One-Room School Urban Legends

I recently stopped at one-room school museum that I had never been at before. There it was, my old nemisis “Rules for Teachers 1872” staring up at me. If you haven’t run across this old chesnut before or its sibling the “Eighth Grade Exam of 1895” count yourself very lucky. Here’s the links to information about them.


I have known people for years who’ve tried to find one instance of either of these being used in an actual school and if anyone has one I would be most glad to see it. However, even if they were proved to be used in some school, some time, they still are an ill fit for most of the school museums that proudly display them. Please DON’T pass them on.



Hoover Library – Mysteries of History

I finally made it over to the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum on Wednesday night. Now through August every Wednesday night admission is free from 5-8 and you can view on their big screen an episode of the best Dick Tracy serial.

I had been really looking forward to seeing this exhibit and I’m glad that I finally made it over. I will definitely be back before it ends. The Hoover Museum exhibits are original and if you don’t see them there you won’t see them anywhere else. Among the many, many things to see were Amelia Earhart’s jacket, casts of big foot prints, a piece of a flag sewn by Betsy Ross, and a gun identical to the one that Oswald used. There was also stuff melted by the Great Chicago Fire and items from the Dallas doctor that should have preformed the autopsy on JFK. Not to mention that Marilyn Monroe’s swimsuit is making a return appearence. I was surprised that whether Rose Wilder Lane really wrote the Little House books or not wasn’t included (she didn’t, but it would have been a great excuse to show some of the papers that Hoover houses), but other than that I really enjoyed it. It was also a chance to remember the Oklahoma City bombing victims and see on TV all over again the Twin Towers fall. As I said, I’m going back before it ends and I think you should too. 😉

I’d also like to mention that this fall will see the return of a long time staple the two day Hoover symposium. It had been sorely missing in recent years, one of the last being the highly successful 1998 conference on Laura Ingalls Wilder. However, this fall it will return again with the topic of Iowa baseball. I can’t clear my schedule for the dates in August, but if you can you should go and tell them what topic you would like to see next year!

Sarah Uthoff

Book – Frindle by Andrew Clements

“Frindle” is a book nearing classic status in children’s literature that I hadn’t read yet, so I recently picked it up. It’s a book about the power of words and the relationship between teachers and students. Nick, a boy with powerful ideas, learns one day that words have meaning because we all agree that they mean what they do. He decides to invent a new word “frindle” to replace the word pen. He gets his whole class to go along and suddenly frindle is sweeping the nation. I won’t reveal how far it goes, but it’s certainly a good depiction of the power of words.

It also has an interesting subplot in the relationship between Nick and his English teacher. Is there battle of wills really what he thinks? Is she really the villan? This book is sure to provoke some good discussion.

Sarah Uthoff

Laura Ingalls Wilder Patch

I’ve gotten a couple of questions about the Girl Scout Patch Day I chaired at Ushers Ferry Historic Village in Cedar Rapids. We didn’t design the actual patch or create their standards. I didn’t design the actual badge requirements, I just created the best ways we could get meet the requirements and give the girls the best possible experience. As with all Laura events I’m involved with my two guiding principles are 1) would I haved liked to attend this event and 2) would this be something Laura could be proud of.
We designed a day of fun and interesting activities that met enough of the requirements so that if each Girl Scout read one of the books on her own or with a parent and attended the one day workshop, she would qualify for the patch.

I’ve gotten questions on how a group can get the patches. How we ran it at Ushers Ferry was that we got each girl a certificate of completion (designed by staff member Ann Cejka). Each girl was then responsible to get there own patch because one of the requirements was reading one of the ACTUAL Wilder books, not the simplifications, and we couldn’t do that in the group setting in one day.
The Mississippi Valley Girl Scouts actually produce the patches, but they seem
pretty happy to sell them to anybody. Here’s a link to them.

Here are their updated requirements.

Links updated 5/3/2012

Movie: Nancy Drew Movie

What Would Nancy Drew Do?**Spoilers Possible** I recently got the chance to see the new 2007 Nancy Drew movie starring Emma Roberts. I came away marveling that they managed to get it made. Unlike the absolute mess of the last attempt in 2002 (which seemed to have as much of a grasp of what people liked about Nancy Drew as the pitiful Dukes of Hazzard movie did about what people liked about that show), this one touched all the bases. I could have done without the subplot where Nancy has to deal with “normal” teenagers in LA, but I was amazed how little Hollywood managed to mess things up.

Nancy is the absolutely brilliant, super nice, supremely compotent, good at everything heroine we’ve always known. The world she lives in seems to be the one from the books with all the rules intact with the addition of cell phones and digital recorders. She makes her own clothes and they look fairly 1960s (“I like old things”). She wears penny loafers (“they’re practical”) and drives a little blue convertible. There’s a mysterious and gruff caretaker who may or may not be behind all the trouble. There’s a ghost who we think might be real, but turns out not to be. There’s a secret passage. Bess and George and Hannah Gruehen make brief appearances at the beginning and I wanted more of them. Best of all, in honor of Mildred Wirt Benson’s take on Nancy Drew, Nancy is trying to recover a lost will (hidden in a secret compartment) in order to restore a fortune to its rightful and good owner who has been unfairly kept from it by an evil man. Also, the theme of Nancy missing her mother while she was growing up was nicely handled (“my mother is always a mystery to me”).

On top of that there are some great cameos. Barry Bostwick, Bruce Willis, and Adam Goldberg were all perfect. I also liked the subplot about Ned and Nancy trying to figure out how the other one feels about them. Ned is deprived of one typical role as the muscle on the team, but trying to figure out Nancy and how she is dealing with her new life in California does give him something to do and despite what I’ve read in reviews I thought added to his personality and created some pretty funny reaction shots as he tries to figure what’s up with Corky.

Carson Drew seems to be a little more bumbling (not so smooth and is actually captured and stuffed in a trunk at one point) and he is a lot more concerned about Nancy than in the books. He always did seem a little unconcerned about what danger she might be in, except in very rare instances. It was sort of like he was in on the rules that nothing seriously bad could happen to Nancy or her main friends. It was always Hannah who worried and I think Hannah coming with them to California could have balanced this out a little better. Also, the actual danger Nancy was in was up a little from the books. However, that’s nitpicking, this movie is a great tribute to Nancy Drew. It was clearly put together by someone who loved Nancy Drew and really understood what people like about her. While there is some light comedy, it’s laughing with Nancy and never at her.

Please go and see this movie in the theater. We want Hollywood to be rewarded for making this type of movie, so they will make more.

Last Updated July 14 2018: I added my current signature block. I changed the formatting on Dukes of Hazzard to italics to match current formatting. I also added the photo.

Sarah S. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many times at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. She is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic, and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. How can you help? Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, look at her photos, and find her on Facebook , Twitter , Google+LinkedIn , SlideShare, and . Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and former director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

Visiting Wilder Researcher at Hoover

Connie Neumann, until very recently a school librarian, has been celebrating her retirement with a journery around the Laura sites. She’s been spending a few days researching at Hoover and I’m very glad that I got a chance to meet up with her while she is there. Connie lives in Colorado and I don’t think anybody else knows as much about the Ingalls-Wilder-Lane connections to Colorado than Connie. She has been especially focused on the Freedom School with its “Rose Wilder Lane Hall” whose photograph is prominently featured in the museum at Rocky Ridge. Welcome back to West Branch Connie and we hope we’ll see you back here real soon.

Sarah Uthoff

50th Anniversary Celebration in DeSmet

Very sadly, I was forced to cancel my trip to DeSmet for the 50th Anniversary celebration last Friday. I hope some of you were more fortunate. However, DeSmet seems to be making many, many changes and if you haven’t been in awhile plan to make a return trip very soon. If you get “The Homesteader,” I wrote up an article all about all the anniversary activity this year and there’s a lot of it. To stick to DeSmet for now, there is now a new monument in Manchester to the town, the first school has been moved over by the Surveyors House, a mirror has been suspended above the stairs of the Surveyors House so you can see the upstairs and the kitchen and upstairs of the Third Street house has been redone. I’m pretty sure I won’t get back there this summer, but I hope to get back soon.

 Sarah S. Uthoff