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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A family tradition

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Grandmother, great-grandson graduate from Thayer High School 70 years apart

THAYER -- This year's graduation is extra special for a local family.

Barbara McHalffey Prantl graduated from Thayer High School May 14, 1936. Her great-grandson, John Tollenaar, will graduate from Thayer High School May 13, 2006, 69 years and 364 days after she did.

Prantl, 87, lives at Brandsville. She was born in Washington, D.C. Her family moved to Cave City and then to Oregon County. She started her education at Alton Elementary School but her family moved to Thayer. Her second grade year found her enrolled at Thayer Elementary School. She remembers her teacher, Miss Mitchell.

"I was scared when I first started school at Thayer. I can remember I didn't know anything about cheating and we were having a spelling test and I kept my words out. The teacher accused me of cheating. She hit me on the back with a ruler. It hurt. They don't do that anymore," Prantl said.

Prantl said her graduation was a lot like what she expects John's to be.

"We had caps and gowns. I wore a dress that day that I had made in homeec," she said. Miss Ross was her home economics teacher. She said home economics was not like it is now. "All they taught was cooking and sewing," she said.

The old high school building where Prantl graduated was located on Chestnut Street where the Christian Activity Center is now. Her family lived in a home where Dr. and Mrs. Fiorino now live on Chestnut Street.

"We didn't live very far from the school so we walked. I think Thayer School may have had one school bus that ran down to Old Town," Prantl said.

There were 29 students who graduated from Thayer in 1936. "We were the first class to graduate from the new high school. It was built during the Depression," she said.

She said music was first started at Thayer School when she was in the sixth grade. She loved it. Her music teacher was Lucille Johnson from Haiti, Mo.

"(When I was) a freshman, the school started the first football team at Thayer. Louis Bozman was the coach. I remember him coming to class and explaining the game and rules to us," she said.

After graduation Prantl married and had three children, six grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren. She said to her knowledge none of the girls in her class sought higher education. "Some of the boys went to college at Rolla. Most of them ended up in the Army. It wasn't long before World War II started," she said.

Tollenaar went to school at Koshkonong until the eighth grade. His dad, John Sr. got a teaching job at Thayer and the family decided John would to go to school at Thayer.

"I have been looking forward to this (graduation) since John started school at Thayer five years ago," his great grandmother said.

Tollenaar has 36 classmates. He said his graduating from the same school as his great grandmother many years later is a big deal.

"This doesn't happen every day. To graduate from the same school on nearly the same day as your great grandmother 70 years later is unique," he said. "That kind of gives us a special tie."

Tollenaar has received a scholarship to play baseball at Drury University in Springfield. He plays the positions of catcher and outfield. He said he will be studying to be a physical therapist.

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