East Star #2 Featured in Oil Painting at Pawnee City Historic Site
By Susan Fineman
A visit to the Pawnee City Historic Site in Nebraska allows you to truly, "Travel Back in Time," as their sign promises. Here you can visit a village of 21 preserved structures including the Whitney Barn, the Curtis pioneer house, a log cabin, and of particular interest to CSAA, six schoolhouses re-purposed to showcase artifacts of days gone by.
Attendees at the CSAA 18th Annual Country School Conference held in Beatrice, NE visited Pawnee City during their bus tour of Nebraska one-room schools and took their own step back in time. Pawnee City School #1 is displayed as a blacksmith shop, Cracker Box School is outfitted as a working country school, and Lower West Branch # 20 serves as a museum for a variety of artifacts including an advertising stage curtain. Gravel Hill #5 finds it second life as a library, the East Star School #72 has become the Chapel outfitted with a steeple, and the Kennedy School #13 takes the role of the country store! History enthusiasts everywhere would enjoy a field trip to this complex in Pawnee City.
Among the thousands of historic items that beckoned our attention, one item particularly caught my eye...a contemporary painting by one Fred Bohm...a nostalgic scene of a one-room country school and the shenanigans of the scholars who attended it. Coming from New Hampshire I was immediately drawn to Fred's artwork reminiscent of Vermont's Grandma Moses and her grandson Will Moses. The rendering of life in the country, of childhood memories, small town schooling, and schoolyard antics fill the canvas in vivid color and simplicity. I stepped back into that canvas schoolyard listening to the laughter and the excitement of children at play.
The detail is endearing! Here stands the schoolhouse, East Star #2, capped by her bell and flanked by the American flag waving proudly in the breeze. The teacher calls to her charges from the doorway. Distant treetops peek over the vast Nebraska horizon. Cornfields mark the perimeters of the schoolyard while a wayward patch of sunflowers cheers the corner near the outhouses. One girl plies the path to the girls' outhouse, while a boy emerges from the boys' outhouse fastening the bib to his bluejeans, another waiting crosslegged for his turn.
The children are active at a number of pursuits, playing marbles, drawing water from the pump, waving to the visiting farmer on horseback, tiptoeing onto the end of a seesaw, reaching to the sky on a swing, and sharing the merry-go-round. A close look reveals a girl experimenting with a magnifying glass, the sun, and the back of her hand. OUCH! A naughty boy raises a pea shooter taking aim at an unsuspecting classmate. A newspaper blowing in the wind gives a hint of chronology with the headline, "LANDON FRONT RUNNER TO CANDIDATE ROOSEVELT." The painting is captivating in its playful portrayal of life in a Nebraska schoolhouse.
My visit to Pawnee was too short to gather any information on the artist Fred Bohm, but I would appreciate any information readers may have so we might thank him for his delightful work of art!