By Starrla Cray
MAYER, MN For many former Zion Lutheran School students, the two-story brick building on Bluejay Avenue in Mayer holds a host of memories.
It all started in 1912, when Emil Ernst was called from Illinois to be the school’s first teacher. A small building was constructed, but as more students joined, the need for a larger building became apparent, according to the Mayer centennial book from 1986.
The old building was used for confirmation classes until 1941, when it was sold and moved, the school web site stated.
The present school site was purchased in 1915 for $1,000. The cornerstone laying of the school took place Aug. 15, 1920, and the building was dedicated Jan. 9, 1921.
Olvern Vinkemeier, who lives near Mayer, attended Zion Lutheran School in grades 5-8, and was confirmed in 1940.
“I think that was the first year confirmation was in English instead of German,” she said. Vinkemeier said she remembers having Ernst as a teacher. Ernst, who taught until 1946, also took care of all the yard work, she said.
A classmate of Vinkemeier’s, Louis Honebrink, Jr., said there used to be a room in the basement on the south end of the school that connected to a well.
“It was called the well room,” he said. “There was no city water at that time.”
Honebrink also said that the furnace room opened to a coal bin on the northwest corner of the school.
“It was all heated with coal,” he said, adding that it was Ernst’s responsibility to put coal in the furnace in the morning.
When Carver County Historical Society librarian Marlene Magnuson attended school at Zion in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the main floor had a medium-sized classroom for grades 1-4, a room for confirmation classes, a furnace room, and a bathroom.
Upstairs, there was a large classroom for grades 5-8, along with a storage room and two cloak rooms.
Stairs were located at the south end of the building, but have since been moved to the north side, she said.
In 1977, a separate structure was added to the north of the building, with two classrooms, an office, a gym, shower rooms, and storage space. The gym also served as a lunchroom and a location for large gatherings. In 1988, the two buildings were joined together.
Marlene Jopp, another former Zion Lutheran student, has many fond memories of the school.
“I remember the last day of eighth grade,” Jopp said. “We had just finished a water balloon fight and were waiting for our parents to pick us up. I happened to be the last one, and I remember sitting outside thinking that this part of my life was over. I thought I’d never be back here, and it was kind of sad.”
Little did Jopp know, however, that she would later become the office manager at the same school.
Jopp’s father, Kenneth Schuette, as well as Jopp’s two sons, also went to the school, making Zion a family tradition. Jopp, who has worked at the school for 23 years, said she graduated eighth grade with 14 students. “We were all just like a family,” she said.
When the Mayer centennial book was published in 1986, 59 students were enrolled in kindergarten through eighth grade, with 21 in nursery school. Now, there are 106 students from preschool through eighth grade.
Although remodeling of the 1920s building has modernized the appearance inside, the outside of the building still looks similar to when it was first built, Jopp said.