When school was a privilege

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October 4, 2011 - 12:00 AM

HUMBOLDT — It’s been as long as most people’s lifetimes that Marjorie Laude Peck and Evelyn Leonard Pollman last attended Humboldt High School.
Peck was graduated 74 years ago; Pollman last attended the school 77 years ago.
The two will be recognized for the distinction at this Saturday’s Old Grads’ Reunion.
Peck, 92, is the oldest graduate registered to attend the Reunion. She graduated in 1937.
Pollman, 95, is a member of the class of 1934. She attended classes two years at the high school. When it was time for her younger brother Calvin to start high school, their father said finances wouldn’t allow for both to attend school, so neither one attended, robbing Evelyn of her chance to graduate.
Because this was not an unusual circumstance in that era, class members, graduating or not, are included on the Old Grad Reunion invitation list.
Pollman has lived to see all five of her children and two grandchildren graduate from Humboldt High School.
For many years she said she didn’t feel she was entitled to attend the class reunions, but was involved with the meetings by making cookies or stuffing envelopes. Her oldest daughter, Janice Pollman McCullough, assured her that not all attending the reunion were graduates, but were invited because they were members of the class.
Pollman loves going now. “I like people and I know a lot of the people,” she said. “It burns me that I can’t get out and go like I used to. I guess I take after my Grandma Leonard with my yacking. She liked to talk.”
She has lived all her life around or in Humboldt. Her parents lived north of Humboldt when Evelyn went to junior high (7th and 8th grades) in the Washington School, which was located on South Ninth Street at the time. By the time she was in ninth and tenth grades, her family had moved nine and half miles west of town, in the Prairie Flower District.
“I stayed part time (in town) with my great-grandmother, Bertha Hartwig, and part with my grandparents, James and Louisa Leonard,” she said. “I’d go home when my Dad would come to town after groceries or something. Sometimes I would hitch a ride halfway with some shirt-tail relatives, then I’d start walking and someone would come along and give me a ride.”
Playing basketball within the school, taking cooking and sewing classes were memorable activities for Pollman.
“I don’t ever remember complaining about being poor or not having things,” Pollman said. “I can remember my Dad tracing around our shoes and cutting cardboard to go inside because there were holes in our shoes. Now, I see shoes at garage sales that don’t even look like they’ve been worn.”
Not being able to graduate with her class didn’t bother Pollman. “I didn’t care. I wasn’t a very good student. I didn’t like to read, but all my great-grandkids read; they start early. It didn’t bother me. Seems like Mom always had a quilt in the frame and as soon as we got the dishes done and the floors swept, we would work on the quilt,” she said.
Evelyn married a neighbor, Carl Pollman, and she believes her high school cooking classes helped.
“My dad was always having Carl come over to our house and work on the tractor,” she recalled. “One day he came over and I had baked a gooseberry pie. I think that really caught his eye.”
Thirty-nine students graduated in 1934 and currently two invitations to the Old Grads Reunion are in the mail. The class of 1937 still has nine members receiving invitations.

Mrs. Peck has lived her whole life in Woodson County. Her parents lived 10 miles west of Humboldt in Woodson County, but she attended school in Humboldt by staying with her grandparents, G.A. and Henrietta Laude, during the week.
“They were just starting to think about buses,” Peck said. From her grandparent’s home in town, she walked about four blocks to school.
Two teachers that stand out in her memory are Mary Schmidt, who taught English, and H.H. McClelland, who taught typing and shorthand.
“I liked learning how to type and take shorthand,” Peck recalled. “I didn’t use them after graduating. I taught school, but not typing and shorthand.”
While in school, she was a part of the Glee Club and in the school orchestra. “I took lessons and played the violin in the orchestra,” she said. “I wasn’t much involved in extra-curricular activities or sports. Mostly I stayed home with my grandparents or we would go to school plays.”
Today the violin has a place of honor in the home of her daughter, Helen Stoll, Yates Center.
Her 1937 yearbook contains pictures of 48 students in the class. “My discipline will make Uncle Tom’s Cabin seem like a petting party” is the inscription next to Marjorie’s name in the book.
“I don’t know what that means or who wrote that,” she said chuckling.
She thought she was on the honor roll sometimes and the “H” she received during high school may have been for that accomplishment.
Peck is one of six sisters and one of the four that attended school in Humboldt.
Following high school graduation, Peck said her father drove her to Iola where she took the state teaching examination and she began teaching in area rural schools that fall. She met her husband, Clayton Peck, in Woodson County and the couple has three children.

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