You will not marry during the term of your contract.
You are not to keep company with men.
You must be home between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., unless at a school function.
You may not loiter downtown in any of the ice cream stores.
These are just some rules that country school teachers had to follow in 1915. It was a strict life, but it was a good life that led to successful schools and students. Just ask some of the volunteers that help run the Westport Schoolhouse in Kenue Park in Okoboji.
The schoolhouse is open for tours 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday June 9 through Sept. 4, and many of the volunteers that help out there either taught at a country school or attended one. Their vivid memories and fun stories make tours of the school even more enjoyable.
“Children love to visit the Westport Schoolhouse to see how education was different in years past,” said Kiley Roth, Dickinson County Conservation community relations coordinator. “Adults enjoy visiting the school, because it brings back memories of days gone by. Some people who visit attended a similar country school, or others have heard their parents and grandparents tell stories about one-room schools.”
Westport Rural School was built for about $1,000 in 1895 in Westport Township of Dickinson County, one of 85 country schools in the county. Students attended the school until 1952, and it was then utilized as a community center for the township.
In 1996, a part of Iowa’s sesquicentennial celebration was to have each county in the state select a project to emphasize its history. Volunteers worked diligently to raise money to bring Westport Rural School to Kenue Park in Okoboji and to restore it.
Inside the school, visitors will find a large wooden desk at the front of the room where the one teacher --- usually a young, single girl --- would take on the task of educating first- through eighth-grade students. Facing the front of the room are a variety of wooden desks, which were originally in an elementary school in Bloomington, MN, and were then brought to Kenue Park.
Detailed items such as a pot-bellied stove, disciplinary paddle, water pail and dipper and recitation bench add to the ambiance and history of the country-style classroom. Some items are original to the Westport Schoolhouse itself, including the upright piano that still plays wonderful tunes under skilled fingers, a library table and an Edison record player.
The last country school in Iowa closed in 1967, but some country schools remain throughout the state to speak about this importance piece of history. The Westport Schoolhouse is a fountain of information and of fun, so next time you’re in Okoboji make sure to stop by and take a step back in time.
For more information on the Westport Schoolhouse or any of Dickinson County Conservation's offerings, visit our website or call 712-336-6352.