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Elementary Follies

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“More valuable than single representations are a series of connected tableaux or scenes, arranged by the teacher, but presented by the pupils. Such a series may be presented in the form of a historical entertainment for the parents and friends of pupils. The value of an entertainment of this kind is, that in this way one may picture for the eye the growth of certain ideas or tendencies from which great and important changes have come. To make the idea of development clear in the mind of the pupil is the great end and aim of all history teaching, and in this work the eye is the teacher’s most faithful and efficient servant.”
– “Historical Pageants, State Normal School, Fitchburg, Mass.” 1911

The McHenry County Historical Society's production of "Elementary Follies" raised $3,000 for the renovation of the 1867 Pringle School in Marengo.

The original drama crafted by retired historical society administrator Nancy Fike and staged at the county historical museum on Aug. 12 and 14,  re-created a century pageant … as portrayed by adults portraying schoolchildren. This fundraiser is being staged to raise money for the repair and restoration of the foyer and adjoining storage/cloakroom area at Pringle School in Marengo.

The Pringle School site at 2516 River Road, once belonged to Patterson Pringle. The 1867 one-room school is built of limestone, quarried at Garden Prairie and transported by wagon. Children of Scottish settlers attended the simple school, then in District 139. Enrollment fluctuated between 10 and 25 students until the 1940s.

Books were scarce, even dictionaries often were not available. In the early history of the schools there was a fall and winter session attended by boys after harvest and before spring planting season. A summer session was held which was mostly attended by girls. The students carried on attendance well into their teens, as there were no high schools. Many of Marengo’s early community leaders were products of this educational system, passing from the local district, directly to higher education.

Consolidation of one-room schools began in the 1920s in this county, but many McHenry County schools consolidated in 1947 after a school report condemned the quality of country school education and rising costs. Pringle School operated until 1951 when it became part of the Hawthorn School District 17.

 “These pageants were all about what made McHenry County great,” Fike said. “We’re going to have miniature flags. We’re going to sing “In the Sweet By and By.” We want audience participation. We’re not going to let people just sit there. They are going to be a community. They are going to be part of it.”

The school building was purchased by Melba Brewington, a Chicago connoisseur of antiques, art, and glassware. She used the building as a home until her death in 1967, when it was purchased by the DiBona family of Marengo. The McHenry County Historical Society acquired Pringle School from Laurie DiBona in November 2002.

Special thanks to cast members: Kurt Begalka, Bill, Sara and Tim Bligh, Ann and Ed Bormett, Bill Busse, Tom George, Sue Draffkorn, Herb Franks, Dave Gelwicks, John Green, Mary Ellen Heelan, Jim Heisler,  Karen and Orrin Kinney, John Lieb, Don Lockhart, Alice Nulle, Bob Nunamaker, Ed O'Brien, Preston Rea,  Ed Urban, Betty Waytula, stage manager Kathie Comella and director Nancy Fike. Thanks also to the supporting cast of  Bill Dysart, Lynne Eltrevoog, Dave Harms,  Bob Lee, Pat Lofgren, Robert Novak, Judith Porter and Don Rose.

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