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Chelsea School Memories

I'm carrying on my mother's research into our family history. I've self-published some family memoirs & learned a lot about different eras.

Used with permission

Used with permission

Monte Manka Remembers 1930s Kansas School Days

He may be an octogenarian, but Monte Manka has a great memory for events of his 1930s childhood. On this page, he shares the fun times at Chelsea School in Butler County, Kansas.

The town of Chelsea is long gone, covered by the waters of El Dorado Lake, so it is important to preserve the memories of those early days. Browse on down the page to find out what it was like in the good old days, the time of Monte's childhood.

(photo provided by Monte Manka)

kansas school girls 1938

kansas school girls 1938

School Yard Games of the 1930s

Monte's Memories

The Teeter-Totter: we had two. Several times when the student population dwindled down to two, Melda and I did not need but one teeter-totter. The old boards had splinters and when you jumped off, once in a while you had to visit the teacher and her needle.

We had marbles. I never was too good a shooter and usually lost all my marbles, holds true today.

Our teacher bought a softball and bat and a couple gloves and we played a brand new game. She read the rules and we played by the book. If you hit the ball hard enough it would get lost in the weeds and while they were looking for it you could go home. Our schoolyard was not grassy, when the wind blew hard you couldn't go out of the schoolhouse to play because the dust would fill your eyes.

We played Hide and Seek, outside the schoolroom. We had the coalhouse and the two outside privies, and a big Elm tree to hide behind. Sometimes when the coalhouse ran low on coal, it made good hiding place because it was so dark inside.

In the wintertime, we would play Fox and Geese, in the snow. With all the big boys I usually ended up being the goose, oh well. I wasn't very coordinated as a youngster and I never seemed to get any better.

There were no Darts, Horseshoes or anything fun.

We played a lot of tag. I was pretty fast and could win, until some older boys or girls moved in. I was usually IT most of the time then. The older ones would protect the younger ones and I was left out to dry, story of my life.

We played ANDY OVER- throwing the ball over the schoolhouse and if the one on the other side did not catch it, they were out.

Most of the time the teacher supervised the games. We had one teacher that supervised, among other things, one of the eighth graders. They kissed and held hands and all that sissy stuff.

We made up our own games when she was inside. We had a cable that run through holes in the posts that fenced in the schoolyard dirt. If you had a pal you could walk the cable between the posts, you didn't dare slip and straddle the cable because it was to embarrassing to discuss with the teacher (a woman) while you were screaming your head off.

I see the playgrounds of today and wonder what it would have been like to have nicely mowed grass, basketball hoops, bats and balls to have to play with in the thirties.

It goes to show, kids will play whether they have fine toys or nothing but dirt. Imaginations are great and they were put to good use on the playground. With only the dirt schoolyard, one tree, two swings, and a coalhouse we survived and had fun. For eight years, my gosh you say it must have been boring, we did not sit around feeling sorry for ourselves.

We Had a Swing Set


In about my third year, of school, some men came and put in a swing set. There were three swings. We took turns swinging when there were four or more kids.

Once while running for a swing Manual fell and hit his cheekbone on the wooden seat and cut his cheek wide open. He bled and bled. The teacher finally got it stopped and I was elected to go home with him, in case he started bleeding again I could get him help. He knew a small amount of English and I was to be his interpreter if we had to stop at some farmhouse on the way to his home. I felt very important being entrusted with his life, I thought, and walked the mile to his house and back to school.

(1936 - Photo of Luis, Dorothy and Miss Sager at Chelsea School)


Teachers at Chelsea School

We had some great teachers. Their job was to teach, administer first aid, mediate the foolish arguments, mete out the punishment and keep us from being bored.

For the thirty dollars a month, and room and board at some farmer's home, I have to give them credit for being so dedicated. Many of these teachers spent their own money on construction paper, and a pan full of gel to make a stencil to make several copies of a test, and other things for the kids.

Chelsea School Students

Chelsea School Students

What Students Wore in the 1930s and 1940s

Monte Manka - "Chicken feed and Hog feed sack dresses were the mode of the day for the girls. Bib overalls were the dress for the boys. The shoes were for Chores, play, school and polished for Church and Sunday school. I had matching Blue Denim shirt and Blue Bib Overalls (glad you cannot see my shoes). Bobby Brant, front row had the latest in light colored overalls and shirt. The Brant boys were ranchers and wore nicer clothes. The poor farmers wore blue bib overalls."


1938 Chelsea School Photo

Here's what Monte shared about this photo. The children shown are:

Back Row (left to right): Billy Brant (died in a plane wreck), Monte Manka, Melda Welty, Barbara Sontag
I was curious about the plane crash and searched on and through Google to find out more about him and his brother (below). No luck.

Middle Row (left to right): Keith Redd, John Sontag, Leslie Manka (died in a train wreck), Dorothy Jean Welty, Georgiana Bennington

Front Row (left to right): Bobby Brant (died in a plane wreck), Sheldon Redd (So it appears there were about 6 families with children in this school photo: Brant, Manka, Welty, Sontag, Redd and Bennington)

The photo was taken in 1938 - Chelsea School District #10.

I hope the families of these children will someday google their name and find this photo.

(photos provided by Monte Manka)

Encounter with Bullies

There was an old barn to the west of the swings, across the fence, and it was off limits. One day two older boys enticed another young kid and me into the barn. They tied us up and told us that if we yelled they would stomp on us.

I heard the bell to come in, after lunch hour, and I couldn’t get loose. I was crying because I knew I was going to be late. The teacher had seen the two older boys take us into the barn and she told them to let us go. After they untied us and we were inside, I could hear the willow switch striking the boys bottoms. When they came into the classroom they had been crying and I laughed to myself. Gee I felt a lot better.


Inside Games

Our schoolyard was not grassy, when the wind blew hard you couldn’t go out of the schoolhouse to play because the dust would fill your eyes.

On bad days, we would have spelling contests. We would choose sides and the starter would spell a word and you had to take the last letter of the word and spell a word starting with that letter. I usually got tax, ox or Fox and I could only spell one word that started with an X. After that, I was eliminated.

Of course, we had musical Desks. The teacher would wind up her Victrola and put on a record and we would march around the desks. Never was too good at that either, especially when there was only two of us in school.

Several times, there would be twenty girls and boys in school and that made it more fun. Some of the older girls would read to us during a bad dust storm. We would go outside, seemed to be less dust than inside. The old school house had cracks in the windows and around the sills and the dust would come in by the buckets full and swirl around inside the room.


Monte and the Snake

I captured a garter snake, non-poisonous, and was chasing the other kids with it. I headed for Georgiana B. She started screaming and she wouldn't quit. The teacher came out and it took several minutes to quiet her down. She was hysterical, I didn't know that she was deathly afraid of snakes.

My punishment was dusting the blackboard chalk erasers for a week, after every one else had gone home. This made my chores at home later and cut down on my playtime and I never did that again.

1930s kansas wheat field

1930s kansas wheat field

Playing in the Wheat Field

My Dad had a field next to the schoolhouse. When it would rain and freeze we would take our sleds to the North end of the field. We made sails with a broom handle and a chicken feed sack and the wind, in the sail, would carry us to the south end by the schoolhouse.

Chelsea Dist. No. 10, School Tools

The Saturday before school started

We drove into the city
Go to Mc Clellans' Five and Dime
For the school necessities

We got two-penny pencils
With lead as hard as steel
If you pressed too hard
The paper would tear and peel.

The erasers on the penny pencils
Were so small
Just try to use them
They did not work at all.

A nickel Paper Tablet
Each page was lined, and yes,
With a big Indian on the cover.
The paper as thick as a girls dress.

We got a couple sticks
To fit with a detachable point of metal
To make ovals across the page with ink
With limber wrist and ever so gentle

To dip into our Carter’s ink
Colors were Black or Blue
Get it on your hands
Harder to wash off than a tattoo.

A box of Crayons
Colors of different hues
Coloring inside the lines
Was hard for me to do.

A pair of shoelaces
A couple pair of socks
A toothbrush
And a comb for our curly locks.

Two pairs of new overalls
Underwear and couple shirts
To be worn only to school
Not to be used for work.

I remember how I
Couldn’t wait to open everything
Lay them all out on the table
I felt like a king.

This would have to last nine months
Maybe an extra tablet, an extra pencil or two
But all the rest would have to last
Until school was through.

Old Chelsea No. 10
Forever you’ll remain
On my mind
And branded into my brain

Those eight years of schooling
All those boyhood friends
Those great Teachers
I’ll remember till the end.

Poem by Monte L. Manka 03-14-10 (originally published on the Our Echo site, reprinted with permission of M.L.M.)

The Big Chief Tablet That Every Kid Had


School Supplies from the 1930s

Penny pencils, tablets of paper with a picture of a big Indian Chief on the front cover were the tools we had to use. We usually had crayons; some kids had a big box of 16 different colors. The crayons had to last the year and if they were broken every broken bit was used in some project, nothing wasted or thrown away.

Such good times, Such terrific memories, Such friends, Such a loss and now there is several feet of water over the foundation of Chelsea Dist. 10.

District No. Ten, Chelsea Kansas, goodbye.

Monte L. Manka

Where Is Chelsea, Kansas?

When the El Dorado Lake was expanded in central Kansas, the town of Chelsea was flooded and is no longer visible.

When the El Dorado Lake was expanded in central Kansas, the town of Chelsea was flooded and is no longer visible.

Chelsea School Goes Back Earlier Than the 1930s - List of Students from 1903

My thanks to Monte Leon Manka for finding this and providing it to me.


Bashaw, A. M. March 29, 1898 5 R. A. Bashaw
Bashaw, Eugene R. December 15, 1886 16 R. A. Bashaw
Bashaw, Solomon H. October 5, 1892 11 R. A. Bashaw
Baum, Isma M. January 4, 1890 13 W. G. Baum
Baum, Otto L. December 1, 1896 9 W. G. Baum
Baum, Susan B. March 31, 1892 11 W. G. Baum
Becker, Margaret November 16, 1884 18 H. W. Becker
Berg, Alexander September 18, 1882 20 Martha Berg
Berg, Edde (Adde S.) June 16, 1886 17 Martha Berg
Berg, Enis (Wm.) August 11, 1884 19 Martha Berg
Berg, George march 23, 1898 5 Martha Berg
Berg, Grant January 20, 1891 12 Martha Berg
Berg, Ida February 16, 1889 14 Mrs. Martha Berg
Berg, Julius February 27, 1895 8 Martha Berg
Carter, Alma October 10, 1886 17 Joshua Carter
Carter, Alta October 10, 1886 17 Joshua Carter
Case, Gladys M. December 20, 1899 5 W. J. Case
Ellis, Francis June 7, 1887 15 Mrs. Nannie Ellis
Ellis, Pearly April8, 1885 17 Mrs. Nannie Ellis
Freeman, Allen March 9, 1885 18 Joshua Carter
Houser, Nettie February 14, 1885 19 John Houser
Hunt, Effie march 1, 1890 13 J. L. Hunt
Hunt, George R. September 9, 1884 19 Jos. L. Hunt
Hunt, Hazell M. February 11, 1887 6 J. L. Hunt
Hunt, Leonard O. September 30, 1895 8 Jos. L. Hunt
Hunt, Mattie L. April 30, 1888 15 J. L. Hunt
Kobe (Koble) George August 9, 1896 7 Joshua Carter
Koble, Verna August 4, 1894 9 Joshua Carter
Lawson, Winnie September 21, 1894 9 Mrs. Hester Buchanan
Nelson, Alice M. February 6, 1894 9 Cyrus W. Nelson
Nelson, Cyrus W. March 11, 1886 17 Cyrus W. Nelson
Nelson, Howard M. October 26, 1890 13 Cyrus W. nelson
Nelson, Louise February 15, 1888 15 Cyrus W. Nelson
Nelson, Mary S. June 4, 1888 15 Cyrus W. Nelson
Nelson, Velma W. May 3, 1898 5 Cyrus W. Nelson
Osborn, Cecil R. September 28, 1889 16 Phineas Osborn
Price, Archie 18 Mrs. Mary Coggeshall
Scott, Frank December 5, 1887 17 James Scott
Scott, Ray H. March 16, 1896 6 Harry Scott

Miss Alice Vaught was the teacher in Chelsea in 1903 with 40 pupils, 20 boys and 20 girls. The oldest student is 20 and the youngest ones are age 5.

Source: Chelsea by John D. Milbourn, 1990, page 183

© 2014 Virginia Allain

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