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Linn County Leader - Brookfield, MO
  • Student Gone, But His Memories Remain

  • At four o'clock in late October I sat alone in the country school-house back from the road 'mid stricken fields. And an eddy of wind blew leaves on the pane, and crooned in the flue of the cannon-stove, with its open door blurring the shadows, with the spectral glow of a dying fire...
    — From Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters
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  • [Editorial Note: Like the "spectral glow of a dying fire," Basil Bert Stratton's recollections of his education in two of Linn County's one-room schoolhouses persisted vividly well into the 'October' of his life. Because he recorded them in a journal, those memories outlived their author. When Basil Stratton died last April at the age of 94, his daughter, Bonnie Seabolt, inherited that journal and has graciously shared its contents. What follows are some of its entries.]
    In spite of the best intentions...
    After a false start earlier that spring, Basil recalls that he was allowed to begin his schooling at Duncan School in the fall of 1924. The earliest existing Duncan School class roster that includes Basil is from 1926 when Nellie Plaster was the teacher of 22 students. Duncan Schoolhouse, which was originally built in 1865, was located five miles north of Meadville on Route 139. It stood there 'in good repair' until 2007, largely as a result of its latest caretakers' (i.e., the ladies of the Busy Bee Club) efforts. The last classes at Duncan School were held there in 1941. Testifying to the adage that we most regret those things that never came to any good end, Basil recalls his classmates' efforts to include a float in the annual parade that kicked off the Shafter Fair. The year was 1924:
    [Our] teacher, Mr. Clifford Turner, ran a tight ship...Mr. Turner was a lifelong resident of the Shafter neighborhood, so had without a doubt taken part...in the yearly get-together known as the Shafter Fair. School districts of a rather large area of the west quarter of the County would let the kids build a float on a hay wagon and enter [it] in the parade on the opening day...A wagon was brought to the schoolyard, and on a Thursday, the whole student body spent the day decorating [it with] red, white and blue cloth and yellow and orange crepe paper...It was really beautiful and ready to be pulled the next morning by [a] team [of horses] to Shafter...Well, you guessed it; by morning, it was raining and continued to rain the God's blessed day! I can see the wagon yet: yellow and green making blue that ran down over the wheels and tongue, and the orange color just making a mess of everything...So ended our entry into the great Shafter Fair.
    Basil recalled another local fair in Brookfield he attended that he got to enjoy until he got back home late that night in 1925. He also remembers his first circus which also took place in Brookfield...
    I remember going to the Brookfield County Fair one time, about the time I was in the first grade...Mom had put up some lunch but had not cooked any meat, so they had picked up some lunch meat at the store. My! My! That was sure something; I had not ever tasted store-bought meat before...It sure was good. Guess everybody else thought so too. However, by the time we got home that night, Mom was sick, I mean sick! Dad called the doctor; he got there about bedtime and came back the next morning. I found out later that she had ptomaine poisoning...In one of the other of these two years [1924-25], the circus came to Brookfield...We walked out to the area where the Brookfield Water Treatment Plant now stands and watched them put up the tent and unload the animals, saw those elephants pull those great big poles right up under that tent, and beautiful horses pulling huge wagons around. Truly magnificent!...Ate lunch at the car again—no store-bought meat as I remember...After we ate we walked a block west to Main Street to watch the parade...Even more beautiful horses than I had seen up at the tent, more elephants too, and the steam calliope!! Such beautiful music. Could hear it a long time before it came in sight. It was beautiful too: red, yellow and black stripes, curlicues and spirals.
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