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Estherville class of 1953

By Staff | Oct 1, 2008

Fondly remembering the kindness of Margaret Maniece are fromt left, Wayne King, Gene Heiman, Connie Kint Greig, Janet Higinbotham Hart and David Klinefelter. EDN photo by Mary Ann Menendez

It was a golden moment in visiting with the members of the Estherville High School Class of 1953 who gathered together the weekend of Sept. 26-28 for their 55th reunion.

A few of them brought more than friendship memories and nostalgic photos. They brought favorite reminiscences of their Jackson Elementary School Principal Margaret Maniece.

“Margaret Maniece was a wonderful teacher,” remembered David Klinefelter who now resides in Des Moines. “I went to deaf school for first and second grade. When I attended Jackson School for third grade, I didn’t pass.”

He said Miss Maniece went the extra mile to give him the best chance possible at his education. “She would work with me after school every day for an hour and go over words such as bed, bread, head. She had a lot of patience. I never liked school but my mom would not let me quit.” Klinefelter left Estherville in 1959.

Another classmate who calls Slayton, Minn., home, Janet Higinbotham Hart only spent three semesters at Jackson School with Miss Maniece before her family relocated to a home on Fourth Avenue North. While she never had any direct conversation with the principal, Hart also remembered her kind and caring ways.

But Gene Heiman, now of Los Angeles, Calif., had many stories to share. “My dad was also taught by Margaret Maniece.”

But Heiman can remember being sent to first grade by his mother. “I went for three days before I was kicked out of school. On her walk home one day after school, Miss Maniece told my mother I was too young to be in school. So I got to repeat the first three days of school the next year.”

Probably not a fond memory was how Miss Maniece pushed the Palmer Method for cursive writing.

“I could never do it!” said Heiman, who attended Jackson School for first through fourth grades. “But there was no one kinder at Jackson than Margaret Maniece.”

In meeting Heiman, it was easy to see how he could have been the tallest child in the class and at the school. Perhaps it was that height that brought him his 15 minutes of fame as a first grade student at Jackson. He remembers the incident well.

“When I was in the first grade, I was pulled out of class by Mr. Demoney who was the superintendent at the time. He needed a tall student to help measure Jackson School because the thought was the walls were going to collapse.”

From Estherville, he went to Iowa State University and graduated in 1957.

Listening to the remembrances of Klinefelter and Hart, Margaret Maniece had a yearly May Pole with ribbons which the students wound around and around, over and under until the entire pole was decorated.

In fact Hart had forgotten all about the May 1 activity until her childhood friend remembered it.

Estherville’s Wayne King added, “She helped everyone out. If they didn’t have mittens or hats, she made sure they did. She treated every student equally and us south-enders really appreciated her.”

Connie Kint Greig, also of Estherville, said Margaret Maniece was the principal who also taught third grade at Jackson. One attribute that stands out in Greig’s mind is that she was a great communicator.

“One rule I remember is students could not bring toys to school and I think it was because she wanted everyone to feel equal. We especially could not bring marbles to school!”

The principal made sure to bring joy into the lives of her students, especially at Christmas.

Greig said, “Every Christmas her third grade class put on a one-act play from Charles Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol.”

Greig said first, second and fourth grade students watched the production. One lucky first grade student was selected annually to play the part of Tiny Tim. “This was our Christmas party and were given nuts and candy after watching the play.”

Greig also remembers the second grade band that Miss Maniece orchestrated. “The instruments were not what you think erasers had sandpaper attached to make the scratchy noise for rhythm and there were triangles and some sort of drums.”

She summed up Maniece’s attitude toward her teaching career as well as her civic duty by saying, “Margaret Maniece believed in helping kids who needed the most help.”

That help, obviously, came in many forms which helped every student and humanity in general.

From the class of 1953 which graduated 99, Diane Gibbs Wenthe of York, Penn., Don Hudson of Jupiter, Fla., and Heiman of California traveled the farthest to reconnect with former classmates and friends. The group spent quality time together Friday evening, twice on Saturday and once on Sunday.