As the Czech School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, begins to celebrate its 150th year in 2019, a project to document that history is nearing its end.
For the past two years, in homes, care centers, at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library and elsewhere, I’ve talked to more than 50 people with Czech School connections who have shared their memories, photos and time.
Inspired by longtime Czech School Board member Marge Pace, who remembered attending Czech School in the 1920s, I’ve sought out former teachers, school board members, students and volunteers to tell their stories.
Initially agreeing to interview a dozen people, that number soon doubled, then tripled and quadrupled to more than 50, as each subject suggested another person I should interview. Even this week, I’ve heard from people with Czech School connections who are offering their photos and memories.
With every project, though, there comes an end point.
A book about those people and their stories is scheduled to be published soon.
With design by David Miessler-Kubanik of DMK Creative, the book includes more than 100 images of Czech School and the people involved, dating back to the early 1900s.
Former students Bob Hejkal and John Krall, for example, had clear recollections of their Czech School days and monumental times in history, including their service in World War II, and a fellow Czech School student who was killed in battle.
Some of the people I’ve interviewed have already passed on, which makes this project bittersweet. I’m saddened they will not be here to celebrate Czech School’s monumental year, but am grateful some of their memories will be preserved.
For former students, teachers, Czech School Board members and others who are able to attend, a gathering is scheduled for 1-3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 25, in the library of the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, 1400 Inspiration Place SW, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
The get-together is an opportunity for Czech School supporters to reminisce and for the older generation to share their experiences with current Czech School students and others.
Learn more about other Czech events in Eastern Iowa.