My first year as a “Zimmerman Zebra” was as a fourth grader in Mrs. Blattner’s class. The halls seemed dauntingly large, and the sixth graders appeared to tower above me. What I remember most is the most amazing playground I had ever seen. From the jungle gym to the spring-loaded balance beam, that place was enough to erase all the fear in a nine-year-old’s heart.
Zimmerman Elementary has been in operation since 1957. For over fifty years it has been an epicenter for educating the city’s youth, imagine in that time, the number of residents current and former who have walked those halls, the multitude of lessons taught, and the echoes of childhood laughter that must still swell in the space between the walls. But have you ever wondered what was there if you were to go back another 50 years? Back to 1903, where did the children go to school? What was where Zimmerman Elementary stands now?
The site of Zimmerman Elementary was farmland belonging to Hans Mickelson and his wife Sarah. Hans was born in Norway in 1850 and Sarah in Wisconsin in 1863. The couple was wed in 1879 in Beaver Creek, Minnesota. Together they had nine children: Mabel, George, Luella, May, Harry, Clifford, Theodore and Mary. Hans worked as a farmer through much of his residency in Lake Fremont, acquiring a sizeable chunk of land.
In the early 20th century, there were several schools throughout the area, small one room school houses where classes were held. One was located on the land of Mary Tildon, it is possible that she may have been a school teacher, or she may have provided boarding to the woman who was. The school would have been near what is now 269th Avenue and 5th Street West. The Mickelson children would have walked from where Zimmerman Elementary School is now to sit in a one room school house heated by a wood stove to listen to their lessons.
While the story of Hans and his children may be different, it is still very much the same as the story of my childhood and the story of your children’s first day of school. Even a hundred years ago, children still squirmed in their desks waiting to be excused, teachers were still overworked and under paid. For all the differences, so many things remain the same.
Where did you go to elementary school? What are your first day of school memories? Share them below in the comments!