Ruthton High: gone but not forgotten

RUTHTON – Before there was a Russell-Tyler-Ruthton School District there was a Ruthton High School, District Number 55.

On Friday, Ruthton High School graduates and former teachers met to reminisce about their times at Ruthton High.

The reunion was held as part of festivities for the 125th anniversary of the founding of Ruthton.

“The school itself was built in 1923,” said Caroline Baartman, class of 1964. “The new addition and the high school was built in 1957.”

The last class graduated in 1987. In between they played a lot of sports and had a lot of fun.

Caroline’s son Brian Baartman was in eighth grade when the high school closed and he transferred to RTR.

“My brother was in the last graduating class in ’87,” Brian Baartman said. “We were involved in all the sports in Ruthton High. The seventh- and eighth-graders all dressed for varsity. When you’re in a small town you’d better be ready to play with the big boys because we had such small numbers.”

In 1981 the Ruthton basketball team went to state and placed fourth.

“That was huge,” Caroline Baartman said. “It was the first time they went to state.”

Back then it was pretty much just boys though.

“We only had Girl’s Athletic Association (GAA),” Caroline Baartman said, “We could just take three steps and pass the ball.”

Orin Volkman, class of 1960, played baseball and football.

“We didn’t win many games,” Volkman said. “We won more in baseball, but we always had a good time. I enjoyed that we always had something going on. Living in the area you were never bored. We had baseball, swimming, fishing.”

Volkman ran into an old friend, Dennis Petersen, class of 1956.

“I played ’em all back then,” Petersen said. “Baseball, football, I tried to play basketball. I think we beat Tyler once at eight-man football. We tore their goal posts down one year.”

Volkman interjected: “They tore ours down the next year.”

Philip White, class of 1959, asked former classmates if anyone could remember the year a blizzard snowed in the rural students, who were put up in town by local families.

“We came to school one day and it was snowing like the devil,” White said. “Wendell Olson roped about eight of us together and took us to his home two blocks down the street.”

Evonne Fuhrman lives in Russell now, but grew up in Ruthton and graduated in the class of 1944.

“Our graduation exercise was outside because there was no gym,” Fuhrman said. “I guess it was a beautiful night because I don’t remember anything bad about it.”

Eleanor Schwanebeck taught elementary school in Ruthton for 29 years, retiring in 1984. Many of her former students who went on to Ruthton High School came by to greet her and express their appreciation, which she returned warmly.

“I just loved every minute of it,” Schwanebeck said, “and the kids were so good. I remember taking trips to Pipestone and the state Capitol and they were always so well-behaved. I always worked with such wonderful children, and their parents were so good.”