Jack Remembers: Something in the Water?

By Jack Hackley

I received an interesting letter from Walter Peterson from Gurnee, Ill. which is located between Chicago and Milwaukee.
Letter in part: My sister, who resides in the city of Madison, Mo. periodically sends me clippings of your column from one of the local papers. (Frequently to prove she was right and I was wrong.)
I thought you might have some interest in the following country events. Three country boys – Eldon Brown, Jim Snell, and myself, Walt Peterson – grew up in the general area of Gravel “D,” four miles west of Mexico.
All three attended the same country church, Bethel Methodist, survived their elementary years in a one-room school, and graduated from Mexico High School in 1952. All three earned some of their college tuition expense by hauling hay bales (bucking bales) during the summer break.
Eldon completed his PhD in Entomology at the University of Minnesota.  Jim’s area was Agriculture Economics at a university in Tennessee, and my area was Counseling Psychology at the University of Missouri.
There were 108 graduates from Mexico High School in 1952 and as far as I know, we were the only three with PhD’s.
So can we conclude that those early years in the country school created the basis for eventual PhD’s?  I doubt it. Many of these teachers were committed to teaching the students, many were preparing for marriage. It was less than an ideal setting, eight grades in the same room. The teachers’ good relationship with the parents was a necessity because getting in trouble at school would always mean you were in trouble at home. The student’s behavior at school reflected on the parents and the worst thing you could do was make your parents look bad.
Back then as I recall, most union jobs paid better than a job as a college graduate.  There was not the same emphasis on college as there is today.  (That situation could return.)
– Walter Peterson, Gurnee, IL.

If your school has unusual accomplishments like this story from Walt, let me know at

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