Your Historical Galion: Old school bell the source of many pranks


By Bernard M. Mansfield, M.D. - Galion History Center



Pictured is the Union School, which until 1925 was located on site of the old Galion Middle School. With the construction of a new school campus, the middle school was demolished circa 2008. The Galion City Schools sold the lot to the James S. Rhodebeck Family who, in turn, donated the land to the Galion History Center. Two cupolas can be seen on the roof of the Union School, one of which, housed the school bell featured in today’s article.

Pictured is the Union School, which until 1925 was located on site of the old Galion Middle School. With the construction of a new school campus, the middle school was demolished circa 2008. The Galion City Schools sold the lot to the James S. Rhodebeck Family who, in turn, donated the land to the Galion History Center. Two cupolas can be seen on the roof of the Union School, one of which, housed the school bell featured in today’s article.


Galion History Center

GALION — In 1925, the old Union School was razed. From 1868 until 1925 this was Galion’s only public school building. When it was finally torn down to make room for the present Galion Middle School (previously called West School and then Junior High School), the old school bell was the only remaining memento.

Mrs. Fern Ness recently sent us a letter and information about that old bell as it was remembered in 1925. I recall standing with my grandfather watching the demolition, but have no memory of the bell. Here is the Inquirer’s report on the history:

“The Was School building located on the site of the present Junior High School was razed last year to make way for the new building. The old building was originally known as the Union School. The corner stone was laid in 1868 and in the fall of the following year the building was ready for occupancy…

“It was erected at the approximate cost of $120,000 and at the time there was much talk about graft in connection with its construction.

“In common with many of those who attended the old West building and were summoned to their studies daily (by the sound of the old school bell), was Mr. Fred Row who has been for the preservation of the old bell.)

“Like many other he wants it conspicuously somewhere as a monument to the old building in which thousands of children obtained their education.

“It is not generally known, but Mr. Row is somewhat of a poet, and when the old school bell was in danger of being cast into oblivion, he invoked the muse and wrote a poem entitled

‘The Old School Bell.’ Recently, Prof. RR Erhart, supervisor of music of the public schools, set the words to music and also wrote it’s orchestration.

“Last night during community singing, Mr. Row’s poem was sung in public and was sung with much enthusiasm.” The rather long sentimental poem then followed.

The verse might have left something to be desired, but the point is that many Galion people were interested enough to want to preserve a Galion relic.

And one of the High School classes, that of 1926, was concerned enough about the disposition of the bell that they approached the Board of Education with a plan. The class proposed that the school place the old bell in a special bell tower that the class would finance and build. It was suggested that the bell be rung on special occasions, “such as athletic victories and championship games.” The Board of Education turned down the offer.

Instead, according to historian Miriam Sayre, who was a member of that high school class, the was placed in an old shed south of the Junior High building. It reposed there for many years, with students occasionally going inside to throw stones at it to hear it ring.

Miriam recently related some stories about the old Union School bell. It was hung in one of the top cupolas on top of the school, the one on the south side.

The bell rope hung down for the south stairway into the assembly room on the third floor. This room was also used as the chapel. Miriam once tried to ring it, forgetting to let go of the rope. She discovered the tonnage of the bell was greater than her 100 pound body and she found herself unexpectedly and suddenly raising to the ceiling.

The assembly room was a place for a lot of student mischief over the years, Miriam said. It was the place a cow was discovered the morning after Halloween and another time a fully assembled farm wagon was found sitting there. “It had to be completely disassembled to get it out of there,” Miriam laughed. “The cow was a different problem and it was with great difficulty that the animal was finally guided back down the stairway.”

Miriam’s brother, Howard Sayre, and classmate Robert Yochem, devised a clever plan to ring the school bell after dark. “Mac” McCammon, the school custodian, lived not far from the school and if pranksters rang the bell at night, he would hurry to the school to investigate.

Yochem and Sayre decided that that was too good an opportunity to miss. Yochem worked at Marsh Photo Studio and snuck out yards and yards of fine picture wire one afternoon by wrapping it around his waist after work.

One night they climbed up into the cupola of the roof and tied one end of the long wire to the bell clapper, throwing the other end to the ground outside of the building. They crawled up into a nearby tree with the loose end and waited until after midnight.

A strong yank on the long cord moved the clapper and the bell rang once or twice. McCammon threw on some clothes and came dashing over to the school. He went up to the top floor, found no one, and couldn’t see the fine wire that snaked up to the bell tower overhead.

The boys let Mac get home and presumably in bed, and rang the bell again. Again Mac came over, went through the entire performance and still found no one. He called the police who responded by searching the entire building and finding no one. Again the bell was sounded, much to the consternation of the search party, who again could find nothing amiss.

The police stood beneath the tree in the dark, discussing what their next step would be, much to the enjoyment of the students hidden in the branches above. “I never did find out how they got rid of the wire,” Miriam said.

The old school bell had an ignominious end. It was donated as scrap to a metal drive during World War II.

Pictured is the Union School, which until 1925 was located on site of the old Galion Middle School. With the construction of a new school campus, the middle school was demolished circa 2008. The Galion City Schools sold the lot to the James S. Rhodebeck Family who, in turn, donated the land to the Galion History Center. Two cupolas can be seen on the roof of the Union School, one of which, housed the school bell featured in today’s article.
https://www.galioninquirer.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/38/2021/12/web1_GAL123121_HISTORY.jpgPictured is the Union School, which until 1925 was located on site of the old Galion Middle School. With the construction of a new school campus, the middle school was demolished circa 2008. The Galion City Schools sold the lot to the James S. Rhodebeck Family who, in turn, donated the land to the Galion History Center. Two cupolas can be seen on the roof of the Union School, one of which, housed the school bell featured in today’s article. Galion History Center

By Bernard M. Mansfield, M.D.

Galion History Center

Your Historical Galion is contributed by the Galion History Center and features the writings of Dr. Bernard M. Mansfield and other local historians. This story was first published in the Galion Inquirer on April 8, 1988. For information about the Galion History Center, visit www.galionhistory.com.

Your Historical Galion is contributed by the Galion History Center and features the writings of Dr. Bernard M. Mansfield and other local historians. This story was first published in the Galion Inquirer on April 8, 1988. For information about the Galion History Center, visit www.galionhistory.com.