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Traveling Schoolhouses

Mullen Traveling Schoolhouse



Dwindling rural population and improved modes of transportation have brought the demise of many Nebraska school districts, along with a decline in the number of one-room schoolhouses. In the Nebraska Sand Hills the sparse population and distances between ranches posed the problem of locating a school where it would be convenient to the students. In 1935 Hooker County hit on the expedient of a schoolhouse on wheels that could be moved around the district. A photograph of one of these traveling schoolhouses appears in a master’s thesis by Mary Erna Motl, A Geographic Interpretation of Mullen: A Typical Nebraska Sandhills Community (1939). A query in 1966 from the Nebraska State Historical Society about the portable school brought the following response from Mullen Superintendent Paul E. Embree:



“According to Mr. Wayne Fitzgerald, a former Hooker County superintendent . . . the first trailer school was built in Hooker County in 1935. . . . They were built according to the specifications set up for stationary one-room country schools at that time. They were actually placed on wheels and moved about according to the needs of the children. Mr. Fitzgerald stated that actually these trailer schools were more comfortable because they were insulated and heated with an oil-burning stove. These schools were used in various parts of Hooker County and were also found in Cherry County and probably in Arthur and McPherson Counties. . . . One of these portable schools is still being used in an area about thirty miles southwest of Mullen. This building is on skids and is moved about on a truck when it is necessary to change its location. The area is on a sandhills trail and inaccessible to the regular school bus route. . . . One of the retired trailer schools is used as a snack shack at the football games here in Mullen.”

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