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Monday, May 31, 2021

WMATMA great beginnings: Mt. Vernon school

The Mount Vernon School By Don Arndt


In 1983, the ambitious young group bit off a very big project that would turn out to be the real catalyst for what would become “Frontier Village”. At this particular time, the area or park did not have a name, it was just known as the future show grounds. Remember, there were no plans at all even discussed. I was president the first seven years of the association, but when Perry Rexroad became our new President in 1982, he immediately went after the grounds with tremendous fervor. The school and its reclamation would come very shortly after that. 

 I’m always reluctant to name names for fear of omitting someone, but I must say at this point had it not been for a select few, absolutely none of what took place, even the show, the new grounds or the Village would have ever happened. With that said, Perry Rexroad was president from 1982 through 1987 with Calvin Field serving as his Sec/treasurer. I will interject this piece of trivia here. Calvin worked at those two jobs for my first seven years as president, for Perry’s five years then my next four years from 1987 through 1990, then Al Tenholder’s seven years as president 1991 through 1997, then Calvin was also both positions for Bill Thurman’s first two years as president 1998and 99. For the 2000 year we changed our by-laws adding 2 more board members making seven instead of only five and we split the Secretary and treasurer jobs. So, Calvin was Sec/trea for an amazing 25 years straight! Considering the number of records, meeting notes and budget we were dealing with, it was a tremendous accomplishment. The board was always a working board, loving to work together and striving to make our shows a wonderful experience for everyone. The board members I remember well during the first 25 years are, Perry Rexroad, Al Tenholder, Kenneth Englehart, Floyd Fritts, Bob Highley, Tim Hummel, Don Hill, Ed Arndt, Delbert Watts, George Reed, Ronnie Essenpries, Jim Bellis, Paul Jadlot, Jim Tenholder, Wilfred Helt, Chuck and Charley Haverfield, Steve Hanson, and the unforgettable Buzz Hellwig. Of course, all the presidents were on the board off and on during the times they were not president.  There were several men like Bob Zimmerman and Jim Ketron that worked tirelessly for the club, but never wanted to be in leadership. 

 Back to the school story. Floyd Fritts came to a meeting early in 1983 with a proposal. He wanted to bring in the Mount Vernon School that was located five miles west of Passaic, Mo. He had gotten permission from the owners of the school and John Etzen,who’s land it was on, to give it to us. It was voted unanimous to take on the project.  Everyone loved Floyd so no one could vote against it. Joe Phifer of Urich was contracted to move it and in August of 83 we did just that. Don Hill decided the small side foyer and the bell tower had to be cut off, then reattached after the move. Done! After the carpenters in the club put it back together, restoration was completed in 1983. Everyone, women, men, kids and all worked on it, Mostly the women. We even got the original heating stove and Calvin Field laid up the bricks for the flue. We fired and used it to heat the school during our first “Hot Chocolate Night”. 

Bringing the school over for the near 10-mile journey was quite a show! Calvin Field rode on top of the school with a 4-foot 1x4 board with a notch cut in it. When they came to an Electric high line or phone wire, he held it up high and walked back to the back of the school. There were also several bridges that had rails that wouldn’t let our school pass. Al Tenholder and I took sledgehammers ahead of the moving crew and knocked the side rails off so the truck could get through. We had numerous farmers stop us on the trip and offered to help us and thank us for doing that, saying they wanted that done for years and it was going to save them many miles! 

We were asked many times if we had permits for the move. Sherriff Buck Hough had told us we didn’t need no stinking permit, we had the Buck Hough permit! So, our answer was always, “We got the Buck Hough permit”. 

The men had already poured the foundation, so when we got there with the schoolMr Phifer sat the structure down and let us have it. We had the bell tower and the foyer both on separate trailers, so it was quite the convoy with no less than 6 or 8 pickups full of workers plus the prizes. The picturI am including was taken after it was sat down at the Village, and we were putting the building back together. Donation started coming in shortly after, like Jennie Upstaddt’s piano and the Coleville schoolteacher’s desk the Stark family gave us from my old one room school attended. Very soon it was outfitted exactly like schools were in those long-ago days.  

Photo: Installing the bell towerJim Ketron, Don Arndt, Paul Jadlot and Don Hill