Goodrich can still see us ice skating,” Sue says, coyly.
More than eight decades have passed since Sue took her first steps in the little house - at the end of a long drive - that she still calls home. She has seen a world of changes along West Ely Road during her tenure as among the neighborhood’s longest continuous residents; during those years saying goodbye to family members and long-time friends, and welcoming many more new neighbors along the way.
Still spritely at the age of 82, Sue Hart’s fondest memories evolve around the rectangular brick building located across West Ely Road. It’s the one-room school - eventually divided into three classrooms - where generations of Miller Township children obtained their primary education.
A previously published history of the school indicates that a log building stood approximately on the same spot as the current building as early as 1835-1845. Teachers of that era included Captain Barby, a War of 1812 veteran, Father Corby from Shelby County, and Samuel O. Hendren, who lived on land later owned by the Charles Easley family.
A rectangular brick structure was in place before the Civil War, in 1858-59, when Susan Settzer, mother of Harry Houck, taught at Turner. In 1910, the current structure was constructed, consisting of one room and a basement.
Sue Hart, who graduated from eighth grade at Turner School in 1946, said during her tenure, the one-room building was divided into two classrooms via a folding door. “When the PTA met, or for school plays, the door was opened to make one big room. The stage was at the north end of the buildings, used for plays or for graduation.
“Old Johnny Golden (a popular minister known as ‘The Old Ridge Runner’) would come out and do our graduation,” she remembers. “Chairs were on the stage for students to sit.”
A once-popular event at the school PTA meetings was the performance of the Kitchen Band. “My mom played the washboard with thimbles on her fingers,” Sue remembers. Other “musicians” included Effie and Dorothy Easley, and Ann Taylor.
While she was a student at the school, there was no hot lunch program. Instead, she and her brother, Charles, would walk across the road, where their mother had a meal waiting. “Once in a while Mom let us take a sack lunch so we could eat with our friends. We thought that was great.”
The school year consisted of eight months, from the day after Labor Day until the end of April, “so the boys could help their dads farm.” The first and last days of school were half days, followed by picnics for the students and their families.
There were five girls in Sue’s graduating class, Margaret Doran, Betty Lou Easley, Shirley Elledge, Katherine Shelton and Sue, and she remembers they experienced a close call when it came to graduation. “Every one of us failed the agriculture test. We almost didn’t graduate. Luckily, they gave us another test, and we studied in between. So the teacher let us graduate.”
Following graduation, Sue transferred to Central School, then to Hannibal High School, where she graduated with the Class of 1950.
“There were no school buses in those days,” she said. Students either rode to school with their parents, car pooled, or caught the city bus at the intersection of U.S. 61 and West Ely Road.
In later years, as the school population grew, the Turner School basement was transformed into a classroom, necessitating a third teacher at the school. Eventually, a hot meal program was implemented. Helen Harris was the main cook until she left to operate the snack shop at the old drive-in theater on Route MM. Her assistants – Ann Taylor and Neva Dee Crousore - assumed the role of cooks.
James Dillinger, Hannibal High School band director, regularly visited the school, teaching instrumental music. Sue Hart’s father was janitor at the school for a year, followed by Mrs. Bell and Mrs. Harris.
When Turner School closed in 1968, teachers were Virginia Shulse, from Center, Helen Young of Palmyra, and Mrs. Brian Frazier of Hannibal. Helen Young got a job teaching at Mark Twain Elementary in Hannibal, where she worked until she retired.
“Those teachers had made five scrapbooks full of pictures, and (Sue’s brother) Charles did the lettering for the cover. Those scrapbooks have disappeared,” Sue says. “I have scoured everyplace,” she said, hoping to track the books down, to no avail. “Helen Young was going to donate them to the library, but they don’t have them. I don’t have them; I wish I did. The library is where they should have been.”
Sue’s brother, Charles Hart, hand painted the “Turner School” sign that adorned the building in its later years. When the school closed in 1968, he removed the sign and stored it in his workshop – for 40 years located adjacent to the Hart’s house – for safekeeping. It remains hanging on the wall, along with other signs hand painted by the Hannibal artist.
Sue Hart remains proud of the education she received at Turner School. “We learned more over there than we did when we went to town. (School teacher) Miss Louise Kansteiner – her brother had a hardware store where the telephone office is now located on Broadway,” said she’d rather teach Turner graduates than those who went to the early grades in Hannibal, Sue remembers.
One of the old school building’s unofficial uses three decades after classes ended, was a hidden away spot for meth making, an operation broken up by law enforcement officers in 1998. “I never saw so many pot belly stoves in all my life that they brought out of there,” Sue said.
Dr. Tom and Sue Dorsey, next-door neighbors to the old school, now own the building and surrounding property.
Sue Hart worked at Southwestern Bell Telephone Company for 35 years.
The building was on Broadway, adjacent to Shelburne’s garage. “Mr. Shelburne worked on cars. In the days before air conditioning, we had the windows (at the telephone company) open. The fumes from the car exhaust about choked me to death.”
After working in the traffic, engineering and drafting departments, Sue retired in 1985 due to company downsizing. “We were given a choice to retire or move to St. Louis. I chose to retire. I had enough.”
As the last surviving member of her family, she spends summer hours mowing the three acres that remain of the family’s original 25 acres. Her father died in 1952; her mother passed in 1982; brother Charles Hart, a noted sign painter, died in 1994; her sister-on-law, Nora Hart, died in 2005; and Alice Masterson, Sue’s sister, died in 2006.
Sue calls herself a pack rat, living in the family home across the road from the old Turner School, surrounded by memories.
One of those memories involves George Bastian, who operated a barbershop on St. Mary’s Avenue.
“That is where I got my hair cut. My hair was straight and I had bangs. I sat on a board” across the chair’s arms for extra height. “One day I decided to cut my own hair, so then I had to go back” to Mr. Bastian so he could repair the damage.
West Ely Road
Gene Nelson was an attorney in Hannibal, and he lived just to the west of where West Ely Road is intersected by Munger Lane, on the south side of the road. “One time Mr. Nelson’s horses got loose and they ended up here,” Sue remembers, referring to the Hart acreage further out West Ely road. Her father rounded the horses up and called Mr. Nelson to come and get them. Sue’s father loaned Mr. Nelson a 100-foot rope so he could lead the horses back home. When the rope was returned, Mr. Nelson had cut it into 10-foot long links. “Daddy about had a fit,” she remembers.
The Schanbachers lived in a two-story brick house on West Ely, near where Surrey Hills road now intersects. They had a shop at the Wedge on Market Street, “and Mom and them would take hogs there to butcher. They made the best bologna you ever ate.”
The Hart family also did business with Bueler’s Meat Market, in the building at the southwest corner of North Main and Center streets. In later years, when Sue was inside the building, she saw her family’s phone number – 5005F5 – written on the wall. “Old ring down phones.”
Another West Ely Road family, the Hybergers, operated a grocery store at the southwest corner of Third and Center streets, where KHMO is now located.
A Mr. Burgher lived on out West Ely Road, on the northern portion now divided by U.S. 36. “He raised strawberries and peonies,” Sue remembers. Prior to Memorial Day, he would cut the peonies and sell them from washtubs at the corner on Third Street, in front of what used to be Long Bell Lumber Company.
Sue also remembers the Walkers, who lived in a house on the south side of West Ely Road, just to the west of Minnow Creek. School teachers from Turner school sometimes boarded at this house.
Sue remembers grand sled riding as a child, starting where the Assembly of God Church is now located at Munger Lane, and coasting all the way down West Ely Road hill to McMaster’s Avenue. “They didn’t scrape the roads like they do now,” she said. While it was fun going down the hill, getting back up was a chore.
“Maryanna Foster (who married Ike Lewis) lived in the second house from Head Lane, and it was an awful walk to the top of the hill. She would hook her sled to her dog – a black lab – and let him pull the sled up the hill, while the rest of us had to pull our own.”