Ready for her 105th Christmas
Like many people, Marjorie ‘Marg’ Poole, of Winnebago, is getting ready to celebrate Christmas. But, unlike most people, this will be her 105th Christmas.
That’s right, Poole celebrated her 105th birthday last month and now will celebrate Christmas for the 105th time. And, she has spent every one of them in Winnebago.
Her family and friends gathered at Parker Oaks in Winnebago, where she now lives, and celebrated her birthday with a big party.
Poole was born and raised on a farm outside Winnebago. After graduating from Winnebago High School, she took teacher training from Marion Drake in Blue Earth and then began her lifelong career of teaching.
She was known by her maiden name, Miss Ritter, when she started teaching in 1929 at the one-room, rural Woodland School District schoolhouse northwest of Winnebago.
“I taught all grades, up through eighth grade,” Poole says. “And all subjects. I loved it, I loved teaching. I would still do it if they let me.”
That was back in the days when the teacher was also the principal, superintendent and janitor.
“Oh, I had to get there early and light the stove, sweep the floor and all those good things,” she recalls. “But I didn’t mind it.”
She remembers one time a little boy came to her and said he couldn’t use the outhouse because there was a problem with it.
“I checked it out. It seems a dog had gone in there and was having her pups on the floor,” Poole recalls. “That was quite a learning experience for all the children.”
She had between five and 31 students in her classroom at any one time.
One of her jobs was to make sure all the children made it home safely after school, which they always did. Many lived within a mile of the school.
Poole herself got back and forth to school in a little Ford Roadster that she had purchased herself.
“Oh, I got stuck in the mud or snow a few times,” she recalls. “But I was able to get myself out. I loved that car, it was sporty.”
After her two-year contract was up, Poole took some time off to get married to her husband, Roger Poole, a farmer, and have two sons, Ronald and Jerry.
Roger served as a pilot in the Air Force in World War II, but came home safe and sound, she says.
Just as the war was going to start, in 1941, with her boys now school age and husband in the Air Force, Poole was asked to return to the school and teach again, and she did.
After eight years, the school closed in 1949.
The Woodland School building sat empty for many years and was deteriorating. But, in 1985, it was moved to the Faribault County Fairgrounds in Blue Earth, and it remains there today, part of the History Lane set of buildings.
In an Aug. 26, 1996 interview in the Faribault County Register, Poole was quoted as saying, “They’ve done a beautiful job restoring it.”
That story in 1996 detailed Poole receiving the Faribault County Rural Teacher of the Year award, which was presented at the county fair.
But, Poole also had some experience teaching in a town school. From 1959 to 1975 she taught fourth grade at the Huntley School. It was during this time that she received her college degree and teaching certificate from Mankato Teachers College (Mankato State University) by attending night classes and summer sessions.
In the Register story from 1996, Poole said one big difference between rural schools and town schools is that students are more apt to get lost in the shuffle in the bigger town schools.
“I know there’s a lot of extracurricular things we couldn’t offer at the country schools, but on the other hand, I feel the more timid children don’t have the chance they did in a rural school,” Poole said.
She has nothing but praise for rural schools.
“The children received a good education and there were very few discipline problems,” she says. “If we did have discipline problems, they were quickly and easily taken care of.”
She remembers one time when the children were coming in and taking off their boots and coats and one boy punched or slapped another.
“I took up a flat board from the (fire) wood carton and paddled him on the behind,” she says. “He behaved perfectly after that and it never happened again. But, I guess you can’t do that kind of thing anymore.”
Poole says many of the rural students went on to become valedictorians and salutatorians in high school, so it proves they had a good education a good start anyway.
“I just loved teaching,” she says again. “I had lots of very fun experiences. The students were practically like your own children. I loved them all, and I tried to make them the best students I could.”