Old Wade School closed in 1968 but still evokes memories

Now privately owned, the northern Columbia school once served 100 students.
Friday, August 22, 2008 | 12:00 p.m. CDT
Angela Baldwin and her husband, Joseph, bought the 0.79-acre lot and Wade School building for $20,000 at a Columbia Public Schools auction in June. Their house adjoins the property.

COLUMBIA - Floorboards in the old Wade School groan like they are talking, telling old, old stories about the children who used to race over them to get to their desks. Windows are boarded up, blocking out not only the light but the breath of summer. Doors creak as they are opened, giving way to darkness and musty smells. Mint-green paint on the walls of the original classroom hints at a former life of ABCs and multiplication tables.

The white building at Wade School and Akeman Bridge roads in northern Columbia was once used by students in first through eighth grades. Remnants of that time remain: chalkboards, book shelves, window blinds, bathroom doors labeled "Boys" and "Girls," a water fountain and hooks where little coats likely hung. After closing in 1968, the school has slowly become an accidental monument, important more in memory than in reality.

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On a recent morning, Angela Baldwin gave a tour of the Wade School; she and her husband, Joseph, bought the 0.79-acre lot including the school through a Columbia Public Schools auction in June. The Baldwins paid $20,000 for the property, which adjoins theirs.

"It feels good to finally have the keys," Angela Baldwin said. Although she's been inside before, she now can use the space to store things for a future garage sale.

Baldwin, a nurse at Boone Hospital Center, has lived next door to the old school for more than a decade and has come to know a bit about it, mostly about its current physical condition.

Columbia businessman Dave Griggs attended the Wade School in the mid-1950s. He remembers baseball tournaments with the other rural school districts in the area; they all played each other.

"I was the only person in my class in four out of the eight years I was there," Griggs said. "I had the same teacher for all eight years."

Jack Rader attended the Wade School from 1958 to 1966.

"I just remember it was a real close group of people," Rader said. "I was in one of the larger classes, but all eight grades were in one room. Everyone knew everyone - we all hung out together and all the families were close. Parents were there to help out all the time."

Rader remembers two more rooms being added to the school in his last years there and also remembers competing on the Wade School baseball team.

"It was just in the spring," Rader said. "We had a baseball team that played a couple of the other schools, Two Mile Prairie and Strawn, and everybody played. Kids from fourth to eighth grade, whoever we could get to make a team."

Today, Rader has a farm within a quarter-mile of the wood and brick school, and he drives by it daily.

Memories aside, it's hard to find much documentation on the Wade School. Baldwin said that when she went to sign the papers for the building, she saw a cloth map dated from the 1800s - the last two numbers are illegibly smudged - that showed the land with a school on it. Newspaper archives, the Boone County Historical Society and the State Historical Society of Missouri had similar offerings. There is an account of an eighth-grade graduation (in which Jack Rader appears) and another about the Wade School PTA looking at grouping students by achievement rather than age.

And then there are little writings by Wade School students, circa 1968:

"My name is Bonita Wade. I go to Wade School. I lost nine teeth."

"My name is Ronald Klund. I go to Wade School. I fell off my bike into a hole."

Dale Woody wrote: "We have hot lunches and tumbling mats. Then, we have a new teacher, new desks and some new children. We have new tables and chairs. We have new paneling, a new furnace, a new globe, a new record player, a new map. We also have a new room."

Tuggie O'Neil wrote: "There are about two trillion stars in the galaxy or more. Man is now exploring space. The sun is about two billion times bigger than the Earth. There is no weight in space, so when man goes into space, he has a cord put on him so he won't float away."

But most of the articles are about the Wade School District's annexation to Columbia Public Schools in 1967. An article that year in the Columbia Missourian says the Wade district, which then lacked a kindergarten and anything past the eighth grade, was not meeting legal requirements under a 1934 state law; students had to go on to junior high and high school in Columbia. Tilford Goslin, then the Wade district clerk, is quoted as saying the district had three options: becoming part of the Columbia district, reorganizing itself, or joining other rural districts to form a single A-rated high school.

On Feb. 9, 1967, Wade district voters approved annexation, 98 to 23. At the time, there were 104 students in the Wade School. Newspaper reports say grades one through four finished out the year there.

For a while in the early 1980s, the building was a temporary home for the Delmar A. Cobble State School for students with disabilities.

On the recent tour of the Wade School, Baldwin was trailed by her son, a niece and nephew who live with her and a pair of fluffy white dogs. The teenage niece, Lakota Stallsworth, said she likes living next to an old school, because people stop by and are interested. She said that one man came to visit because his grandfather had attended the Wade School and told stories about riding a horse to get there.

The Wade School as it is now, empty for most of the past 40 years, has a limited, though unspecified, future. The Baldwins plan to build a house there, incorporating as much of the old building as possible.

Missourian reporter Elise Catchings contributed to this report.


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