St. Joseph School History

The cornerstone for St. Joseph School located in Tawas City (on the site now occupied by St. Joseph Bone and Joint Center) was laid in 1905. During Father Thomas Albin’s pastorate (1914-1920) the school, which then consisted of four classrooms occupied by eight grades and a chapel in the basement was finished. The Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids taught all the grades and lived in a convent directly behind the school.

In 1920, the ninth grade was added to St. Joseph School with the tenth grade following in 1922. Having attained a full twelve grades by 1924, the first graduating class from St. Joseph school consisted of: Roseann Gauthier, James Herrick, Russel Klenow, Joseph Klish, Richter Lixey, Phyllis Marontate, Stanley Noel, and Leo Zimmeth.

When Father Edward A. Brogger became pastor in 1921, he brought a love of sports of to the children and school and coached baseball, basketball and football. His teams were outstanding with St. Joseph High School winning the basketball championship in 1924 in both county and city tournaments. Also, the school had a successful baseball team in 1927 and took bi-county honors in football in 1928 and then baseball in 1929-30.

In addition to Fr. Brogger’s sports enthusiasm, music appreciation came to the forefront by way of St. Joseph’s orchestra with its director being Sr. Alexine.

“In June 1930, a young priest full of personality and friendliness crept into the hearts of the parishioners and aided in the prosperity of the church and improvement of the school,” states the “Tribute to Father Kirchoff” in the 1038 St. Joseph High School yearbook entitled “Bay Breezes”.

It was 1940 when the St. Joseph High School won the Class D District Basketball Championship.

The class of 1942 with its thirteen graduates was the last class to graduate from St. Joseph High School. The high school grades were all dropped the ensuing years.

With the enrollment of grades one through eight steadily increasing from 57 in 1943 to 95 in 1945, Fr. Neuman announced the return of the ninth grade beginning September 1946. The tenth grade followed suits and thusly brought the school enrollment up to 140 pupils.

Back-tracking for a minute thouh, we find a very special event taking place at the school on October 24, 1945. That is when the Infant Jesus became the Little Patron of St. Joseph School. With great ceremony in the school chapel in the presence of the entire school body, the statue of the Infant Jesus was blessed.

In the last week of November, 1946, the reorganization of the Sodality of Mary in the upper grades took shape in the hope of doing more to honor Mary.

The 1948-1949 school year found much happening with the addition of the tenth grade. A classroom was arranged in the basement of the school and a lay teacher, Mrs. Bouchard, was enlisted to teach grades five and six.

October of 1948 saw the reorganization of the Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) which had been discontinued for many years. So too, the reanimation of “St. Joseph Echoes”, the school paper came to type, A hot lunch program was begun in January of 1949 and was followed by the revival of the May Procession and Crowning honoring Our Blessed Mother Mary.

Spring found the school as well as the entire parish celebrating Fr. Neuman’s thirty-five years of priestly service.

During Christmas break of 1949, a new steel and gold Tabernacle was installed in the school chapel, and the Sacramental Presence was at long last in the school to stay. The dream of years had finally become reality, and each class met there once a day to say the rosary.

Early in May the Annual Perch Festival was held, but the wind was so fierce and there was such a sand storm that no fishing or boating took place and many of the floats were too ruined to venture out. It was during this storm that one of the sisters christened the convent, “The-Rock-a-Bye-Cottage-on-the-Windy-Mile.”

Noteworthy in the 1950-1951 school year was the May Crowning celebration which was presented by the school children to give special meaning to the holiness and purity of Our Blessed Mother Mary. Joan Look VanSumeran, dressed as a miniature bride complete with flowing gown and long veil, did the actual crowning.

With the enrollment up to 150 in 1951, Mrs. Russell Klenow was hired to teach grades three and four, and later became the school’s musical coordinator. In the Spring, Fr. Neuman was called to Saginaw to the Chancery office and informed that the parish was being divided with the church in East Tawas retaining Fr. Neuman, and the one being formed in Tawas City getting a new pastor.

The 1952-1953 school year saw 157 students in grades one through ten even though the churches were separated. A new, beautiful outdoor Crib was made by the high school student to increase the visual presence of the Manger Scene at Christmas.

It was another wonderful celebration for Fr. Neuman in April of 1954, as not only did one hundred priests come to attend Father’s Fortieth Jubilee Mass, but so too did the school children present Father Neuman with the Living Rosary.

The year 1954 also saw the last of grades nine and ten due to lack of room.

The 1954-1955 school year found a wonderfully odd phenomenon in St. Joseph School. Among 148 children enrolled, there was a set of twins in each room. Actually, there was a total of five sets of twins. In 1955, two years after the construction of the new St. Joseph Church, the old building was converted into the parish Social Center. This was followed by a move of the Sisters in Tawas City to a house on the corner of Lincoln and Wilkinson Streets in East Tawas (since demolished). This move became more advantageous once the new St. Joseph School was completed just down the block, adjacent to the new church. The actual dedication of the school took place in May, 1958. However, classes were still being held for our Catholic students in Tawas City (with an enrollment of 100) as well as East Tawas (with an enrollment of 153). This arrangement took several twists when in 1965-1966 the consolidation of the two schools took place. It was decided that grades three, five and seven were to be held at St. Joseph School, and grades two, four, and six were to be held at Immaculate Heart of Mary. Grade one was re-instated in in the 1966-1967 school term, and the seventh grade dropped. Once again another changed was forthcoming in 1967-1968 when grades one through three were to be held in Tawas City at IHM, and grades four through six held at St. Joe’s in East Tawas.

Finally, on December 16, 1968, a meeting was held and due to financial difficulties, Immaculate Heart of Mary was not to be opened in the Fall of the following year, and St. Joseph School, only on a limited basis. And so, in September of 1969, St. Joseph School opened with grades one through six and a debatable future.

Things picked up when Fr. Rushman came to the parish in 1970 and actively taught two religion classes daily at the school. So as to perpetuate an educational and spiritual awareness for our public school children as well, the CCD program was begun September 18, 1972.

A highlighted feature for the children of St. Joseph School in 1974 came during the Christmas season when they had their Christmas program taped and then played locally over the FM radio station, as well as in church. “Twas a job well done!

In 1975 Fr. Murphy happened on the parish scene as its new pastor with Deacon Jim arriving in January of 1976 to help out and stay until his ordination Also, in May of 1976, one of St. Joseph School’s patrol boys, Jeff Blust, won a free trip to Washington, D.C.

During the 1976-1977 school year a committee was formed to seek what further building priorities were needed by the parish, such as a multi-purpose educational/social building. Significant to the girls of the school that term was the decision of the Board of Education to have the girls discontinue the wearing of uniforms to school.

Throughout the years and continuing up to the present, many St. Joseph School children entered various civic and community sponsored events and contests and fared very well. This was especially true of several youngsters who walked off with top honors for 4-H projects they submitted in April of 1977.

In 1979 we find the new school addition and social center being blessed, and the development of a pre-school Sunday school program for our three to five year olds by Ron and Lorraine Justin; in 1980, Sr. Rose Miriam initiating and Adult Scripture class; and in 1981, Fr. Patrick Barrett becoming pastor of St. Joseph Parish.

(All the above is from 100 Year of Unity – St. Joseph Parish Centennial celebration)


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