FS Fallasburg Stories
Note: This is a new series that highlights stories from the sleepy village of Fallasburg located in northeast Kent County, Michigan. Feel free to contribute in any way you can. Tell us your story or email Emma at firstname.lastname@example.org for an interview.
Lowell resident Ronald Topolski encounters the best and the worst teachers at the one-room Fallasburg School
By Emma Palova
Lowell, MI- Ronald Topolski lives only three miles south of the Fallasburg village where he went to the one-room school in the mid 1950s.
Topolski recalled having the rheumatic fever, so he had to take the second grade over.
“First I had Mrs. Postma,” he said, “and she was the best teacher I ever had.”
There were beehives above the bell in the school’s belfry. The bell rang to start the school day that ran usually from 8 or 8: 30 a.m. to 3 to 4 p.m.
Topolski lived up the hill from the Fallasburg Covered Bridge about a quarter of a mile from the school. The family owned 50 acres.
Kids were, are and always will be the same, just like when the school in Fallasburg started in 1867.
“I was always the defiant one,” he said.
Playing games at the field, Topolski told the other kids to stay outside even though the new teacher called everyone in to resume the classes. Mrs. Denny wasn’t anything like Mrs. Postma.
“She used a ruler to get the class back in order and cracked the whip,” he said. “She called all the parents. Mrs. Denny was the worst teacher I ever had.”
The one-room school went through eighth grade with an average of 20 kids. And Topolski knew all of them. Now, this wasn’t unusual in the village of Fallasburg where neighbors knew each other. He went to school with the Organek kids, the Towers, the Fairfields and many more.
“It was altogether a different world,” he said. “We were taught the basics at school.”
They played games just like kids nowadays; baseball and basketball. In winter, the kids went sliding down the hill in the back of the school.
Topolski remembers the pot belly stove in the classroom and the outhouse.
“You had to bundle up if you wanted to go,” he said.
So, after Topolski completed the fourth and fifth grade at the Fallasburg School, he finished sixth grade in downtown Lowell. Later, he lived in Six Lakes and went to seventh grade in Clarksville and eighth grade in Beckwith in Grand Rapids. And that’s where Topolski finally ran into Mrs. Postma after looking for her previously in vain.
“We were both astounded to meet each other,” he said. “I went into her room and we had a chance to reminisce about old days at the school.”
Topolski graduated from Lakeview School in 1963. He went to community college. After college, he worked for American Seating Co. for 27 years. The company made church pews, theatre seats and baseball stadium seating.
Then he worked for Magna Donnelly and retired in 2006 at 62.
His daughter Michelle Powell got married at the Fallasburg schoolhouse in 1992. Topolski and Powell have gone back to the schoolhouse since the wedding.
“Michelle took kids out there,” he said. “I feel it’s important to preserve the school and the village. It’s a piece of history.”
Topolski, who has 19 grandchildren, said he feels very strongly about preserving the historical buildings for future generations.
“It’s nice not to level it and put up some big buildings,” he said.
Living in Fallasburg, Topolski had a lot of fun along with the other kids like Raymond Fairfield. When farmers came down the hill with a wagon of hay, Topolski and Fairfield jumped from the Covered Bridge into the hay. They rolled off the wagon into the gravel.
“Everybody knew everybody’s business,” he said. “We listened to stories. We didn’t have a lot of toys.
Topolski volunteered to take tours and children through the schoolhouse when it opens for the season in May on Sundays from 2p.m. to 4 p.m.
“I’d like to show how people lived before all this technology and talk to kids about some of my experiences,” he said.
If you want to volunteer go to www.fallasburg.org or call Ken Tamke at 1-616-682-0785. Sign up to become a member on the website.
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