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Annandale School Custodians
Presentation to the Annandale History Club
April 6, 2015
Mitchell Schmidt

Mitchell Schmidt grew up south of Annandale.  He attended Annandale schools all 12 grades and graduated in 1976.  He started employment as a school custodian in 1978 and retired in 2014 after 36 years.

Mitch started first grade in the east wing of the 1922 building.  Mrs. Walters was his first grade teacher.  He told about different teachers he had over the years.  In grades 9 through 12 Mitch had a summer job working with the custodial staff.  After graduation from Annandale High School in 1976 and employment with a few other companies, he subbed on the custodial staff at the elementary school for Kenny Nystrom.  In August 1978, Mitch signed a contract with Superintendent Larry Blow to work full time.  His first assignment was working nights from 2-11 p.m. at the elementary school.

The Annandale Public School custodial staff in 1978 included Kenny Nystrom (retired August 1978), Mitchell Schmidt, who was hired to replace Kenny, LeRoy McKeown, Jerry Manke, Bill Ernest, Jenny Newman, Harold Johnson, George Martin, Harold Schmidt, Jim Hennen and Norman Wittenberg.   (Annandale Advocate, August 1978, “Kenny Retires from School Staff.”)  Duane Manke started work as a custodian soon after Mitch started. 

The custodial staff in the 1950s included Heini Riep, Edwin Anderson and Francis O’Loughlin.

The custodial staff in 1969 included Jerry Manke, Engineer, Oscar Anderson, Head Custodian, Edwin Anderson, Robert Davidson, Harold Johnson, Jennie Newman, and Gloria Finley at the Silver Creek school.   (Advocate, August 21, 1969).  Casey Strand was a custodian for 29 years. (Not all of the custodians who have worked at Annandale schools are named in this article.)

Mitch said that Bendix Elementary School built in 1972 had only book racks separating the rooms.  There were problems with air flow, and there were hot spots and cold spots.  Mitch recalled that the coat racks had plastic bags for the children to put their coats in to prevent the possibility of spread of lice.  The bags needed to be vacuumed.  After nine years at the elementary school, Mitch began a day shift 9-5:30.

Mitch worked four years at the new high school built in 1991.  His son and daughter were students at the high school at the time.  He worked one year at the new Annandale Elementary School built in 2013 before retiring in 2014.  A granddaughter was a student at the new elementary school at the time.  In 1991 when the new Annandale High School was built, the 1922 building became Annandale Middle School.  Bendix Elementary was torn down in 2014.

Mitch mentioned some of the former janitors.  Oscar and Eddy Anderson retired when he worked summers.  He also worked with Norman Wittenberg, who worked at the school for 14 years.  The custodial staff had first class boilers licenses.  Jerry Manke had the chief license.  Jerry Manke was hired in 1963 as the boiler man replacing Hilbert Tritabaugh, who was the boiler man 1954-1963.  Jerry retired in 1999.  Jerry said that new boilers and a new 81-foot smoke stack were installed in 1954 when the addition to the ’22 building was constructed.  He said that on really cold days they used 5 tons of coal.  Coal was delivered twice a week.  Coal was used until 1968 when changed to gas and oil.   

Mitch said that the inside walls of the 1922 building were 48 inches deep and were used for shelving for supplies and air vents.  A second floor fan room pumped heat from the boiler room.

Students sometimes slid down the banisters, so bumps or knobs were placed on the railings.  Mitch said there was a playground on the north side of the 1922 building that had a merry-go-round, swings and monkey bars.  There was a bell on the building to call students in from recess.  In 1972 the playground equipment was moved to Bendix, the new elementary school.

There was a slide on each side of the library on the third floor to be used by students in case of fire.  There were fire drills a couple times a year.  Sometimes a student would try climbing the slide from the outside and get surprised by a bucket of water a teacher poured down the slide.  New fire escape slides were installed in 1951.  The slides were removed circa 1970s. The third floor of the ’22 building was closed about 1996.

44 students of the class of 1955 were the first to graduate from the new gymnasium built in 1954.  The 1954 addition to the 1922 building included a cafeteria, band room, wood shop, metal shop, home economics room and the gymnasium. 

The talk about school prompted the Annandale History Club attendees to reminisce about their school days, especially since the last of the rubble of the demolished 1922 building could be seen from the windows of the City Hall Community room where the History Club meets.  On February 21, 2015, Superintendent Steve Niklaus hosted an open house for the community to stroll for the last time through the 1922 building that housed students 1923-2013.  The school was built in 1922 and classes were first held in the building on February 13, 1923.  The 1922 building had not been used since the new Annandale Elementary School opened in the fall of 2013.  Efforts to find a new use for the building failed, and starting the week of March 16, 2015, the building was demolished.    

Marilyn Gordon, class of 1946, recalled that Mr. Glaim, a custodian in the 1930s, always had coal dust on him when he came into the classrooms to check thermostats. Gilbert Glaim was custodian and engineer at the Annandale public school for 32 years.   

Marilyn said that students called the school bus she rode from South Haven a “cracker box” because of its shape. It had benches along the long sides of the bus.  She also remembered that some of the cooks at the school when she attended were Hazel Johnson, Mrs. Folkerts, Mrs. Cordell and Helen Heino.

The school cafeteria was in the old school across Cherry Avenue until the addition to the ’22 building was built in 1954.  The students literally ran across the street for lunch in the cafeteria. There was an hour for lunch, so after eating some of the students walked uptown for a treat at Gloege’s Bakery or an ice cream cone at Prahl’s Drugstore.  A nickel would buy a bismarck or an ice cream cone in the 1950s.   

Rose (Brown) Johnson, class of 1945, recalled that students washed blackboards and cleaned erasers.  There was a hand-cranked machine with a wheel that was used to clean erasers.  Students went to the janitors’ room to get pails of water to clean the large chalk boards. 

1936 graduate, Ken Rudolph, remembered that Mrs. Oberson swept the halls.  He also recalled that the third floor assembly room with the skylights was used as a study hall.  Ken said that the entire school gathered in that room for assemblies. There was a raised area across the front for speakers.  Later the skylights were covered up.  (On September 11, 1942, a terrible wind and rain storm swept across the area.  The skylight in the school building caved in, causing much damage from the heavy rain that fell.)  Later on the assemblies were held in the gym.  Ken said that there were 31 graduates in 1931 and, as far as he knows, there are only two still living, himself and Neil Sawyer.  Ken first rode to school in a horse drawn bus.

Wally Gloege, class of 1948, recalled that he played on the Annandale basketball team and that during half time he played with the band on the stage at one end of the gym.  He also recalled being in the cast of the operetta “Tulip Time” and treated the attendees to a song from the operetta.


Notes by Annandale History Club Secretary