In the small town of Campbell, Minnesota, stands a large brick building with several tall evergreens in front of it. The building is the Campbell-Tintah School and it has been standing for 100 years.
Reed Johnson and Florie Steenbock were both teachers at the school in years gone by. Though they don’t teach there any longer, they still have a loyalty to the school they spent so many years at.
“I’ve been coming through that front entryway for 70 years,” Steenbock said. “I went to school here, my kids went to school here, I taught school here.”
She graduated from North Dakota State University in 1965 with a degree in home economics. She then taught home economics classes at the school in 1966, left for a few years and then came back.
Johnson went to school for education at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota and started teaching social studies at Campbell-Tintah in 1980, retiring in 2014.
A Family School
Teaching at Campbell-Tintah School was often a family affair. Johnson reminisced about how many couples worked at the school alongside each other.
“We had at least seven families where both of the couples worked here,” he said. Johnson told a story of how when he and his wife had 50 years between them he mentioned it to the principal at the time, Al Jensen, who said that it had also been 50 years for he and his wife. He then went to two other teachers and told them that he and the principal had 50 years apiece combined with their wives. Those two teachers told him that they had 52 and 53 years between them and their wives.
“At that time between the four couples that were here we had 205 years of education in this school,” he said.
According to Steenbock, the family atmosphere is not only limited to the teachers and staff.
“They’re a big family of kids, because it’s small enough where it’s a family school,” she said.
Attending Campbell-Tintah is something which has been passed down from generation to generation in Steenbock’s family. Her children attended the school and now her grandchildren do as well.
“The Campbell-Tintah school building is one hundred years old and has touched many lives over a century,” said Campbell-Tintah School principal/superintendent Kyle Edgerton. “A school becomes the heart of a small town; it tends to be more than a place to get an education, play sports or a place to work–it becomes a home.”
The Campbell-Tintah School did not always serve both Campbell and Tintah. For a while the elementary school was in Tintah and the high school was in Campbell, but a spring storm changed all of that.
“In May of ‘82 a tornado hit Tintah school and destroyed the school,” Johnson said. “There was no chance of saving it and so what they did is they made the additions here in ‘82 and K-12 was in this building.”
Steenbock explained that while they were building the addition there wasn’t enough room in the building for all of the classes. During the construction, they were forced to hold some fifth and sixth grade classes in two nearby churches.
“The merging of the two schools, when Tintah lost their school after the tornado was a very emotional time. More so, of course for Tintah because they lost their school but it was a hard thing in the community because when you lose your school it’s huge,” she said.
The tornado which destroyed the Tintah school is part of the story as to how Johnson and his wife met. She was originally a teacher at the Tintah School, but when the schools were forced to combine she and Johnson met, started dating and got married.
“Because of the tornado and the bringing together of all that, it brought together us also,” Johnson said. “I always said we have a whirlwind romance.”
The school was built in 1919, now hitting its 100th anniversary.
Johnson remembers walking up to the school when he was interviewed and thinking it looked old but then walking inside and thinking it looked new.
“It’s well taken care of, the employees take pride in this building,” Steenbock said. “It’s always polished and clean.”
Some things about the school have changed over the years. A larger gym was added in the late 1950s as well as the additions made with the joining of Campbell and Tintah schools in 1982.
Back in the days Johnson started there were about 220 students between the elementary and high schools, he said. Today there are roughly 145 students at the school, ranging from 4-year-olds up to twelfth graders, according to DeAnn Loll administrative assistant, office manager and secretary for the school. Their smallest class is six students and their largest is 15.
Rumors of the imminent closing of the school have circulated in years past. Johnson said that when he was interviewed in 1980 he asked how long the school was going to be around and they told him seven years.
“The rumors about this place shutting down have kind of ended,” he said. “Once we put the new heating system in here about six years ago that really stopped a lot of rumors because it was an expensive addition and people said, ‘they are in here for the long haul.’”
The children come from an area of about 30 miles by 21 miles, Johnson estimated. Loll explained that some of the teachers bring their children with them from wherever they live, from Wheaton, Hoffman and Fergus Falls, Minnesota.
“Campbell-Tintah Public School epitomizes a small rural community school and does an outstanding job of preparing students to take on the large world outside of Campbell, Minnesota,” Edgerton said. “We strive for academic excellence and putting out a quality product or graduate who is an asset to their community and country.”
The Campbell-Tintah School makes use of the Southeast Region Career and Technology Center and interactive television courses to give students more options for classes.
In honor of the school’s 100th anniversary, Johnson and Steenbock have organized a celebration. The event will be held from 5-7 p.m. Aug. 28 behind the school. There will be a light meal of hot dogs and refreshments provided. Sponsors of the event include Minn-Dak, Campbell Lions Club and Campbell Riverview Dairy.