Union Center remembered

By Bill Hafer
Beatrice Daily Sun

BLUE SPRINGS -- A two-year project to erect a sign at the site of the Union Center School was completed Thursday just in time for the 50th anniversary of the school's closing in 1952.

"It was kind of one-of-a-kind," Bob Mann of Blue Springs, a 1940 Union Center School graduate, said. "It was the first consolidated school in the county."

Union Center School resulted from the consolidation of about four country schools in the area, Mann said. The first year of classes at the school was 1917.

The original school building still stands, although there is a chance it will be torn down in the near future, Mann said. The building and sign are located about six miles east of Blue Springs on B-Line Road, on the northeast corner of the intersection of B-Line and South 134th Road.

The school is two stories tall. Mann said there used to be a bell tower located in front of the building and two houses, for the superintendent and janitor. There also used to be a store located across the road to the west and a church down the road.

Mann said the school and store were part of a little town called Union Center.

"A lot of people used to call it Pumpkin Holler. I don't know why they did, but that's what they called it," Mann said.

The sign is a project by the school's alumni. Mann said a committee of eight people, including himself, have been working to get the sign made and put up for two years. The first step was coming up with a design.

"We wanted something different, so we made an emblem of the school. Then we added the horses and wagon on top to show some of the history," he said.

They decided to make the sign out of metal, and put stone around the bottom as a base.

Mann said the alumni felt they needed to put up the sign so as the building continues to deteriorate or gets torn down there will still be memory of it.
Area residents and alumni who heard about the sign came out to show their support Thursday.

"I graduated here, this is kind of a keepsake," Melvin Andrews of Wymore said.

Byron Rhine of Rock Springs, Wyo., said he grew up in the area and went to school at Union Center through the sixth grade before it closed. He owned the land the school stands on until last year. Rhine said his great-grandfather sold the original five acres for the school to be built on, and he was glad to see something would be erected to remember the school.

Dorothy Rockemann of Odell said she and her husband, Delbert, graduated from Union Center School in 1940.

"We have lots of nice memories of the school. We're happy the committee saw to getting a sign put up to remember it," Rockemann said.

She said she grew up a half mile away from the school, her sister taught at the school in the mid-1930s and she has a brother who graduated from the school as well.

Lela Miller of Blue Springs graduated from Union Center in 1943 and added that she had five brothers and sisters who graduated from the school.

"It's wonderful. They really did a good job. We're thankful for these men who donated their time and efforts to this," Miller said.