LIFE AT SUNNYVIEW
One Monday morning in the winter of 1934-35 teacher Daisy Mason reached in her desk drawer for a match and found her papers chewed into a nest for four baby mice. In December 1937, a skunk trapped under the school discharged its scent. "The smell had died down pretty well by the time of our Christmas program," Mason noted. This was life in the country school.
The basic structure and activities of a day at Sunnyview did not change significantly from the 1880s well into the 1940s.
The teacher taught all eight grades and conducted twenty class sessions during the day. Children could listen in on classes given to the more advanced students, and "learn ahead," or listen again to lessons they’d already had, and "catch up." Each student was given lessons appropriate to his or her abilities, regardless of age or grade level.
Being a student was not all school work. Children completed chores such as hauling drinking water and stove wood. In the winter, they skied on the slope behind Sunnyview or used a scoop shovel as a sled. In the spring they played softball, although not everyone had gloves; they also played “duck on a rock,” which honed their throwing skills.
And, at least in the 1930s, Sunnyview’s students occasionally got to take field trips. Among these were a ride on the Caryville Ferry, a tour of Morningstar Farms, and a visit to the brand-new Paul Bunyan Camp in Eau Claire’s Carson Park.
A COMMUNITY CENTER
Country schools were often the center of public life in a rural neighborhood. Picnics, town meetings, 4-H clubs, and even wedding receptions would be held at the school.
At least during the 1930s and early 1940s, Sunnyview School was a bit unusual in this regard -- while neighborhood relationships revolved around Sunnyview, such events were often held at neighbors’ homes. The School Picnic, celebrating the end of school each May, was held at a different home each year.
The school was a neighborhood project. In 1936, Mr. Lee brought a new flag and Mr. Smith fixed the merry-go-round. The next year, the Smiths built a woven wire fence around the school yard. Parents and neighbors provided wood for the stove and shoveled the school out after snowstorms.
In many ways, Sunnyview was the most localized seat for all levels of government. In May of 1942, ninety-one people registered at Sunnyview for War Ration coupons. The county nurse came regularly to give vaccinations and test the children’s eyesight. On snowy days, the letter carrier left mail at the school for neighbors to pick up.