Let me share with you one of the Quad-City area's greatest secrets: Two of the best filmmakers in the United States are right here in our own backyard.
Spouses Tammy and Kelly Rundle of Fourth Wall Films in Moline have created yet another documentary gem. These two superb filmmakers write, direct and shoot - they do it all. And they do it with a love for the Midwest, depicting obscure and rare pieces of history with photos and video while interviewing historians and those who remember to develop a "You are there" tone.
Their follow-up to "Villisca: Living With a Mystery" and "Lost Nation: The Ioway" is "Country School: One Room - One Nation."
Some of you are too young to remember such schools first-hand. But I'll bet someone in your family can tell you tales handed down by a grandparent about the "one-room schoolhouse" experience. My dad loved to talk about the one-room school he attended in Nebraska, and he really did walk through terrible storms and knee-high snowdrifts to get there. Not surprisingly, both of the Rundles' fathers attended one-room schools.
"Country School" weaves together the narratives of historians and those who taught or were students at one-room schoolhouses, along with video segments and photos, including many of restored schoolhouses. In Iowa, 3,000 of these buildings remain, with 200 of them restored. Iowa, in fact, had almost 13,000 one-room schools at one time, more than any other state.
The schools were phased out in the 1950s and 1960s, but before that they were full of farm children and children of immigrant families. In the German immigrant schools, teachers often spoke both English and German so the children of newly arrived families could learn the language of their new country.
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The Rundles took two years to complete this movie, which portrays existing Midwest schools in a variety of conditions, from dilapidated to now-restored. Historians share their expertise along with those who attended and taught at the schools. The oral history is vivid and fascinating. It's intriguing to hear real-life stories of a school system that is vastly different from the one we know now and of teachers who were expected to teach every age, every ability and every subject while they kept the stove going in the winter and maintained order all year long.
The Rundles filmed throughout the seasons, so the audience gets a flavor of what it must have been like to walk to school through clover fields as well as snow. The settings are beautiful, and re-enactments make the schools come alive again as classrooms.
Incidentally, the movie was funded in part by Humanities Iowa, the Kansas Humanities Council, the Wisconsin Humanities Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area.
Please see this wonderful film, then visit with the Rundles and tell them how much you appreciate their fine work.