South Evergreen Schoolhouse

Saving an important piece of history

South Evergreen Schoolhouse  -  Stories

Ray Hintz, South Evergreen Student (1938-1947); in a conversation on the phone with

Jim Fitzpatrick, October 2013.


Ray was asked about the boldly cut initials, R H, carved in the siding on the front entry portion of the school.  No, he said, they couldn't be his because when he finished the eighth grade in 1947 the schoolhouse still had the original narrow entrance to the main structure which did not contain the present boys and a girls restroom.  They were still using outhouses while he was a student at South Evergreen.  However; the initials could be those of his younger brother Roger, he would have been there the following fall and later.  During the summer of 1947 the new expanded entrance, which included restrooms, was added.  No more outhouses when Brother Roger returned for classes in the fall.



The two of us must have been a sight, George Smith and Howard Bennink, George with his jet black hair and Howard with his white hair.  I don’t think we ever took a day off from school.  We would hoof it westward 5 days a week in the school year.  The first neighbor was Matt Mergener and his house keeper, Mrs. Ven Roy.  We got along good with Matt, but Mrs. Ven Roy caught us pegging stones into the standing rye field and their big dog would chase it.  The result – rye trampled by the dog.  At the corner of Zimmer Bros. field was an old stump puller, almost in working condition.  The next neighbors were the Zimmer Brothers, Manual (Manny), Tom, and Fred.)  We learned to be good boys around Tom, and Fred was a likable old man.  When we delivered the mail to them (that the mailman dropped off at school on stormy days), Fred would always give us an apple from the Michigan Cellar – tasted good.  Next we would head westward through Zimmer’s fences and down the lane, pasture on one side and fields on the other.  One time, my gosh, a beautiful buck deer was in the field, the very first deer we ever saw.  We ran back to Zimmer’s to tell them.  (They went north every year for deer hunting.)  They weren’t too excited, said they had seen tracks for a while around the area.  We crossed a small stream and then headed south to Leonard and school.


Most of the time lunch was bread and fried eggs and some canned fruit.  Breakfast at home was fat salt pork taken out of a salt brine mixture and fried, and pancakes with syrup made from white sugar and water on the stove.  If I got thirsty at school, I had to run outdoors (even in the winter) and get a drink from the long-handled pump in the corner of the school yard.  I remember the whacks on the butt and standing in the corner.  But I also remember the ball that the school board got for the school.  It’s hard to accept what the schools are spending on the kids today.  I guess I’ve lived too long.  Remember the county poor farm walkers past the school.  I remember Charlie Taylor’s stallion with a buggy and the blacksmith that put on an exhibition for the school.  I remember the Warneke milk truck heading for Mead and Johnson at Zeeland.  Warneke also had a nice convertible car.  The dust would roll when he went by.


The cedar shingles in the wood shed would be good carving material for a pistol everyone had a jackknife (all the boys did).  And the big pines in the back, what fun we had:  Mr. and Mrs. Venema were very kind to let us kids run wild over the place.  I remember Wilma, a very nice, cute person.  And the girls were all nice in my class.  I still see them now and then.


And then the War came.  I joined the Marines and was all over the Pacific.  George was in the U.S. Army tank connection.  He lost a leg and some toes.  I was shot through the jaw, shoulder and spine.  Both of us are lucky to be graduated from South Evergreen School and then live through the War; many died.


I look back and realize what a lucky boy I was to have Smiths for neighbors, especially Mrs. Smith, she was wonderful; and I don’t know how a neighbor lady could ever be nicer to a kid like me.


And what a good time the older kids would have square dancing at the farm housed during January and February.  The “live musicians” would come from Nunica, what music!  The accordion, the dulcimer, guitar, violin, and Mr. and Mrs. Charlie Hintz playing violin and piano at the Spinners on River Road (Leonard).  There was room for two sets for square dancing, and I remember Frank Mergener calling.  Wow, I was just a little tyke, but it all sounded very good.  I enjoy hearing a dulcimer even today.  This all happened in South Evergreen School District.


I remember ice skating on Rice’s Bayou all day Sunday.  Once we got down to Neil Voshol’s and found tracks across the frozen river over to the Bass River Gravel Pits and skated.


I didn’t feel good at all when I was discharged from the Marines.  Finally in 1949 I attended Barber School.  I met my wife, Elizabeth, in 1951 and married April of 1952.  She had been at a School of Nursing for 3 years, and was working at Grand Haven Hospital.  She is a registered nurse and a good one!  With my disabilities from the War, she took good care of me.  We had 3 children; Howard Jr., Roy and Amy.


Memories by Howard Bennink

Memories by Jeanetta Bennink Dyke


I remember getting ready for the Christmas program, which was always well attended by the parents.  The wooden stage and the pull curtains served the purpose.  The program consisted of the Christmas Story and the singing of some hymns, But it also included Santa Claus (who was that man?) and some plays.  We each got a box of Christmas candy (the hard kind) and one or two chocolate drops.  It was a happy time.


South Evergreen School was located on River Rd. (Leonard Rd.) west of Eastmanville.  It had the outside toilets, one for boys and the other for girls.  The large room was lined with blackboards and pull down maps, which if weren’t rolled up even, would tear.  All eight grades were taught by one teacher.  A large stove was in the middle, the wood (and later coal) was kept in a woodshed.  A hand pump in the yard furnished the water.




I was born on July 1, 1918.  My parents were Harm G. Bennink and Nancy Gitchell Bennink.  My twin was Henrietta.  She was born first.  Henrietta lived from July 1 to Aug. 21, 1918.


We slept upstairs and in the winter, snow would blow through the cracks in the windows and sometimes on to our blankets.  When there was hard thunder and lightning storms, my mother would wake us and make us come downstairs and lay on the floor.  There was one time we had a sleet storm and then a thunder storm.  Lightning hit a tree and several windows in the house were broken.


The floors were cold and we had to put on long underwear and long stockings.  It was hard to put the stockings on over the long underwear and get them smooth.  We didn’t take baths everyday and we didn’t put on clean clothes every day.


In the winter Jack Frost had painted all of the windows in beautiful designs and we would hold up the handle so it would lose its prime.  You would have to wait to heat water to thaw it out.  The drain from the kitchen was a four foot pipe sticking out of the house, then it would drain to the gully.  It would freeze and we would have to heat water to thaw it out.  The water was slowly poured along the pipe, and then all of a sudden, a large round piece of ice would come out.  With all the freezing pipes, we learned not to stick our tongues on any cold metal, because your tongue would stick and maybe pull some skin off.


We had the old 3 hole outhouse with the snow blowing in and the cold Sears Roebuck sheets.  We had no choice but to do our duty.  We didn’t appreciate it when just the slippery pages were left.


I worked in the barn some.  You would be surprised how much heat the animals gave off.  I tried to milk when my Dad would go to the early market in Grand Rapids with strawberries.


The Zimmer Brothers (Manny, Tom and Fred) made us wooden sleds.  They were beautiful and made very strong.  Later on, brother Howard made bob-sleds from 2 of the wooden sleds.


We played in the road with the Smith’s children.  If cars came they were either going to Smiths or to our house; it was seldom that there was through traffic.  We often picked wintergreens and enjoyed the adder tongues, buttercups and lilies.  Silo filling, threshing, and butchering were great days.  Our neighbors the Smiths, Mergeners, Zimmers, and Alfred Spinner helped us and each other.  We went swimming in the creek with the turtles and snakes and would have to pick the blood suckers from between our toes.




(Theda Key Hehl)


The famous hills for sledding at lunch hour.  What fun was had by all.  Those without sleds used a large square of cardboard to slide down the hill.  Those with sleds, of course, faced the challenge of jumping the creek at the bottom of the hill.


Walks home from school were always fun with frequent stops at the creek to pick cow slips, wintergreen berries, or frog catching.  There were also the fields we crossed through receiving occasional tears in shirts and jackets on the barbed wire fences.


The Christmas programs were always a never missed neighborhood social event.  We all had either a piece to speak or a play or song to participate in.  There were those unexpected gifts of neighbor to neighbor.  One year we received a can of home-made cookies.  Moms and Dads generally received home-made items from students.


The last eighth grade to graduate, I believe, was 1953. After that time the school only went through sixth grade.  The graduates were five: Douglas Hehl, Norman LeMieux, Theda Kay Hehl, Leora Barbrick, and Cherrie Voshel.  We received our diplomas at the school picnic which was always another special event with potluck, games, contests, and fun.


Teachers I remember: Lerine Lindberg, Stena DeWitt 1946 or 1947 – 1951.

Jeanne Prince  1951 –


Mrs. Stena DeWitt drove everyday from Spring Lake.  She both disciplined us well and taught us well.  I recall one year we all learned a poem a month together, “Bright Blue Weather,” “The Village Blacksmith,” etc.  One year she made us hot sandwiches with I presume government surplus cheese.  She brought the hot plate and frying pan and each of us brought two slices of bread.  She patiently prepared them until we were all fed.


The stormy weather when the teacher could not make it home, they would either be put up over-night by Minnie Rankins or Catherine Hehl (my mother).  Both were close to school.


With reference to your school picture 1938 -39, the Hehl would be Tony Hehl, not Doug.


The memories were good, and it was fun remembering.






Theda Kay



We were about 7 years old when we started school.  We had to walk 1 mile and when we had lots of snow, we had to stay home – no snowplows.  When we got to school, the school house was cold and we all had to help bring in wood.  The toilets were outside and so was the water pump.  One time one of the boys told me to put my tongue on the pump handle.  I did and my tongue froze on the handle. – how that did hurt.  Wish I knew who that boy was!


One day some boys came to school with skunk odor on their clothes, and the teacher told them to go home.  So when they wanted a day off, they would do it again.


During the winter we all had to dry our clothes around the round pot-bellied stove in the middle of the room.


We were so poor all we had for sandwiches were lard mixed with molasses.


I was one of a family of 10 children.  My folks were deaf, so we got little help from them to help us with the homework.


I always played the pump organ for the Christmas programs.


When the boys were bad, the teacher whipped them in the back shed.  They behaved after that.


I have good memories of the old school.




Edith                          Mable                                        Step-mother: Augusta

Bessie                         Mars  ( Jack )                             and step-brother and sister

Florence                     Dorothy                                     Paul Reid

Theodore                    Esther                                       Elnora Reid



Roger Hintz standing next to his initials that he carved into the siding of the South Evergreen Schoolhouse.

Memories By Nancy Bennink Hazekamp

1932 – 1940


Howie, my brother, is wheeling the two-wheel milk cart out to the barn with empty milk cans, then wheeling it back to the milk-house with the full cans, where they were placed in a cement tank, then someone had to pump cold water from the well into the tank to cool the milk.  When Howard was wheeling the cart and couldn’t use his arms, that was my chance to pay him back for all the “hits” he gave me.  I counted, “There, now we’re even!”.  Once he made a foot-scraper for the back porch and I was so mad at him for something, that I broke it.  Ma said that I should be ashamed.  I was – for a little while.


It’s winter and the snow is deep, at least 3 feet deep.  The milk truck can’t get thru, so pa makes a run to Coopersville with the sleigh and horses to get the milk to the creamery.  The only cash that my family got was from sale of milk, or eggs, or summertime berries.  Most of our food came from the farm and was canned in glass jars which were used over and over.  There was no garbage pick-up!  Anything edible left over from cooking and meals was fed to either the dog and cats, or to the pigs.  Potatoes, apples, and such were stored in racks and shelves in our Michigan cellar.  (That means that there might have been some cement on the floor, or some boards, but most of the walls were sand.)  The glass jars in the cellar contained fruit, vegetables, beef, pork, and chicken.  I didn’t know how to cook fresh meat when I married.


Going to South Evergreen School, which was about two and a half miles away, was a scary cold trek in the winter.  If the snow wasn’t too deep, Howie and our neighbor, George Smith, would make a path for Sophie Smith and me to follow.  It was down the sand road, follow the rail fence running west of the Zimmer Brothers barn to the edge of the woods, follow the edge of the wood, across the pasture to a small creek, climb the turnstile that the Zimmers had made for us (I think it was in self-defense, to keep the kids from breaking down the fence.), and then just a short distance down the road to the schoolhouse.


If there was smoke coming from the chimney, then we knew there was school.  If there was no smoke, then it was turn around and go back home.  Generally it was up to the teacher to make the fire in the old pot-belly stove in the middle of the room.  (but Art Tikkanen and one of the Anderson boys remember making the fire.)  If we did have to return home, we would sometimes return by the road, instead of cross-lots.  It was longer, but we could stop at neighbors to get warm if we had to.  Our favorite stops were the Zimmer Brothers and Cap and Jenny Smith.  There were some mornings when Ma’s home-made mittens and a snow-suit just didn’t keep me warm.  When I started crying, Howie would send me home, instead of going all the way to school.  Sometimes pa would come after us with the sleigh.  The horses were frisky (feeling their oats), and they would let off extra “gas” as they walked or jumped thru the deep snow.  That was fun.


There were just 3 of us in our grade until the middle of the 7th grade when the Andersons moved in across the road from the school.  Up till then, it was just Ed Tikkanen, Joe Spinner, and me.  What a treat to have another girl, Lucy Anderson!  Lucy and I even made rice pudding at school from surplus rice.


Going to South Evergreen School was lots of exercise, a lot of learning, and many times, a lot of fun.  The grades one thru three (I think) could go home at 2:00, but the “big kids” had to stay until 4:00.  We had the usual subjects of reading, writing, and arithmetic, plus nature study, geography, and agriculture in the upper grades.  The teacher’s desk was in front with the recitation bench just in front of that.  You can be sure that there was always plenty of space on that bench between the boys and the girls.  (Later. when I was in my late sixties, I took classes in Spanish at Muskegon Community College, and when the instructor showed my a picture of a cow, I identified it as a “Holstein”, not a vaca (cow).  That Ag. info. really stuck with me.


School was easy for me, so I had spare time on my hands.  Tracing outlines of pictures on another paper, using the window to see the lines, and coloring – within the LINES – was a pastime.  But my favorite spare time was spent reading books from the approximately 5’ x 36’ library that the school had.  The Book of Knowledge was a wonderful source of legends, myths, and all kinds of information,  I read the Norse legends so many times, I felt that I would recognize Loki (the mischievous one)  and Thor (the good powerful god) if I ever met them.  The travels of Ulysses were favorites, also.


Indoor plumbing was an unknown luxury that neither my home or my school had when I was a child.  And those jokes about using catalogs in the outhouses were no jokes.  That is exactly what we used.  We were really, really acquainted with everything from clothes to farm tools in the Sears and Roebuck, the Montgomery Ward, and the Spiegal catalogs.  At school we had two outhouses, one for the girls and one for the boys.  Drinking water was at the outside long-handled pump, or in a pail in the entry hall.  A common dipper was in use until a county person informed us that we each had to have our own cup.  To ask permission to leave the schoolroom, we would raise one finger to go get a drink and two fingers to go to the outhouse.


As I remember the number of students varied from 20 to 25, and that was for the whole school, grades kindergarten thru the 8th.


It seemed like there was always something to do, winter and summer.  In the winter we would bring our skates to school, and skate on the pond below the school on the opposite side of the road during the noon hour.  Or we would find places on the hills where springs had frozen making an ice slide.  We would slide on our rumps down the hill, getting wet in the process.  The schoolroom must have really smelled when we would return with wet mittens, snowpants, coats and try to drape them near the heat.  Of course snowballs and snowmen were made, and the game of fox and geese, where we made a huge wagon wheel design in the snow, and played a form of tag was popular.


In the summer it was prisoner’s goal, tree tag, eeny-iny-over (the wood shed) soft ball, pine-needle fort (where we got hit with pine cones, ouch), and best of all, walking, running, jumping creeks, climbing trees, picking spring flowers in the neighbors 80 acres of pines,.  Each year the “Big Kids” would have to ask permission for the school kids to play in the “pines”:.  So far as I know there never was an instance of smoking, abuse of our children, or any wrong-doing in that vast, beautiful, extra playground.  The neighbors who were so kind were the Rankins.


Social doings of the South Evergreen District were centered around the school, quilting bees, progressive games of pedro, square dancing, and even the neighborhood threshing of the wheat and oats.  At school the Christmas Program was the event of the winter.  Students would memorize poems and put on plays to the best of their ability.  A temporary stage was put up and sheets were the draw curtains.  Moms and dads were seated up front with S. Evergreen Graduates standing in the back.  A new dress was a must; red plaid was my favorite.  Sometimes the new clothes were ordered from the same catalog and two girls might have the same dress.


If the quilting bee was held at my house, I and the neighbor kids would get home as soon as possible for the special left-overs from the ladies lunch.  Quilts were the usual form of bedding covers; who could afford blankets?


Progressive games of pedro were always fun to watch, the adults played, the kids must have gone to bed early.


Square dancing was even more fun to watch, although I didn’t really get into it until I was in my early twenties.  But I remember Johnny Metzler playing the accordion (I think) for these dances.  If a barn burned down, because of lightning or wet hay causing internal combustion, it was a terrible thing, but they celebrated a new barn with a dance party.


Neighborhood threshing meant lots of food (chicken gravy with biscuits was a treat) for many neighbor men.  The bundles of wheat and oats were already stacked in huge cone shaped piles.  Howie and I would keep an eye on the sand road for the Seitsma Brother’s threshing machine.  “Here it comes” was the signal for the neighbors to get ready to work.  The thresher was in place with a huge belt from the steam engine to the machinery in the thresher itself.  Bundles of wheat were thrown in, and the machine did the work of separating the grain from the chaff.  The chaff was blown out into a straw stack (which was used later for animal bedding), and the grain came pouring out into gunny sacks held by the men, then hoisted over their shoulder to be carried to the bins in the granary.  I liked to sit in the wheat bin and let the men pour the wheat over my legs and get buried in the wheat, not so the oats, it was prickly.  After a dinner in the “middle room:” of the house, the men would sit under the snow apple tree to joke and talk, while “Harm”, my father, took a nap.  Everybody in the neighborhood knew that Harm Bennink took a nap every day.  One of the few arguments between my parents took place on a threshing day.  Our neighbor across the road, Joe Smith, wanted to be neighborly and bring a little wine for the men.  My mother absolutely refused and that was that.


Our neighbor, Mrs. Smith, had her hands full with 9 girls and one boy.  The boy, George, was Howard’s best friend, and the youngest girl, Sophie, was my best friend in our early years.  Mr. and Mrs. Smith (they changed their name in the U.S.) came from Hungary, Europe (the old country), and kept many of their old customs, such as wine making, and various Hungarian foods.  On Sunday they would have Hungarian friends come over and they would sit on the front porch and drink wine and sing Hungarian songs.  Our family read magazines and played checkers.  The Smiths seemed to have a better time, more fun on Sunday than we did.  I think I was jealous of their good times.  But I did share in many of her special foods.  Maybe they weren’t Hungarian, but her dill pickles in an outside barrel, her homemade bread and raised doughnuts, her homemade noodles with a freshly slaughtered chicken, and her blood sausage from their own slaughtered beef still makes my mouth water.


Do you believe in ghosts?  Some people in our neighborhood did and pa played one of his best practical jokes on them.  Our farmhouse was the scene of one of the neighborhood square dances on a beautiful summer night.  I couldn’t have been more than 4 or 5 years old, but I remember the people excitedly pointing from the side porch at an odd moving light that was moving along the ditch next to Matt Mergener’s farm.  Some of the young men reached for the shot-gun that was stored on top of the dish cupboard.  Then the light disappeared.  A few minutes later, pa appeared and asked what the commotion was.  The next few days he noted gleefully what neighbors were afraid to go home, what neighbors looked under all the beds, and all the closets before going to bed, and so he said, one neighbor took another home, then wondered who was going to take him home.  Our close neighbor, Mrs. Ven Roy, was so angry at him when the trick was let out, she didn’t speak to him for a least a year.  The ghost had been my father, who sneaked out of the bedroom window, and walked up and down the ditch with a lantern and a white sheet over him.  Years later, when I was teaching at Jolman School, I met a Mr. Short.  He was one of those young men years earlier, and when I said my maiden name was Bennink, he asked, “Was that your father who scared everyone as a ghost?”


Another scary incident that caused a lot of quick movement and lots of laughter later involved young heifers which had been out to pasture spring to fall, sometimes in the Grand River Flats.  When the men went to get them, they were known to occasionally charge a man causing the man to look for the nearest tree even if it was only a few inches in diameter.  The one I remember and saw some of it involved a young heifer that already had broken some stalls in a neighbor’s barn.  It belonged to our neighbor, Joe Smith, and he was still trying to get that wild heifer home.  The men had managed to corner her in our barn and get a rope on her neck; then they told Joe to take her home.  (Yeah, right!)  I had a good view because I was hiding in the corn crib; Louie Buzas had a good view because he was hiding under the corn crib.  Joe Smith was standing beside a huge elm tree just outside the big barn door to the cow shed.  He was saying, “Nice bossie, nice bossie, come on nice bossie.”  Well, “nice bossie” shot from the barn like a bullet heading right for Joe, or, so it seemed.  Joe backed up and fell over the tree root, and nice bossie took off for freedom with the rope trailing.  After that fall, Joe headed for home to change clothes.  I think they caught and tamed that heifer eventually.



It was 1-1/2 miles to school and on the way his nose felt like it was frozen, so he stopped at Uncle Jake Hint to get warm.  He went to school with Zimmers, Johnny Rouff, Tikkanens.


Christmas programs were important.  Another important day was the last day of school.  All the families came, and someone always made ice-cream in the big old wooden ice-cream freezer.  Then the kids and sometimes the grown-ups would play games and have contests.  When there was snow, he would go early and slide down hills.


My teachers were Mrs. Bennink, Ed Spencer, Eva Rankins, and Ruth Gordon.


We played ball.  Jack and Simon Baldus used to.  The teacher would tell them to stop, and they kept right on.


Simon Baldus and Jack used to coon water melons at Minnie Rankins.  Jack had to go to the outside toilet, and the teacher said no.  So he handed his lunch bucket out the window to Simon Baldus, and then climbed out the window.  When the 2 boys came back into school, the teacher asked if they had a good time.


Clara and Frances Zimmer came home on horses one day.  Jack stuck Clara in a snow bank, then Frances caught Jack and stuck him in the snow bank.  Jack said the Indians used to come down the river and go to school at South Evergreen.




The school house had a heat stove that was in the middle of the room.  The kids that sat near the stove roasted and ones that sat in the back of the room was cold.


At one of the Box Socials, Jack bought Sophie Smith’s lunch box and they ate together.  He never forgot that.


Every year we had a picnic when school was out for the summer.  Parents, sisters and brothers came.


Some boy put a snake in the teacher’s desk drawer, and when she opened it, she screamed and jumped real high.


At school Rosie Smith helped Jack when he got something caught in his throat.  She came and hit him on his back and whatever was in his throat came out and he could breathe again.  He almost died.


Jack Hintz picked on Howard Bennink and George Smith first, so they would get even with him.  Every chance they got, they would pick on him.  One time both took him down and put his head in a snow bank.



I married the milkman’s brother.  I used to walk to the cemetery where Lubens had church, and Herman came along and gave me a ride home.


The only thing I remember is John Metzler was the milkman ( he lived by us ), and sometimes if he did not have a load, he would let us ride in the back of the truck.


My folks never had an apple tree, so on our way home, we would be hungry, and run in Hehl’s yard and get some apples.  He lived the first house on the left coming home from school.  Then my Aunt Amelia Hintz would board children and she would bake and the one girl, name of Evelyn, would have such a nice lunch box full of goodies.  So we would be real nice to her and she would give us some of her cakes, etc.  We had bread with lard on.


I always envied Wilma Rankins as she always had pretty clothes and only 1 block to walk to school.



The times I remember are the picnics with Kate Hintz making the ice cream with the help of her husband Charles and the rest of the men.


I used to like to pick wintergreens in the woods behind school.


My favorite flower is Jack-in-the-Pulpit.



I remember playing “Prisoner’s Goal” on the playground.  I remember picking “Ladies Slippers” in the woods back of school.  I remember the snakes the boys brought up to the school – sledding down the side of the gully next to the road – almost stepping on a snake as I was running down a hill in the gully, ( he was sleeping in the sun all curled up ) – walking to school in a blizzard and Clara Zimmer giving me her head-gear so I would not be so cold – running, running to and back from school and felt how good everything was – happy and free.  I loved the Tikkanen family who lived just down the road from us.  I was there a lot with the Dad and Mom and seven children – such a small house, but how happy they were.  ( The parents came from Finland. )  The Zimmer family were down the road, the oldest girl was a nun, Mary was her name.  The next house was Hintz ( both parents could neither hear or speak ).  Esther put my hair up for me one night – their parents smiled a lot.  Dorothy Hintz married my Uncle Herman, so we were close.  Jack Hintz reminds me of his dad ( looks like his dad ).  Going back to the Zimmer family, Mildred and I went through 12 years of school together – she is a good friend.


I am writing this real simple as I thought as a little girl.  We had wintergreens in a field near my parents house, yummy!  One day I missed the group as they left for school ( we lived at the end of the line ) and I came back home because I did not want to walk alone ( I was 6 years old. ), and my Mom sent me right back all by myself – she gave me a handkerchief and told me later it was the hardest thing she ever did – that was an experience – Whew!  2-1/2 miles to school.  Mom knew how to build character.  I remember Miss Moberg reciting words for the older children’s spelling class, and I would try to see how many I could get right.  I read the “Books of Knowledge” we had in the library – loved to draw and color.  I remember the Christmas stage being put up and the sheets for opening and closing between recitals.  The recitation bench as teacher called us to class – the stove with a safety steel jacket around it – flash cards during class time ( lower grades ).


We used to play soft-ball in the back of the school – I got hit in the forehead cause this person threw his bat when he swung, and I was the catcher at that time.  Life was good and I really liked my South Evergreen School!  It was FUN!  I believe this has been an excellent experience for me and am happy that I was born at that time, so I could experience a one-room school house.  We had 44 students at one time.  I do not remember what year that was.


John and Margaret Metzler Family







Tom’s wife Doris tells, Tom used to talk about his years at school – as few as they were – and he actually liked school, but quit when his Dad got sick.  The teachers he liked best were Miss Moberg and Mr. Van Huizen.


All ten of the Modderman children went to South Evergreen at some time or other.




                                                                TO SOUTH EVERGREEN

Minnie                                                      Peggy - - Art and Lavern Modderman

Ray                                                           Judith - - Art and Lavern Modderman

Arthur                                                       Thomas - - Tom and Doris Modderman



Harry ( Tom )





School Days in the 1920’s


Seeing children riding school buses these days reminds me of the “good old days” when we walked to school.  Among my fondest memories are those walks to South Evergreen School in Polkton Township, in Ottawa County.  Those were times of fun, laughter and bonding into friendships that lasted a life time.


Reino, Arnold, Emil, Sigurd, Viena and little Margaret Tikkinen met the Zimmer kids; Bill, Laurence, Frances, Lillian, Clara, Irene, and Mildred before coming to the driveway where the blended family of Hintz-Reid kids joined the group.  There were my step sisters and step brother, Nina, Ruth, Dorothy, Esther, and Jack Hintz plus my sister Leonora Reid and myself.


There were no hot lunches in those days of the 1920’s.  Ours was usually contained sandwiches of homemade bread and butter, a cookie or piece of cake, and always a small jar of fruit which came from the several hundred quarts of fruit our ma canned and stored in the Michigan cellar of our farm house.  We didn’t appreciate it then but have since realized the task it must have been to prepare all those lunches day after day.


There were no “snow day” vacations.  We walked in all sorts of weather.  A snow storm found the big kids making paths for the little ones.  One such day we were excused from school an hour early.  After reaching home I saw our teacher walking down the road in the storm.  I told my Mother who asked me to run after her and bring her to the house to get warm.  She had walked a mile in that blizzard.  While she was having a hot cup of coffee I harnessed the horses and hitched them to the sleigh.  I then took her the remaining two miles to the Inter-Urban that ran between Grand Rapids and Muskegon at that time.


When she returned to school on Monday, she gave me a box of chocolates,.  That placed me in a dilemma.  I knew if I opened it I would have to share it.  I told the teacher I was sick and went home.  Before the other kids got home I had eaten every piece of that box of candy.  I was no angel; in fact I was not a good student.  My big interest was the farm.  I was happy when Pa had some farm work for me to do.  It was a good excuse to skip school.  It was my dream to own my own farm someday.


That dream was realized after I came to Mason County where I met the girl who has been my wife, partner, and sweetheart for 65 years.


We raised our three great kids; a son and two daughters on that 120 acre farm where we’ve lived for 60 years.  We’ve always been active in our church, school and local government.  In 1985, Mason County’s Meade Township’s official board presented me with a plaque thanking me for the many years of service to our community.


I am now retired and have time to reflect and appreciate my school days in the little one room country school called South Evergreen.


Paul Reid

September, 1999



The students graduating in my class from South Evergreen School were: Clara Zimmer, Clara Spinner, Dorothy Hintz, Norma Bigelow, Esther Smith, and me, Elizabeth Smith.  The year was 1933.


I remember the pump in the yard.  A friend would do the pumping while you washed your hands, and the soap was shaped like a lemon and could hardly get any suds.


The card was sent to the 8sth grade graduates by their teacher, Miss Esther Moberg.

Things I remember

           By Ann Spinner Sabo-Jonick


Walking down Leonard Road (then a gravel road) to school approximately 1 mile, sometimes through snow banks up to our knees.  The year of 36’-37’ we were snowed in for 3 weeks.  The neighbors got together to go to Coopersville for groceries and coal for fuel.  They used horses and sleigh to do this.


I remember the old hand pump at school where we got our refreshing cop of water.  In winter, when temperatures were below freezing we had to be careful about getting our hand frozen to the metal handle.  I remember the old woodshed where they stored the hand-split wood for the stove.  I remember the outdoor toilet.  If you needed to use the facility, you had to ask permission by holding up your arm with 1 or 2 fingers designating the urgency required.


In winter we had to wear long underwear tucked inside our long cotton stockings.  When w got outside seeing distance of our home, we would stop and roll up our underwear, leaving big bunches under our skirts by the knees.  Of course on our return trip, we had to roll them down again before we got home.


I remember when one of our teachers (probably Miss Moberg) boarded at Ernie and Phoebe Rice’s she carried her lunch and she always had the most scrumptious-looking sweet roll filled with raspberry jelly.  I often thought I hope someday I make enough money to buy one of those.


I remember the two great activities of the year – Christmas program and the last day of school picnic.  At the Christmas Program we always got a decorated cardboard box of hard candy with a cloth ribbon handle and an orange from Mr. Peck of the County Farm.  The last day of school meant a feast unlike any we had ever seen with the potluck dinner tables piled high with homemade goodies.


It was just a 1 room school, but it was a place where a lot of us learned how to become outstanding good citizens.  We learned how to respect one another and we learned how to make just a little positive difference in this great country of ours.


Wouldn’t you say that is more than a lot of the modern schools of today are doing?


Submitted by Ann Spinner-Sabo-Jonick                                          Family           4 daughters

Parents:         Frank and Margaret Spinner                                                            Frances Spinner Start ( teacher )

                     Leonard Rd, Coopersville                                                                          Spring Lake—deceased 2000

                                                                                                                        Louise Spinner Peterson ( teacher )

                                                                                                                                   Nunica—deceased 2000

                                                                                                                        Clara Spinner Wood


                                                                                                                        Ann Spinner Sabo-Jonick

                                                                                                                                   Grand Rapids


Louise Spinner Peterson was my teacher at South Evergreen School for at least 5-6 years.  I remember Louise as a teacher who believed in students and helped them in many ways.  I have many pleasant memories of Louise as a teacher.  My heart ached for her when I heard of the early deaths of her husband and her only son.


Thank you, Louise, for your many years as my wonderful teacher.


Nancy Bennink Hazekamp







Louise was a dedicated teacher.  Later on, Louise’s son Larry and my son Michael became best friends all through school.  If Larry wasn’t at our home, Mike was at his home.  Louise was my 8th grade teacher and was one of a kind.  Her example in living touched everyone.  We miss her.


Lucy Anderson Marshall



We had to walk 2-1/2 miles to school.  When the snow got real deep, my dad hooked up the horses to the sleigh and gave us a ride.


They stocked up wood for the winter in the wood shed.  One year, I had the job of getting to school early to light up the pot-bellied stove that stood in the middle of the room.  Can you imagine teaching eight grades in one big room?  I can’t remember if I got paid for that job.  It probably wasn’t much.


In the spring the parents put on a picnic with games and home-made ice cream.


I remember Miss Mobert; she was a stickler on English.  You couldn’t say “ain’t” etc.  She did have a nice car.


I hope this letter will help you out for the historical booklet.  My fingers get stiff and my writing gets sloppy.





Renne Tikkanen left Finland in 1903 to come to the United States by way of Liverpool, England and Nova Scotia Canada.


On the train trip to Michigan, a colored boy said in Finnish to him “Would the young man like a candy bar?” you can imagine his surprise.


From Michigan he went to the wheat fields of North Dakota, to earn money.  Then he got a job at the Quinsey Copper Mine in the Upper Peninsula.  When you worked for the Copper Mine the company owned the housing and the store where you bought your food.  The grocery list was recorded in a small book and on pay day the rent and groceries were deducted from your check.  I still have the book in which the food is listed and stamped “paid”.


In 1910 Anna Saastamonien left Finland on the same route as my Father.  She told how as they traveled thru the icebergs, they blew the boat whistles day and night, the echo would tell them where the icebergs where.  She said there was little sleep on those nights.


My Father at that time was a 40 year old bachelor who used to stand on the corner and watch the girls go by.


To make a long story short, my Mother met my Father and on New Year’s Eve of 1910, they married.


Father had saved the money for a farm.  A salesman came by selling farms in the Lower peninsula.


There were six Finnish Families in all that bought farms.  My Father was lucky and bought his farm on the Polkton and Crockery Township line.  The other families bought farms in Moreland Township, which was cold and light soil.  Their farms are now part of the Muskegon’s Waste Water District.


Our farm had a very small house and Father left Hancock Michigan in March 1912 to get the house ready, but Mother stayed in Hancock because she was expecting my oldest brother Reino.  After his birth she came to the farm in April.  She came by train to Milwaukee and by boat to Grand Haven, then by Interurban to what was called Conley’s Crossing. (88th & Old 16).  As my Father and Mother were walking in the muddy road back to the farm, with the baby, they met Charles Werly.  He was taking his sisters to the crossing and he told my Father and Mother to wait and he would give them a ride home.  That was the beginning of the Tikkanen Family on Garfield Avenue on the Polkton and Crockery Township Line.


When people came from Europe they had to be sponsored by someone here for 5 years and I imagine my Father took over the sponsorship of my Mother.


At a Finnish Fest in the U.P. this summer I found out that many Finns came to this country between 1905 and 1915 because Finland was in the midst of a famine.


After my folks settled down on the farm, Dad bought a horse and two cows.  One day during a thunder storm lightening struck a tree in the pasture and as luck would have it, the cows and horse were under that tree and they were killed.


Another time my father just came into the house because it was going to storm and heard a strong wind.  It was a cyclone and took down a row of fence, he had just put up.


Father had to supplement his income so he went into Grand Rapids to work at Berkey and Gay furniture factory.  During the week he worked and came home on the week-ends by Interurban.


He always brought home a bag of wintergreen mints for us kids.


We were the only Finnish family in the neighborhood but ours was an international neighborhood.  We had Swedish (Soneson), German (Werly), Dutch (Lubben), and Hungarian (Vargo and Smith).


My Father and Mother had eight children.  We had a brother die at the age of ten and in those days the neighbors held an all night vigil.  A wreath was hung on the door when there was a death in the family.  As we were growing up we kids always stopped at a home in which a death had occurred to view the body.


Father moved the house from the middle of the farm, out closer to the road and built a nice new barn beside it.  He intended to build a new house too but the depression came and we lived most of my growing up years with a pile of gravel in the yard, ready to build a house with.


In 1938, my brothers Reino and Arne decided to build the house and I have some of the bills for lumber and they are about $400.00.


Our farm was half way between Grand Rapids and Muskegon.  On Sunday we would have to be sure that our dishes were done at noon, because people would start arriving and my sister and I were kept busy serving coffee to each and every one who came to visit.  We knew every Finnish family in Grand Rapids and Muskegon,.  If we didn’t someone would bring them out to meet us.  What a happy time that was.


We walked 2-3/4 miles to South Evergreen School.  We were tickled if Mr. John Metzer would let us ride his milk truck.  If it was snowing real hard our Father would come and pick us up with the team and sled and we would get down in the straw in the sled.  Usually the big kid would take a hold of the little kids hands and half the time our feet could barely touch the ground.


At school our favorite job was going to get the mail because Harold Laug would give you a stick of gum.  During the winter Harold Laug had his car fixed with skis on the front.


The last day of school everyone in the district came to the picnic.  The men made homemade ice cream in the hand turned freezer and lemonade in a milk can.  I can still taste the potato salad my mother made with homemade salad dressing.


The Christmas Program was the same, everyone in the district came.  We kids would sing “Up on the Housetop” from a stage made of planks on saw horses.  Each one of us would receive a box of candies.  The Christmas tree was lit just that one night with candles.


When school was out the folks had planted strawberries and contracted for pickles.  We kids picked strawberries at home and then they were taken to the Chittenden Farm.  Mr. Chittenden took them to the boats in Grand Haven to be shipped to Chicago.  On the days we did not pick strawberries at home we would pick for Luke Porter and we were paid for picking.  With this money we bought our school clothes and I even bought white shoes.


It was my job to write out the order from the Mail Order Catalogs.  Everything was listed as Good, Better, or Best.  We sent an order out on Monday and we could expect our order back by Wednesday or Thursday.  How was that for service?


When it came to thrashing time, we kids would watch for the steam engine to come down the road.  If you helped a neighbor then he would come and help you.  My Mother was a good cook and made meat loaf and mashed potatoes and apple pie, from the first apples of the season.  My Mother usually ended up feeding the thrashers because she fed them plenty of good food.


We kids went to Ottawa Center Chapel for Sunday School and on Memorial Day services the services were always held at the cemetery.  The kids would put out all the flags.  Former soldiers would fire over the graves while someone played taps down over the hill.  It would make chills go down your spine.


Brother Arne and Viena walked the five miles to school and Graduated from Coopersville High School.  They then went to Detroit to work


What a time it was when brothers and sister came home for the week-end.  Our first car was bought by brother Reino.  Dad was going to learn to drive.  He drove it out into the road and it stopped on him and he left it setting there and never tried again.


What a thrill when they brought electricity out to the farm and we could buy an iron, toaster, washing machine and our first radio, which was an Attwater Kent, and we could listen to W.L.S out of Chicago


On Saturday night we would load the car with neighbor kids and head for some dance.  We had a choice of many places to go.  Odd Fellow Hall, Farm Union Hall, and during the summer Howard’s Barn.  Then we came home and went to bed the bed would still be going in circles.  How we loved to Square Dance.  My brother Emil was one of the best swingers in the group.


Do you remember when you headed toward Nunica on the River Road and you crossed the bridge at Crockery Creek and the sharp turn the high hill.  There was a big sign that said “Sound your horn!”


One night a bunch of us kids went skating on Hillman’s Bayou.  I was skating between Louise and Clara Spinner and I fell into an air pocket.  Thank God the hole was too small for me to fall thru.  That ended our skating.


When it came my turn to go to High School Viena took me with her to Detroit.  I came back to finish my last 2 years by working in Coopersville for my room and board.


When my Father became sick, my brother Emil quit school to stay home and run the farm.  Sad to say we lost three of our family at a relatively young age.  There are only four of us left.  I would not have changed my growing up years for all the tea in China.


Gertrude Tikkanen Beimers



I always liked the Christmas plays that we had which brought all the families together.


I remember the parents getting together and having Pedro (a popular neighborhood card game) parties, and also putting on plays for the neighborhood.


The teachers that I had were: Louise (Spinner) Peterson, Frances Swanlund, Lerine (Yost) Lindberg, and Miss Nancy Bennink.


This was my sewing class about 1950 – maybe 1948



Theda Kay Hehl, Cherrie Voshel, Anna Klapp, Charlotte Probst, Judy Modderman



Sarah LeMieux, Elouise Voshel, Teresa Anderson



We moved to Coopersville in my 8th grade at South Evergreen.  Louise Spinner was my teacher.  There were 4 of us in the 8th grade – Ed Tikkanen, Joe Spinner, Nancy Bennink, and me.  The school received surplus foods and one day Nancy and I tried to make cooked rice.  First we put the water on to boil, then we started to add rice; we didn’t think we had enough in, so we added more and more  The rice never got done and we had a mess.


The annual Christmas program was always looked forward to.  Everyone had a part to memorize and a good time was had by all.


At the end of the school year, when the lilacs were in bloom, all the families came to the end of the year picnic.  What a great time was had by all – with gunny sack races, wheelbarrow races, and even a contest to see who could peel the longest, (and thinnest apple peel).  What a great time!


I remember that my brother Fred would start the fire each morning.  We lived across from the school.


My parents were George and Mary (Mamie) Anderson.

My siblings were:

           Fred Anderson

           Vern Anderson

           George Anderson

           Roberta Anderson

           Jerome Anderson

           Teresa Anderson


My grandparents were Jacob and Catherine Hehl

Their children who also went to South Evergreen School were:

           Simon Hehl

           Carl Hehl

           Chris Hehl

           Martin Hehl

           Wilhemina (Billie) Hehl

           Jacob (Jake) Hehl

           Mary (Mamie) Hehl

           Nora Hehl

           Fred Hehl


Carl Hehl taught school at South Evergreen School.  Carl also went out west and taught Indians, and then in the Army in 1918.  Carl and Elnora were salutatorian and valedictorian at Coopersville High School.  Sim and Carl were in WW I in Germany.  They met each other on the street, and neither one knew that the other was there at the time.  I was told that my grandfather Jacob Hehl cultivating and scared off 3 renegade Indians.  He always carried a gun across his lap in the fields.


Two of my children also went to South Evergreen School; Michael Marshall and Mary Marshall.  That was the last year that the school was open.


So that made 3 generations at South Evergreen School!  The Hehls, the Andersons, and the Marshalls!



I began teaching the South Evergreen school the fall of 1924.  I taught there for 3 years.


Our activities were the Christmas program and a box social once a year.  The boys played ball in the spring and fall.  One time I took the ball players across the river to play the school team there.  Sorry to say we lost, but had fun..  In those days the 8th graders had to go to Coopersville for their 8th graded exam  It was always held in May.


The school board members were Pete Venema, Mr. Way and Mr. Modderman.  The teacher preceding me was Gwendoly Andrews.  She only taught one year.  There is a Frank Ven Roy family living in that district.  He can tell you about the family.


I gave all my pictures to the museum.  I think you can get copies from them.


If you (Nancy Bennink Hazsekamp) are a sister and Howard Bennink the brother of Gerrit and Pauline Bennink, I had both in school.  Also, a little sister Jennette,


Good luck with the book.


                          Eva Rankins Gillette.



At the beginning of the school year, we had a new teacher.  She assigned two kids to a desk, one was a boy and one was a girl.  When I was assigned to a desk, she assigned my sister Katherine to sit with me.  She didn’t know that we were brother and sister.  We sat together for a few days before she realized we were from the same family.  Then she changed our seats.



             Margaret          Esther

             May                 Elizabeth

             Rose                George

             Julia                Sophie


George Smith - Age 7

This is an email that Jim Fitzpatrick wrote to his brother on October 11, 2014



Brother Glenn.......


Nancy and Paul Hazekamp met me at South Evergreen today for a tour of the inside and outside of the school.  On the inside, Nancy described the layout of children's desks, where the wood furnace was, descried a small library area and her affinity for reading the volumes included in the "Book of Knowledge".  During her years at South Evergreen the only entrance and exit to the school was the front door.  There was no electricity, no running water.  Water came from the hand pump over the well outside; there were two outhouses, one for the girls and one for the boys.  Nancy walked back into the woods with me to where she remembered playing with the other kids when she was a student.  Each year they would be required to walk over to Mrs. Rankins' (Grandma Minnie's, now Mary DeVos's place) house and ask her if it would be alright to play there in the pines since it was not on the schoolhouse property.  During the noon hour they would sometimes go beyond the pines to the south; at times almost to the river, which meant that when the five minute bell was rung they would all have to run "like crazy" to be back for classes to resume.  Nancy had no problem walking through the briars after we passed through Sue Meindertsma's yard and into the grove of hemlocks beyond,  said she would be fine with it since she had on a pair of old shoes.  At some point along the way she talked of the farm she grew up on and that they were poor, saying that during one particular school year she had but one dress only and that was what she wore to school everyday.  She talked of mentioning to her dad that the neighbor girls had newer, nicer and multiple dress to wear.  His only comment to his daughter Nancy was that the neighbors were "on welfare" and his family (with emphasis) would not be doing that.  Afterward we drove over to the farm and farmhouse where she grew up on Hayes, north side, east of 84th.  We parked along the road in front of the house, Nancy pointed out where the barn and outbuildings once were, an open area along the driveway where their gardens had been, and a story about her dog Pal that had unfortunately gotten run over by her dad's steel wheeled tractor.  Pal was in pain for a time but recovered and went on to live more years there on the farm.  Soon after graduating from Coopersville High School Nancy would become the teacher at South Evergreen for a time, not much older than the students that she was in charge of.  And so today, here she was back at South Evergreen, after an absence of more than sixty years.


Brother Jim




Wrote this to you yesterday but did not get it sent.  A couple of more highlights of the time with Nancy inside the school were: a description of the recital bench at the front of the room near the teacher's desk, conversations that the kids had in the entryway while waiting for the teacher to let them in to start the day; one of which was "where do babies come from?", a question that was soon answered by one of the boys when he told them that babies come out of your belly button.  On the way to the woods she spotted a patch of wintergreen where we unsuccessfully searched for wintergreen berries.  Near the edge of the gully to the east she pointed out a place on the slope where in the wintertime they would slide down on their butts on ice that covered the hillside surrounding a small flowing spring.  As you can see we had a good time exploring the place.     Jim

Nancy Bennick Hazeycamp in front of the farmhouse on Hayes Road where she grew up while attending the South Evergreen one room school.