In January of 1924, the Milwaukee Board of School Directors set up six temporary rooms in the center of a farm at what is now North 51st and West Locust streets, and named it the Locust Street School. The first teachers were Lydia Richter, Kathryn Pierce, Anna Strong, Ruth Schlueter, Frieda Krieger, and myself.
We began with 137 children who had to walk over the fields to get to school, since there were no sidewalks nor streets. The district was very sparsely settled, and we could look way down to Grant Boulevard, seven blocks to the east without seeing a house. To the south of the temporary building, what is now Locust Street, ran a beautiful creek, which when spring arrived, supplied the children with crabs, frogs, and minnows to take to the teachers. To the southwest at what is now North 51st and west Chambers Streets was an interesting cattail swamp where the redwing blackbirds sang and raised their young, and from which came the sounds of croaking frog choruses. To the north and west were the meadows where the children gathered flowers and heard the song of the meadow lark and discovered grass snakes.
In one year our enrollment grew to 466 pupils. Six more portable rooms had to be added, and the Board of School Directors changed the school’s name to the gm. T. Sherman School.
In August of 1925, just a few days before the opening of school in September, a fire destroyed some of the rooms and we had to get busy – the principal, teachers, engineer, carpenters, and painters to clear up the place as quickly as possible before the children arrived.
By this time the new building was going up. Soon our beautiful three story, twenty four room school was ready. We were anxious to move in and it was immediately completely filled with children.
In three and a half years our school grew from 337 pupils to 1089 in May 1928.
The school is constructed in the form of a “U” so that the classrooms are built around two fine gymnasiums which can be made into one large room by folding back the movable wall. There are also additional rooms on the ground floor used for orchestra practice, visual aids, scouting and Social Center activities. Over the gyms is a beautiful, spacious auditorium that seats 700 people. This is used for school programs, civic and Social Center activities. (on the front walls of the auditorium, the left side of the stage, is a life sized mural of George Washington. At the right of the stage is a life sized mural of Abraham Lincoln. Both murals were painted by the Milwaukee artist, Armin Hauser, and are considered to rank with the best of their kind in the country.
In March 1928 our 7th and 8th grade teachers were transferred with their classes to the new Peckham Junior High School at North 38th and West Fond du Lac Avenue, but our school immediately filled up again. The next year our 7th and 8th grades and their teachers were again transferred, this time to the new Steuben Junior High School at North 52nd Street and West Meinecke Avenue, but our school filled up again.
It might be interesting to note that nine Milwaukee Public School principals were at one time either teachers or vice principals at the Wm. T. Sherman School: Ralph Bureta, Frances Daisy, Edgar Groth, Henrietta Haerter, Thomas O’ Connell, Catheryn O’Grady, Oliver Sand, Homer Wiesner, and Philip Zarem.
It has been a deep satisfying privilege to have been the first principal of the Wm. T. Sherman School.
Louis E. Ulrich
*The first principal of Wm. T. Sherman School died on May 8, 1984 at the age of 94. He began his teaching in a one-room rural school in Cedarburg in 1912, he had a Master’s degree in education as well as a law degree. He taught at Marquette University, wrote several arithmetic textbooks and was a lecturer in mathematics he was a Master Principal.