A look at
Minonk's past

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by Albin Johnson

This story could be told in many forms and by any old Minonk grad. Mine starts with a nostalgic trip to Minonk over the 4th of July. There was much anticipation, wonder and some disappointments in returning. The plan was to see a couple of old classmates, my sister and methodically retrace all the city streets, check the cemetery gravesites and, of course, visit the high school! MCHS is much larger now, but the core yellow brick building is still visible. In my day (1948), the hallways were filled with about 130 students. As I visited it now, these halls were filled with boxes, bookcases, desks, chairs, tools, paint cans and extension cords. The rooms were bare awaiting their annual cleanup.

Yes! My locker was still right where I last used it. I walked into the library (study hall) where 5 of us had sat and planned our trip to Peoria for tattoos. Next down the stairs past the boiler room where you graduated to manhood by lighting up a cigarette for a puff or two. Prof Schneider and Red Dishinger, as if they didn't know, must be smiling from heaven. Then - I found "my world", the wood shop! It was dismally empty of tools and machinery, but wait! I swear the ghosts of Mr. Wise and Mr. Grampp were still there. I don't have any of the projects I made there, but my sister has saved a pair of wooden bookends I completed.

The next highlight of Marilyn's and my trip was dinner at Dave Uphoff's home. Judy and Don and Betty Uphoff were there. Betty surprised me by giving me her copy of 1948's senior annual called MY-HI-DAZE. I had long since lost mine. I can never forget this kindness as it now provides so many memories upon our return to California. I started looking through other high school memorabilia Mom had saved which contained a paper listing my senior year course offerings. I found English, Speech and Latin (ugh), General Science and Chemistry, Biology, Civics, US and World History, General Math and Plane Geometry, Band and Chorus, Home Ec., P.E., and Typing. Thanks to Miss Norton, my 30 words a minute helped me dodge KP duty in boot camp. The Manual Training classes were: Wood Shop, Mechanical Drafting, and Building Trades. The latter was a Govt. Smith-Hughes approved H.S. class in which 10 of us built a house directly behind the High School. A Peoria newspaper article that described the project stated that, "Most of them (us) will eventually become regular carpenters and will be mighty handy men to have around the house. (Sounds true to me!!!)

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I did more searching and found my Father's report card class of 1912 in Lake City, Minnesota High School. He had taken classes in Greek and Roman History, German Language, (While Swedish was spoken in his home), Physics, Algebra and Geometry, US History, English Literature and Classics, plus classes from the SLOYD Manual Training movement, These were drafting, wood shop, joinery and general Agriculture. Lake City has a large horticultural nursery. Like me, he was an average student. My Sis told me that a local person, doctor perhaps, saw potential and steered him toward Medicine. Besides his working at part time jobs, I'm not sure where the funds came from to pay his fees and tuition for College. His senior year at Chicago College of Dental Surgery was interrupted by WW1 after which he returned for his DDS Degree.

Next, I checked the Internet and scanned Minonk Fieldcrest High School in 2002. I would imagine there are 300 or so students who now have an expanded curriculum including Art, French & Spanish Languages, Music, Economics, Driver Ed., Business, Drama, Creative Writing, Computer Aided Drafting, as well as classes in Drafting, Industrial Arts and Agriculture.

I have somewhat forgotten those College Classes that dealt with the History of Education and Industrial Arts in particular so I re-started my research on the net to see how the Sloyd Movement of Manual Arts impacted my life. Part of my heritage is Scandinavian and it was gratifying to learn that Norsemen developed this system. SLOYD, literally means: to fashion wood into useful objects to sell. Any good wood carver could describe the various "SLOYD" knives. These Manual Arts classes proved popular enough that by the early 1900's, many of our State Universities and Colleges were established with these classes in mind. Land Grant and Normal Schools were begun to teach teachers to teach students how to work with their hands. Stanford, MIT and the A&M Schools sprang from this movement. SLOYD had become Manual Arts which became Industrial Arts which have now become Technical Education and Advanced Technology.

The happiness and success I have had in "working" life can be directly attributed to my parents and grade school teachers who encouraged me to draw, my high school teachers and college instructors who taught me to "learn to work by working".