Huss Stories 1: Remembering our history

Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma

This post is the first in what we hope will be a fascinating multimedia series over the next several months of the Brick Campaign telling many of the stories that surround Huss School and the Huss Project. 

Our first story comes from Marilyn Bullard Abshire, who attended Murray J. Huss School in the late 1930s and early 1940s.  I met Marilyn this past summer at Huss Future Festival, where she had come with her sister to see the school she hadn’t been in for 69 years.  She gave us an amazing gift: a green folder with several typed pages containing her memories of Huss.  It begins:

Murray J. Huss or 2nd Ward school was located on Eight Street in Three Rivers, Michigan.  All of my sisters and I attended elementary school there.  We moved a lot and attended 2nd Ward School while we lived in four different houses.

I thought that almost every school I attended was planned by an architectural genius and Murray J. Huss was no exception.  It was two stories tall with classrooms and the principal’s office in the front of the main floor.  A hall divided the front rooms from those on the back.  Part of the back rooms were classrooms, but there was also a gym with a stage there.  The second floor was all classrooms.  Attached to the north end of the building was the large kindergarten room on the first floor and a room above it which had a kitchen.  I remember once when all of the children received shots there to immunize us against some disease, but I don’t know what the disease was.  We got the shots and I watched as they sterilized the needles by holding them over an open flame.  At least that is what I thought they were doing at the time.  I started to feel faint and one of the teachers told me to put my head down on my lap.  I was OK so I guess it worked.

Marilyn goes on to describe many of her memories from her time at Huss, including living so close she could leave her house when the bell rang and still make it to school in time, and playing on dangerous, but memorable playground equipment with wax paper from loaves of bread to help make the slide slick.  You can see that her love of and gift for writing was formed early in her years at Huss:

I started at Coon Hollow, a one-room country school, when I turned 5.  Since there was no kindergarten, I was in the first grade.  During that school year we moved into Three Rivers and that was my first year at Murray J. Huss.  My teacher was Miss Crocker.  We learned to read, and I remember learning shapes and the words for colors.  I remember a paper we did with different shapes such as squares and circles.  We filled in the shapes and printed the name of the color under the shape.  I had already learned how to put letters together to make words and was fascinated by them.  I will never forget the word “yellow” and the cheerful, shiny wax yellow from my crayon.

Marilyn’s story helps us realize the long legacy that we stand in by seeking to bring new life to the Huss property.  Her memories are the earlier echo of many things we hope to continue there: learning, art, friendship, games, poetry, resourcefulness, theatre, sharing, storytelling and events that bring people together.

Author:
Kirstin is a member of the *culture is not optional core community and is the Head Caretaker at GilChrist Retreat Center.