Jan. 5, 2017 – Judy, I got your column last week as I do every week and love it. That is the only good way I have to keep up with changes in West Bend. I shared the following paragraph with four of my old classmates from St. John’s grade school who are now scattered all over the country.
There was a funeral this week for Gwendolyn (nee Birkholz) Puestow, 93, of West Bend, who died Christmas Eve. Puestow taught fourth grade for 37 years at St John’s Lutheran School. Former student Jay Watzlawick wrote, “She was one of the strictest teachers I ever had. Goofing off in class and she would drag me out the room by my ears and if you ever g ot the hiccups she would grab your head and stare into your eyes until they went away. I also remember washing her old Buick a few times and she would give me a hand full of lemon drops.”
We all had Miss Birkholz for first and second grade during 1948 and 1949. I thought I was unusual reminiscing about the many times I was sent to “The Closet.” Probably a 4′ X 4′ storage closet toward the back of the classroom to store jump ropes, library paste, soft balls, and various other stuff.
Mostly we had to stand because the space was tight. No lights but the gap under the door was fairly large so it was not completely dark. I remembered eating library paste, goiter pills, and feeding jump ropes under the door which my classmates continued to pass down the aisles. Once in a while we were sent to the hallway, but the problem there was everyone’s lunch box was stored out there and they were easy to open.
I thought I was unique, but to a man, all five of us had identical experiences. One even remembered being sent to the closet with one of the girls in our class and two of the guys shared the closet with each other at least once. Of course we all visited the principal at various times.
Thinking back, Miss Birkholtz was one of our very best teachers as she cared. Strict but caring. All four of us turned out just fine these many years later so strict caring teachers are the way to go in our experience. Over the many years I saw her several times in West Bend when I visited my family.
We did not have Dunce stools, our knuckles were not rapped with rulers, and we did not have our mouths washed with soap but we always had THE CLOSET !!!