Surprise School

Lincoln Sentinel-Republican, 28 November 1985

While no formal observance is yet planned, alumni of Surprise School District No. 58 note that 1985 is the centennial year for the once thriving one-room school north and west of Lincoln.
Dwindling enrollment caused the doors to be closed permanently at Surprise during the 1944-45 school term and since then, children from the district have attended Lincoln schools.
In its heyday, Surprise offered the three R’s of organized instructions to as many as 28 pupils enrolled in all eight grades in a single term. (It is believed that no school age children live within the old district’s boundaries at this time.)
Once Surprise School attracted patrons to periodic merrymakings such as pie socials and box suppers; to spelling bees and ciphering matches, to Christmas programs and last day of school dinners – school functions which bolstered feelings of neighborliness and unity among families in the district-community, and which nurtured pride and loyalty to the school.
For some time early in the century, Surprise School also beckoned families to Sunday School and worship service conducted within its snug post rock walls by the Rev. H.C. Bradbury, early day Lincoln County Presbyterian minister of note
The schoolhouse, a native limestone structure, stands in good shape today, says Carl E. Gabelmann, who owns the site located five miles north and one mile west of Lincoln.
“The old schoolhouse has withstood 100 years very well and is still in good shape,” he said this week. At one time, he stated, a frame anteroom for wraps, dinner pails, etc., was added to the original structure; however, it did not withstand the test of time and the schoolhouse again looks much as it did originally.
Mr. Gabelmann is one of the numerous country school’s alumni who still lives in the community.
He confirmed Monday that he attended al eight years of grade school at Surprise before entering Lincoln High School. He was graduated in 1929.
Mr. Gabelmann lives only a half mile from the abandoned school.
Indulging in a brief bit of nostalgia Monday night, he reminisced about the “wonderful times” that have occurred in and around the old Surprise School, including uncounted community activities. Pleasant memories of fellow pupils and teachers did not fade with the closing of the school.
As a matter of fact, “Many of the pupils are still around and have taken up many different occupations,” Mr. Gabelmann commented.
There are also ten or so of the former Surprise teachers living in the area, including his own wife Crystol who taught two terms following their marriage. Mrs. Clyde Jeffers, who as Mary Lessor, taught Surprise School before her marriage; Grace Rose and Hilda Nelson Parsons are former Surprise teachers. Doris Wolford Holl, a Miss Kelly who married a Mr. Peck and a Jackson girl from Barnard also taught Surprise as did Philip Ackerman, he said.
Farmer Gabelmann, who served 8 to 10 years on the District 58 school board, recalls that several of the one-room school teachers arrived at school to means of horse and buggy, while others customarily boarded with various district patrons, including the Gabelmanns.
The schoolroom was kept warm in winter by a roaring fire built in a classic pot-bellied stove. “We burned coal – there were no trees to spare for fuel in those days,” Gabelmann said.
The accountrements of the rural school – the desks, books, stove, etc. – were sold when the school closed.
“We former students have talked about a get-together for the centennial,” Mr. Gabelmann admitted, but the time just got away before we made any definite plans.
“If there are enough people who show interest, we could plan something.”

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