Meire Grove–Sister Alice Imdieke, when she found out St. John’s Catholic School was being demolished, had to see it one last time. On May 13,  she and her sister, Mildred Gans, drove from Albany to the Meire Grove school both attended and Sr. Alice also taught at.   

Sr. Alice was consumed with memories. She wrote many down, fondly remembering the familiar smell as she walked through the school’s double doors, brushing the metal steps after sprinkling sawdust on them first, reading books like “Dick & Jane,” cleaning blackboards on Fridays and drinking water out of a barrel.     

She, along with Martha Meyer, Loren Meyer and Marv Meyer, shared memories May 16 sitting in the church basement.    

In front of them is the book “Growth From Deep Roots” that includes the school’s history dating back to 1915 when construction of the three-story building began. The first through eighth grade school opened the fall of 1916 and was run by Benedictine Sisters. 

“In this building there was a love for learning and a desire for God. It was blessed to be in Meire Grove where learning was a constant and service was the norm,” wrote Sr. Alice. 

The third floor auditorium was utilized for school and community events, including wedding receptions. 

The second floor had what Sr. Alice called the “little room,” for grades 1, 2 and 3, with big south windows that when opened “left in the sound of the church bells ringing, especially at noon when we dropped everything and stood to pray ‘The Angelus,’” Sr. Alice said. 

The middle room was for 4th and 5 th graders, and the “big room,” for 6th, 7th and 8th graders, was east of the middle room.

Martha said all the grades were taught by nuns, “except when we had Mrs.  (Mary) Goebel in fifth grade.” 

Sr. Alice remembers her first day of school in 1945. 

“Sr. Clarita assigned homework to the third and second graders. She said that we first graders would have homework that would last all year long. We were asked to memorize ‘The Apostles Creed.’ When I came home I was anxious to tell Mom that I had homework. My brother, Fred, was in third grade. Mom said, ‘That’s the prayer we pray at the beginning of the rosary. She said, ‘Freddy, when you go to the barn that night you review that prayer with Alice. Guess what, we did in the barn that night? We recited ‘The Apostles Creed,’” said Sr. Alice. 

The second day of school she couldn’t wait to raise her hand and let Sr. Clarita know she knew her homework. 

“She made me stand. I was very confident and prayed every word of the prayer,” said Sr. Alice, who was asked to come to Sr. Clarita’s desk for a prize.

She received two holy cards and was asked to put them in the upper right hand corner of her desk and encouraged not to play with them. 

“I was so excited and happy I couldn’t wait to get home and tell my parents about that,” said Sr. Alice, adding, “Today, I really realize how important parents are in the education of their children.” 

If you were a St. John’s parishioner you sent your children to the Catholic school, often following in the footsteps of siblings. 

“We shared the joys and pains of everyone in the school because we were like family. There was a great emphasis on treating everyone as we would treat Jesus,” said Sr. Alice.  

Each class had around 10 students, which meant close to 30 students in one classroom with one sister.

“There was an advantage to having three or four grades in one room. When your class was done you would listen to the older grades and learn,” said Martha. 

There was a stage on the third floor where students put on plays, “and we played basketball in the winter,” said Loren.

There were card parties in the basement and the Knights of Columbus sponsored a “good Catholic movie upstairs,” said Martha. 

She recalls when the third floor was removed in the mid-1960s. A guardian angel, donated by a parish family, perched outside on an upper north cove, was removed and stored.  

Imelda (Caspers) Sand fondly recalls song sessions with a book “The Golden Book of Favorite Songs.” 

“Each day began with prayers, then the ‘Pledge of Allegiance.’ We stood for this and proudly held our hand over our hearts,” she said.

Martha said there was Mass each school day.

“And we couldn’t eat after midnight so we had to bring breakfast and dinner in our lunch bucket,” she said.   

There was no picking of teams when it came to playing athletic games. 

“Everyone played,” said Martha.

“I think the nuns had something to do with that,” said Loren.

Marv talks about Sr. Denise Braegelmann playing softball with her second grade students. 

“We were amazed that she could catch the ball without a glove,” said Marv.  

Imelda recalls the time Sr. Clarita called her to her desk and told her to hold out her hand.

“I got a good smack with a ruler. I’m still not sure what I did, but I faintly remember something about not sitting still and keeping my mouth shut. I didn’t cry. I guess I figured I had done something and this was the punishment and discipline. I’m not sure if Mom and Dad found out. I would have gotten a good lecture and another pat from them if they knew of it,” wrote Imelda.

Loren said there was a penance paid, like writing on the blackboard, if a student did something they weren’t supposed to do. 

“If you got a penance which was due the next day it was doubled down if you didn’t turn it in,” he said. 

When they had spelling tests they had to write JMJ, for Jesus, Mary, Joseph, on the top, said Sr. Alice.

“For spelling we took an 8 ½ by 11 paper and cut it in three. On a little piece of paper, we’d write the spelling test and the next week we’d turn it over and write another spelling test. Even the schnibbles were saved,” said Sr. Alice.

Even back then they were green, Sr. Alice said, concerned about saving the environment.

Martha remembers chicken noodle soup being made outside in black kettles for the 4th of July celebration. Ladies of the parish sewed quilts for the missions and did fancy work upstairs in the music room and library. 

“We were taught to be mission-minded,” said Sr. Alice. 

Music was a fun time. Martha and Sr. Alice together sing a song they remember—“stoodle a pumpa, stoodle a pumpa.”  

Loren said there “was a heavy dose of religion” taught, and Sr. Alice said the priest visited the school weekly. 

“I can still smell the cigar smoke from Fr. Joseph,” said Loren. 

He said his parents paid book rent of $5 in place of tuition. 

“My folks gave me $5 (for book rent), and I was on the playground and lost it and I’m thinking I’m in a world of hurt. I laid low and didn’t say anything. I ignored sister when she asked if anyone had any book rent to turn in. She said everyone had turned in his or her book rent except one person and she asked if somebody lost $5 and she waited me out. We’re talking about two weeks,” said Loren, who admits to being relieved when he got the lost $5 back.

‘There is a God,” he adds. 

On the west end of the second floor hall were two steps and a door leading to the convent. 

Martha said students were forbidden to walk up those steps and go through those doors. She called it no-man’s land.” 

“We also knew when the sisters were coming out of the convent because the floor creaked,” she said. 

Sr. Alice who lived in the convent in the mid-1960s when she taught there, said, “It was clean and comfortable and we shared a bedroom. 

Parents brought food to the sisters in the convent.

“I used to take raw milk from my grandparents farm in Karo Syrup pails to the nuns,” said Loren.

There was as many as five nuns living in the convent at one time, three teachers along with a cook and a housekeeper. Martha recalls they had a large garden and did canning.  

When the dandelions were blooming, during recess students would pick dandelions and a sister would make dandelion wine. 

“When we cleaned the sisters’ house they gave us a really small glass of dandelion wine, so it was worth it picking those dandelions,” said Martha. 

Sr. Alice said the nuns prayed for students morning and night. 

“What a benefit that was for the students,” she said.    

Sr. Alice was teaching at St. John’s School when they combined with St. Andrew’s School in Greenwald. 1st, 2nd and 3rd  grades were in Greenwald and 4th, 5th and 6th in Meire Grove. 

Three years ago it was announced that St. John’s School would close with all the grades attending St. Andrew’s School. 

It was a heart-wrenching decision for the community. 

“I wonder what our ancestors in heaven think. It was all built by our ancestors,” said Sr. Alice. “We had to go with what they say, but it’s hard to accept,” said Sr. Alice.

Although the building is gone, memories of school days at St. John’s School remain.  

“It’s so very sad to see this precious place, made of brick, go, but it’s important for me to remember that this school helped make me who I am,” said Sr. Alice. “I need to remember that all of us, who graduated from this school, are living stones and should feel grateful that we can spread the faith with those we encounter.”