History of Kaleva School -100 Years

100th Year Anniversary of Kaleva School

The year 2014 has come and gone, but it commemorated a piece of Kaleva’s educational and historical significance marking the 100th anniversary of the Kaleva High School. This original institution led to the consolidation of the many country schools spread throughout a large rural community and became the Kaleva Rural Agricultural School and later the Kaleva Norman Dickson School, its current name today.

The first Kaleva School building was built in 1904 within the predominantly Finnish village limits, and was located next to the Kaleva Lutheran Church. This small cement building originated as a primary school with only two teachers, but was destroyed in a fire in 1912.

Subsequently, this loss led to the formation of the state certified K-12th grade Kaleva School system in 1914 which consisted of only three teachers for: primary (elementary), intermediate (middle) and high school; with the first graduating class being 4 young women in 1917.

In 1933, the construction of the school’s gym took place, comprised primarily of recycled materials found around town: “that were hidden so not to be stolen”, according to Della Dixon, teacher and wife of Frank Dickson, superintendent of the Kaleva High School for several years.

Because the locals did not want taxes raised, the money for construction came from donations granted by the local businesses and fundraising opportunities provided by the women of the community. As a result, in 1934, the gym was completed, which provided space for the athletic teams of KHS, which included: boys and girls basketball teams, baseball and football.

Because of the many “country schools” or feeder schools, scattered throughout the county, it was necessary for a consolidation to take place in order to unite the schools into one system.

The feeder schools that were consolidated included: the Tin Can school, located four miles northeast of town; the Jouppi Standard School, 4 miles to the northwest; then at about the same time, as a result of the increasing enrollment, the larger Dorn country school, located two and a half miles southeast of town was added. This included physically moving the building to the athletic field by planks and rollers by the community’s men by the light of automobiles during the nighttime hours. “I went to the Dorn School which had been moved to Kaleva. The room was in the basement and the teacher was Miss Crow” states Donald Lagerquist.

Next to consolidate, came the Gilson school located five miles east of town, which was also physically relocated with funds raised by community efforts; this later became the workshop and home economics classroom.

After this, came the Tanner school, which was located three miles west of town. Later in the 1950’s, the Big Four School also consolidated which resulted in its building being physically moved to the east side of KHS’s property: serving as an elementary classroom and later a band room.

With the final class graduating in 1963, even today many of these residents still get together for their class reunions. According to Russell and Gertrude Clements: “…In 1941 we were called into study hall and…learned that Pearl Harbor had been attacked…as graduates to be, our future plans came to an immediate halt and WWII began. Our graduating class of 1942 was the largest in the schools history.”
 

After consolidating with the Norman Dickson School in 1964, the Kaleva High School building was torn down in 1975.  After this final consolidation, the Kaleva Norman Dickson School District, its current title, is now the K-12 school located in the town of Brethren, seven miles to the south of Kaleva.  Although the original Kaleva School lot is now used as a parking lot for the Lutheran church, there were: “many fond memories of the building and it’s too bad it’s gone” states Allen Grossnickle, owner of Grossnickle Farms LLC.

To honor the Kaleva High School, the Kaleva Historical Society has put together a display of pictures, artifacts, memories and more historical details of the Kaleva School’s existence and is available to the public during the summer months on Saturdays and Sundays.

Written by: Megan Desarmeaux KHS PR

With historical information provided by: Cindy Asiala KHS President

© 2019 by THE KALEVA HISTORICAL SOCIETY

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Kaleva, Michigan