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A closer look at Hilkrest School

Updated: Jun 25, 2021

The Hilkrest school is familiar to Dunn County, but very familiar to Lenore Mercer Clark.

Lenore attended the school in 1956, starting when she was in first grade. She was part of the last sixth grade class in 1962. The school went up to eighth grade, and most students completed their eighth year there. However, Lenore’s story was different.

“I wasn’t able to do my seventh and eighth grade at the school because the schools consolidated into the Boyceville system,” said Clark.

The Hilkrest school was built in 1872 and remained in use until May of 1962. It closed its doors because of school consolidation.

“I think they didn’t want to limit extracurricular and extra opportunities for the kids so they didn’t put up much of a fight,” said Clark. “When I went to Wheeler, I started band lessons. There were more opportunities.”

Even though there were more opportunities, it was a major change in school culture.

“Kids were suddenly thrown into a bigger pool and had to figure it out,” said Clark.

She appreciated the closeness with her classmates.

“I had five cousins and one sister that went to the school with me,” said Clark. “The rest were all neighbors. We would look out after each other.”

The small classroom of 17-20 students pushed for more firm teaching.

“The teacher that we had was very experienced and very strict,” said Clark. “Our teacher had to be strict because she was teaching eight different grade levels. We learned work ethic in the country school. She pushed us.”

Luckily, her teacher had some assistance with students helping other students.

“If a younger one needed tutoring, someone in an upper class would take that student to the cloak room to get them up to speed,” said Clark. “Because there was so much extra help, people didn’t lag behind or fall through the cracks. They didn’t get away with not doing their homework or not behaving.”

The strict teaching paid off.

“The music teacher who would come out to us once a week said they looked forward to coming because we were so well behaved,” said Clark.

The school was moved to the county fairgrounds where it was open during the Dunn County Fair, staffed by volunteers who were often former teachers and students of the school.

“I always tried to come back during fair time,” said Clark. “When they moved it to the museum, we visited there as well.”

Three Little Pigs booklet
The Three Little Pigs children’s book, donated to the Dunn County Historical Society by Lenore Mercer Clark, a former student at Hilkrest School.

A small piece of the school was given to Clark and her family.

“When the school closed, my mom had the teacher over for supper because they had a close relationship,” said Clark. “When the school consolidated, she got some of the books from the library. When she passed on, those books came to me.”

One of those being The Three Little Pigs book.

“When I retired, my husband and I wanted to do a lot of traveling and that’s when I decided I needed to lighten my load a little bit and decided to donate it to the museum.”

From what she remembers about her leisure reading during school, Clark claims, “It seemed like we were always doing our assignments, but we snuck in time when we could.”

Molly Holper is a student in UW-Stout’s Professional Communications and Emerging Media program.

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