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The Lake News Online
  • Amateur historian remembers days of lake area school houses

  • As the Camdenton R-III School District prepares to take its part of the Westside into the future with a major expansion and renovation of the Hurricane Deck Elementary School, the project is a reminder to some that while times may change, the need for education and community continues.
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  • As the Camdenton R-III School District prepares to take its part of the Westside into the future with a major expansion and renovation of the Hurricane Deck Elementary School, the project is a reminder to some that while times may change, the need for education and community continues.
    Though she has no children or grandchildren attending school in the district, Sunrise Beach area resident Linda Powell Waisner says she is excited to see construction begin though it will be a bit bittersweet to see the original portion of the school torn down as part of the redevelopment at the site.
    The Camden County native was among the first students to walk through the doors of Hurricane Deck Elementary when it first opened in mid-November 1952 with an enrollment of 198. Linda also attended the school's dedication ceremony Dec. 14, 1952.
    It was a very exciting time, says Linda.
    The building had a water fountain which none of the children had ever seen before.
    "The teacher showed us how to use it, but I think there were still a lot of kids who got squirted in the face," she recalls.
    The new building also had indoor bathrooms — a big change from the outhouse that served many of the smaller neighborhood schools including Oak Hill School House on Highway F.
    Named after an old tie slide on a bluff overlooking the Lake of the Ozarks that was once a major site for floating railroad ties down the Osage River, Hurricane Deck School was part of a statewide reorganization of districts during the 1950s. When it opened, Hurricane Deck served territories formerly served by Oak Hill, Wilson Bend, Mount Sinai and White Hall schools, according to old PTA (Parent Teacher Association) records kept at Hurricane Deck.
    Linda attended Oak Hill School House, District 15, prior to the new Hurricane Deck opening, and she fondly recalls golden rule days at the two room school house off of Highway F which served the community from 1936 to 1952.
    Days of learning reading, writing and arithmetic were exciting and fun whether it was studying flash cards to learn the multiplication tables or reading a book report in front of the class, says Linda, and one of the best parts of the day was reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to start off each day.
    Her mother and grandmother always emphasized the importance of education, she says.
    Whether it was raining or snowing, Linda and her siblings walked to the school, which was near their home.
    If they got a sore throat, their mom would give them castor oil, so they always wanted to go school even when they didn't feel too good, she recalls.
    Page 2 of 3 - Her father drove a 1930-something Model-T van to pick up kids farther out. The students were packed in, squeezing into a space on one of the homemade benches if they were lucky or standing up in the back as they were trucked to school.
    There were two stoves in the school to keep students warm. Ollie Hibdon was the cook, according to Linda, but often kids brought food from home. Roy Rogers and Gene Autry were popular lunch boxes, she recalls.
    Even outside of the regular school day, the building was a hub of community activity.
    "School and church were the only things we had, so when we had our Christmas program, everybody would come," she says.
    Pie suppers were a mainstay of fundraising back then. With her cooking skills well known in the area, Linda says her grandmother's meal baskets were always sought after. Sometimes a quilt that all the PTA ladies would contribute to would be auctioned off as well.
    Those simple pie suppers could make big differences for the school.
    According to the PTA records from 1941, a pie supper that raised $41.53 helped install electric lights at Oak Hill.
    Lights and electricity were a big deal at that time. Linda's family had just one light bulb in the middle of the house. They probably had it on in the evenings when she and her family gathered to listen to Fibby McGee on the radio.
    With no water fountains, the PTA also helped raise money for things like drinking glasses for students who drew their water out of a nearby well with a bucket.
    The school house was also a center for health care. Vaccinations were held there once a year. Oak Hill is where Linda received her smallpox innoculation.
    Old PTA meeting minutes from the 1940s also detail community evenings at the school where "moving pictures" on wild life from the Missouri Conservation Commission were shown. A country in the midst of total war, fundraisers for the Red Cross and the War Chest Fund were common at the little school house. One meeting in 1945 included a reminder to go to the polls to vote for the new Missouri Constitution. Another meeting included the refusal of the PTA to let their president step down because she no longer had a car and wasn't sure if she could make it to meetings — instead, the membership said they would collaborate to make sure she had a ride.
    While Linda and the community loved Oak Hill School House, there eventually came a time for the community to move on and build the bigger Hurricane Deck.
    With baby boomers beginning to flood elementary schools in the early '50s, the small school house became filled to the brim with young students.
    Page 3 of 3 - Just as it was time to move on then, it is now time to make Hurricane Deck bigger and better, Linda says.
    After Hurricane Deck was opened in 1952, the school district gave the building and the landowner, Union Electric Company, gave the property to the Hurricane Deck Civic Club, according to a newspaper article from the time.
    A fire took the building down to its rock foundation and chimney in February 1954.
    The news article said that the fire broke out before daylight and burned down the old school by the time the flames were discovered. The origin of the blaze was listed as unknown as there had been no fires going in the building.
    It was a great loss to the community, the article stated.
    Linda went on to graduate from Camdenton High School and eventually married and had three children. She is now a proud grandmother of seven grandchildren and six great-greatchildren.
    After living and working in Springfield, Mo. for most of her adult life, Linda moved back to Sunrise Beach after retiring. It was still home, she says.
    Her property has been in the family since 1905 and is now a registered Missouri Century Farm.
    Linda met with Camdenton R-III Superintendent Tim Hadfield recently to share her memories of the school district's history. With construction slated to begin soon, he has invited her to speak at the dedication ceremony of the new school which is planned for some time in the spring of 2015. The district also plans on creating an historical display at the expanded and renovated Hurricane Deck School once the project is complete.
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