Morton (Salty) Schroeder wrote the following article in February 2001 in response to a request for information about the early history of Madison Lutheran School. Mr. Schroeder was the first called principal of Madison Lutheran School, coming to Madison in 1941. His new wife Bettie joined him in 1942 and they remained in Madison until 1950 when they moved to New Ulm, MN, where Mr. Schroeder accepted the call to be the principal of St. Paul's Lutheran School. They had a daughter Susan who would have been in our class if they had stayed in Madison. I remember visiting/playing with Susan at their home before I started school. She had a little stove that actually heated up. We made "soup" out of water and some red, Christmas beads we'd found. Their apartment was on the second floor of a building owned by Phil Noth and his business partner, across from the fire station on Williamson Street a few blocks away from Madison Lutheran. I visited the Schroeders in Winona, Minnesota, for a week one summer. We picnicked, climbed the bluffs, played with her younger brothers and sister. It was there that I first tasted liver 😄. I was impressed with their house which had a front AND a back stairway to get to the second floor, and with Mr. Schroeder's office, with shelves filled with books, reaching the ceiling. Although Mr. Schroeder left the year before our class entered Madison Lutheran, he had many of our brothers and sisters as his students, including Stanley and Rollie Reinholz, brother of Gary, Dick Maginnis, brother of Judy and Robert Sievert, who is the father of Scott, Judy's son-in-law,. Evan Wolter, brother of Richard, Louise and Wayne Droster, sister and brother of Linda, and Geraldine Unger, sister of Lois. He was also principal for others of our brothers and sisters including Herman Heinecke, brother of Andy, Alice Oakey, sister of Katy, Dennis Vick, brother of Linda. In 2001 Morton and Bettie Schroeder are living in Appleton, Wisconsin. JAK


A Time Fit to Remember

Recollections of Madison Lutheran School

by Morton A. Schroeder

Madison Lutheran School had its beginnings in two small Lutheran elementary schools that existed in Madison, Wisconsin in the 1940's: Eastside English Lutheran School and Holy Cross Lutheran School.

Eastside English Lutheran School, supported by a Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod congregation of the same name, was begun some time after the congregation was begun in the mid to late 1920's. The precise dates are in the History of Madison Lutheran School. Although its teachers and its successive pastors were ardent proponents of Christian education, the school struggled, and it never really prospered numerically. During the 1940-41 school year, it had a faculty of two: Miss Esther Buchholz and Mrs. Charles E. (Edith M.) Pettengell, a member of the Eastside English Lutheran congregation who had volunteered to assume the teaching assignment of the principal after he had accepted a call to another school. The pastor of the congregation, the Rev. Theophil Mahnke, became the principal. The enrollment in grades one through eight was in the 50's.

After being graduated from the three-year course at Dr. Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minnesota, in June 1941, I was assigned to Eastside congregation. This first call, which has an interesting story of its own, was "for the school term of 1941-1942." I was asked "to teach the upper grades five to eight in accordance with the prescribed course of study, play the organ for divine services, take an active part in the work of the Sunday School, direct the choir when called upon, and assist in the work of the school and church as occasion may arise." The congregation promised to honor me and pay me "a salary of $70.00 per month for nine and one half months, to be paid monthly."

I had to pay my own room and board from this stipend. Although I do not remember the exact amount, I believe it amounted to 50% of my wages: $35.00. A childless couple, Mr. and Mrs. Maurice G. Young, took me in. According to my later calculations, they were only in their mid 30's, but they seemed quite somber, serious, and even ancient to a young man who had celebrated his twentieth birthday less than four months before his teaching career began.

Although the Youngs were very good to me, giving me more than enough to satisfy both my stomach and my mind, Gladys - Mrs. Young - was careful with money. Sometimes a knock on the bathroom door reminded me that I had showered long enough, and every morning when I left 2017 Carey Court for school, my alarm clock was disconnected from the wall outlet.

Holy Cross Lutheran Church, also located on Madison's east side, peculiarly within walking distance of Eastside English, supported a one-teacher school. It was smaller than that of Eastside, even though its enrollment was augmented by children who belonged to Our Saviour's Lutheran Church, located some miles away and closer to Madison's downtown. The Rev. Erling Ylvisaker and the Rev. Adolph Harstad were, respectively, pastors of Holy Cross and Our Saviour's congregations. Although radically different in temperament - Ylvisaker was a man with a lively sense of humor, Harstad a man of sober mien given to careful speech -- they were equally staunch advocates of Lutheran elementary education. I was not privy to any financial arrangements, if any, the two congregations may have had, as far as supporting the school is concerned. Both were and remain members of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS).

To the best of my memory, two members of Immanuel Lutheran Church, which belonged to what was at the time simply called the Missouri Synod, attended Holy Cross: Herman, Jr. and Harley, the sons of Mr. and Mrs. Herman Hinrichs, Sr. At least, they were the first to transfer to Eastside when Holy Cross school ceased operating.

When the teacher at Holy Cross Lutheran School was married during the summer of 1942 and the school was unable to call a replacement, the two ELS congregations approached Eastside. Their simple and obvious request to transfer their teacherless children to Eastside, beginning with the 1942-43 school year -- was readily granted, even though it placed unforeseen and tremendous strains not only on Eastside's two-person faculty but also on Eastside's modest physical facilities.

Esther Buchholz -- who was always called Miss Buchholz, even by her principal -- found herself trying to teach 40 children in grades one through four; I was faced with 72 in grades five through eight. The upper grades room of Eastside school, which had been built on to the church when the school was opened, was an integral part of Eastside's church. Trying to "hide" some 25 to 40 desks to make room for Sunday services was bad enough; trying to do the same for 70+ was well nigh impossible. The playground, which had a hard time satisfying the needs of 50 children, simply could not accommodate twice that many active youngsters.

Madison Lutheran School became a legal entity sometime between March 16, 1942, when I received my second call to teach at Eastside English, and October 26, 1942, when I received my third call, this one to teach now at Madison Lutheran School, Madison, Wisconsin.

Although I am not able to give you the salaries paid the other called workers, I can reveal that my wages increased by leaps and bounds, if percentages are an adequate measuring tool. My first year's salary was $665.00, for nine and one-half months. The second, for ten months was $760.00, an increase of 14.3%. The third was $1,080.00, an increase of 42%. The second salary was supposed to support two people: the teacher and his new bride. Note that the third took me into the four-digit class.

This was at a time when unskilled line workers working in the Ray-O-Vac plant at the foot of Division Street complained, as they literally roared out of the plant gate, that they were paid "only" $60.00 to $70.00 that week. These same workers protested vocally and bitterly if ordinary folk shopped on Saturday. Non-defense workers, according to these workers, were to shop during the week so that "people who are aiding the war effort can shop on their says off."

Because Esther Buchholz and I were literally swamped with students, the school board hired Bettie M. (Mrs. Morton A.) Schroeder to help us. She taught the middle grades half days -- the fourth grade from the so-called lower room and the fifth grade from the so-called upper room. But what half days they were! The schedules were arranged so that the two called teachers taught many of the mechanics in the morning, leaving much of the content material for Mrs. Valiant Helper to teach in the afternoon. More than that! Because Eastside did not own enough extra desks, that is, two for each pupil in grades four and five, the students who were assigned to Mrs. Valiant Helper had to sit on folding chairs at typical lunchroom-sized tables. What was done with the desks that were used in the Holy Cross school remains a mystery.

This experience was by no means an adventure in maliciousness. Rather, it was a good faith experiment, an attempt to help one's neighbor. But it was based on incredibly poor judgment. Eastside agreed to a partnership it had no reasonable expectation of keeping. However, all the children benefited from Mrs. Valiant Helper's extra help. The school prospered, so much so that a new school format was adopted and a new location was found.

Madison Lutheran School was formed by four congregations that belonged to the Synodical Conference: Eastside English, Holy Cross, Our Saviour's, and Immanuel. Three other congregations soon joined the Madison Lutheran School Association: Monona, Mt. Olive, and St. Paul's.

The pastors serving these churches were, in the order of the congregations listed above, Mahnke, Ylvisaker, Harstad, Brandhorst, Ries, Rathjen (?), and Berg. During the time I was principal of Madison Lutheran School, Reginald Siegler replaced Mahnke, Nils Oesleby replaced Harstad, and Alfred Ziehlsdorff replaced Brandhorst.

The impression these men made on me, a novice, remains with me even to this day. These men formed some of my thinking, and from them I took the best each had to offer. I believe all of them were interested in formal Lutheran elementary education. (Lutheran secondary education was not yet a prominent blip on the radar screen of evangelical outreach.) All of them were very kind to my family and me, and the salary their congregations paid me was no reflection of their support of Christian education or respect for my family and me.

Theophil Mahnke was a social animal, and he cultivated the friendship of certain members of his congregation. He enjoyed a beer, a game of cards, a fishing trip. Erling Ylvisaker was a friendly man, one given to jokes followed by his famously crooked grin. Adolph M. Harstad, a devout, quiet Christian, was the serious member of this septet. He and his wife had a large family, their children, like their parents, were also serious. I believe Mary was the oldest, and she often served as surrogate mother for her younger siblings. She was the kind of student every teacher wants, appreciates, and enjoys.

[More precise information regarding the Harstad family -- and its contributions to Madison Lutheran School -- is really much closer to members of the ELS than it is to me].

F.C. Brandhorst, who was older than the others and had largely shucked off the responsibilities of family, was more concerned about our personal well-being and health than the others were. When we were to have our first child, he inquired about the prospective mother's welfare. "Are you getting enough to eat? Are you eating the right foods?" Of course, she - and I also - were not. The members of the various churches did not know that often the entree was Mother Grass's noodle soup, dessert was a divided candy bar. Mrs. Brandhorst was formed in the traditional mold of the pastor's wire. She, too, was concerned about our welfare, and when things did not go as they should at a member's house, she pitched in and took up the slack. A famous dinner the Brandhorsts and we were invited to would never have taken place had not the good pastor's wife peeled the potatoes and "got things going."

Harold Ries was simply a very nice man. We got to know him rather well through our abiding friendship with members of the Monona congregation. Memory tends to fade when faced with the unwanted: I believe Rathjn, who first name eludes me, introduced Scouting to Madison area congregations that belonged to the Synodical Conference. This was the very first rift in an otherwise seamless garment, that eventually led to the dissolution of the school. I was, am and remain grateful that the good Lord led me to accept a divine Call to another school before the rift could not be repaired.

[Please note carefully: the name Rathjen and Rohlwing are confused in my memory. Whatever I say about both or either should be taken with a grain of salt and verified.]

Reginald Siegler was one of my tutors at Michigan Lutheran Seminary, Saginaw, Michigan. I had established an ambiguous relationship with him that was based on the association of tutor and student. Siegler was quite different from Mahnke. He did not form close relationships with his members, he was serious, conscientious, and dedicated almost to a fault. He believed he was obligated to accept a call he had received because one (1) member of the congregation, in a secret ballot, voted for him to leave Eastside.

Nils Oesleby was friendly and more out-going than his predecessor. When he, a patient in a local hospital, confided that what he would really like was "a coloring book and some crayons," these to help him while away the tedious hours, we pleased him by supplying his secret desires.

The best adjective I can think of to describe the second Immanuel pastor is "smooth."

In spite of the synodical rift, we kept strong and lasting bonds with the families who had strongly supported the school. Burned into our minds are memories of these families: Bradley, Fleischer, Schweppe, Unger, Noth, Maginnis, Sievert, Stone, Wagner, Hinrichs, Harder, Klinke. These people were uncommonly good to us. Their daughters baby-sat our children. Because we had no car, their fathers brought them to our house and then picked them up at evening's end. We gave them a pittance because we had no more. At Christmas time, they gave gifts to our children worth more than the pennies we had paid them to baby sit. And the monetary gifts they gave me at Christmas time, which we never wasted on trifles, enabled me to attend summer school for years on end. These gifts also enabled me to begin a personal library.

Madison Lutheran School was from its earliest days a progressive and innovative school. Its young faculty -- the senior member, Esther Buchholz, was only 36 -- was willing to try the untried. Reading and literature were important, and all the teachers worked closely with the Madison Public Library to provide rapidly revolving in-classroom libraries. Letters received from authors -- August Derleth, the Sage of Sauk City, Eric P. Kelly, who won the Newberry Medal in 1929 for his The Trumpeter of Krakow, and Laura Ingalls Wilder, who wrote the classic "Little House" books -- were read to the students and shared with them by means of bulletin boards. Because one faculty member was proficient in German, German was taught to children in the second grade. Students and faculty published a school newspaper, The Echo; each class was responsible for providing readable, interesting copy. The school reacted to the present. When the United States was being introduced to the possible civilian hardships of war, faculty members served on local ration boards. When World War II became a reality, it did its patriotic thing: the students cultivated a Victory Garden. (If my memory serves me well, the Gardener in Chief was John Helmke. John had fallen from a steel support brace on a playground slide and had broken his arm. The Victory Garden gave him an outlet for planning, planting, cultivating, reaping -- and bossing). When President Harry S Truman, running on his own in the election of '48, visited Madison, the 7th and 8th grade students were hustled off to the university campus to see him. Their reactions to him, his visit, and the circumstances surrounding the visit were published in the Madison Capital Times. A greatly enlarged, laminated, and framed version of the Capital Times article, courtesy of the Class of 1949 and the Rev. Robert Sievert, is posted proudly in our garage. Upper grade girls attended "home ec" classes and upper grade boys attended "manual arts" classes at within-walking-distance public schools.

Madison Lutheran School had an active PTA. It supported all kinds of programs to better the school, but it never once fell into the trap of raising of money. Everything it bought, it paid for out of pocket. It supported an active health/safety/nurse's program, and I regret I simply am not able to recall the name of the woman who served us faithfully for many years as our on-site RN. It also supported the hot lunch program, an expansion of the Eastside program.

Eastside Ev. Lutheran School had been a pioneer in the hot lunch program. Originally, the school participated in the School Milk Program, this before the Wisconsin Synod formally decided the program did not constitute an unholy mixture of church and state. Then it entered, quite tentatively, the "Hot" Lunch Program. Hot is in quotation marks because the food was not always "hot." On alternating days, the students were served cold sandwiches, either peanut butter or jam, and warm ("hot") soup/broth/chili/hot dish. The students augmented the one kind of food with carrying in their lunch bags/boxes the other kind. The program seemed to suit Sue and Sam. At least, we had few or no complaints. One paid cook did the basic work; she was assisted by mother helpers.

[We have been told that Giuseppe Verdi was guilty of "rearranging his memories in a more strikingly dramatic form." I sincerely hope that I am not guilty of doing the same. I have tried my best to recall the past carefully, truthfully. I sincerely hope you will find few errors in A Time Fit to Remember].