Sunday, April 6, 2014

Larsmont School, Minnesota

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

At the end of June in 2010, as Joann and I returned from the North Shore of Minnesota, we traveled down old Highway 61 which is now known as Scenic Drive. It follows the lake shore more closely than the new highway and has much less traffic. Our kind of road!

Just south of Two Harbors is the community of Larsmont and the Larsmont School. This summer the school will celebrate its centennial.

The first settlers came to the Larsmont area in 1888. At that time, the location was known only as Mile Post 88 on the Duluth and Iron Ridge Railroad. The school was built in 1914 and in its first year had 12 students. By 1915, the settlement wanted to establish a post office. To do so, they had to choose a name.

They wanted to name the town Larsmo after Larsmo, Finland, which was the homeland of many of the residents. The Postal inspector suggested they choose a more American name, so they changed the name to Larsmont – “Lars” from Larsmo, and “mont” referring to the hills above the town.

For 20 years, the school was the center of activity and learning in the area, closing its doors to students in 1934. For a one-room school, this was a relatively short period of time. This school, though, did not fall into disrepair.

In June of 1934, the school was sold to the community to be used as a church. During the 1940’s, the school became the home of the Larsmont Gospel Mission Society.

In 1959, the Mission Society transferred ownership of the building to the Larsmont Fire Department. It served the area fire department until 1965 when the Ladies Auxiliary put it to use.

Now several elementary schools make an annual pilgrimage to the school. The schools immerse the children in what classes would have been like at a one-room school.

On the day of the field trip, the boys dress in knickers with button-up shirts, and the girls wear dresses with aprons and bonnets. The parents who accompany the students must dress in clothing appropriate for the period as well.

Lunch also reflects the era with meats, dried fruits or jams, and water or milk. The food must be in baskets or pails, or wrapped in a towel as it would have been in those days.

The day starts with the pledge of allegiance and singing. Then throughout the day, the students move through stations where they do some old-time tasks including making fresh-squeezed lemonade, making rope from strands of twine, learning pioneer games, and learning to sew a button onto a piece of cloth.

At the end of the day, they get their picture taken in front of the school and it is printed in black and white. The students love it, and begin asking questions about the field trip as soon as they reach the fourth grade.

Joann and I enjoyed our stop at the school. We’re always thrilled when we see these restored and maintained schoolhouses. And we love that a few lucky students of today get to experience what life would have been like back in those good old days.

Happy Shunpiking!

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