by Roberta Skelton
A few weeks ago the local journalist Jean Murphy included in her column a call for people who remembered the original Central School to contact the Historical Society to reminisce about the building. One of the people who contacted the Society was Roberta Skelton, who had not only attended the school, but had also been one of the early members of Saint John’s Episcopal Church.
She had moved to Mount Prospect as a small child in 1935 and started first grade in the original Central School in 1937. The second Central School, or the Central Standard School, had been built about ten years earlier, but as the community grew the school district had run into space concerns again. As the original Central School was still standing on the same lot, it was pressed back into service and was used for the first grade for a number of years. Ms. Skelton remembered that the students would enter the building through the back door, a door that is still on the building, although no longer used. She also remembered her teacher, Miss Bloom, and that the first grade students did not sit at desks, but rather at tables. She confirmed what we had been told before, that the bell in the tower is from one of the last steam trains that traveled along the Chicago Northwestern tracks. She was able to flush the story out a bit more by remembering that the bell had been secured for the school by John Pohlman, the first station master in Mount Prospect and a good friend of William Busse who was responsible for the organization of School District 57 and the construction of the Central School. Ms. Skelton also talked about how the one room school was heated by a large, rectangular, wood burning stove at the front of the class, which was better than the pot bellied stove that had been their earlier. However, when the school was moved, the stove was removed and it was discovered that the stove had charred the floor boards and that the building had probably come within inches of burning down.
Ms. Skelton was one of the last students to go to school in the building. Shortly after she moved into the second grade the Central Standard School was expanded to hold all the students in Mount Prospect and the original Central School was sold to Saint John’s and moved. The original Central School was sold for $750, which even in that day was a pretty cheep. School District 57 sold it at this price with the understanding that the building would be moved off the property, very similar to the way the building was sold to the Mount Prospect Historical Society. A developer had given Saint John’s a lot to move the building onto and soon the move was under way. Saint John’s was a very small church at this time and could not afford an extensive renovation of the Central School building. When the building was moved, the vibrations caused all the plaster to crumble on the walls, so that when it arrived at its new home the walls were the naked lathe boards. For a time, Saint John’s covered the walls with burlap until they could raise the money to have the walls re-plastered. The church got by on what it had and a lot of dedication from the original members. The first pews for the church had been donated by other churches in the area and did not all match, while the alter was built by church members. Many other repairs to the building were done by church members.
The Central School became the first permanent home of Saint John’s Episcopal Church, although the Episcopal Women’s Guild of Mount Prospect had founded Saint John’s a couple years before they bought the Central School. They had been meeting temporarily in the VFW hall. When they moved into their permanent home, Ms. Skelton became the first child baptized in the permanent home of the church, making her both a first and a last for the building.
It was a pleasure speaking with Ms. Skelton, if any other members would like to come forward, please call the office.