Judy Meder attended Wangsness School through the eighth grade. For one or two years in the 1950s, the enrollment consisted of only seven students, as she recalls.
One was her younger sister, Helene. Another was her brother, Richard. Two cousins were also in the class.
It was a close-knit group, and play time could get a little rough.
“Girls were never allowed to wear jeans back then, but our mom insisted we wore jeans because we were going to be playing with a bunch of boys,” said Meder, whose maiden name was Ulvestad. “A lot of us went to church together.”
Torn down in 1976, Wangsness was a little one-room school on River Road in the Town of Vienna. The last class was held in 1964.
“It sat there for a long time,” said Vern Maier, who attended school at Wangsness from 1954-1961. He left when his family moved to the Waunakee School District.
On Wednesday, July 24, there was a reunion of former students at the Norski Nook restaurant in DeForest. It was the first one ever held, and it was organized by Meder and Marilyn Erstad-Mauer, as Mauer and her six siblings all graduated from Wangsness. Between 20 and 25 people who used to attend Wangsness showed up. It was such a good time that organizers are planning to do it again in 2020.
Meder graduated from DeForest Area High School in 1959, and she now lives in Madison. She, her sister, Helene Bond, and their two older brothers all graduated from Wangsness. Bond, attended Wangsness between 1951 and 1959, and also graduated from DeForest Area High School in 1963. There were only two in her class, including Helene. Dennis Erstad was the other.
“We went through a lot of teachers,” said Helene, who has been a longtime elementary school teacher in the Boulder Valley, Colorado.
Helene said she and Erstad got to do mostly what they wanted at Wangsness because they were good students. She remembers reading a lot. In fact, she read every book in the library.
“It was only two shelves,” said Helene, with a laugh.
Drawing pictures was another activity Helene enjoyed.
“I was annoyed that I couldn’t go farther in math,” said Helene. “I wanted to go farther in math.”
At the reunion, attendees exchanged photos and shared memories. Helene said she recognized a few people.
Judy Meder figured a lot of the people at the reunion hadn’t seen each other in 60 years.
The history of Wangsness School goes back to the 1800s. The first building had a white frame with three windows facing north and south and one entry door with a semi-circular window light that led into a large hall. It burned in 1939 and was replaced by a larger, white-frame building that served the district until consolidation. For many years, the structure stood on the site. It provided storage for the DeForest Area School District. The site of the school was near where Jump Around Gymnastics is today. There’s a playground there now.
It was Maier who dismantled the Wangsness building in 1976 after buying it. He planned on revealing that fact at the reunion, knowing that many were wondering what happened to the old school.
Maier said he used some of the material, including studs and joists, to build his house in 1977. Two friends were able to use the siding.
Maier said he wasn’t sure if there 12 or 14 kids in the school during his time at Wangsness. He joked that he liked recess the most.
“I loved to play ball, and with only 12 or 14 kids in the school, everybody had to play,” said Maier.
Maier said the education could have been better, as teachers there had to deal with all kids in the school. Maier said he and some of the older students would help out with the little kids.
“We turned out all right,” said Maier.