Some students had the same teacher for seven years in the 1940s and '50s at LePere School in rural Millstadt.
Her name was Nellie Ohms, and she was legendary for never missing a day of school.
"Remember that time that it snowed real hard?" John Wehmeier asked a few of his former classmates recently. "We thought no way would she get there (since she lived below the bluffs in Centreville). But she did. She was a tough old gal."
John, 73, of Millstadt, is a retired math teacher, coach and athletic director at Belleville West High School.
He and his classmates were gathered at the Cat and Fiddle Tavern in Belleville to reminisce about LePere, which closed in 1976.
A reunion will be held from 5 to 11 p.m. Saturday at Bluff Grange, next to the school, on Illinois 163. All classes are invited.
"This is our first reunion ever," said planning committee chairman Jean Quirin, 57, of Millstadt, a student in the '60s.
The oldest committee member is Bob Simpson, 87, of Millstadt, a retired elementary and driver's education teacher. He attended eighth grade at LePere, graduating in 1939.
At that time, the school occupied a one-room brick building that had replaced a log structure in 1875. Elsa Keller taught first through eighth grades and served as principal, playground supervisor, nurse and janitor.
"We had two outhouses," Bob said. "We had a furnace (wood and coal) in the corner of the room, and the water system (a hand pump) was out front."
It was a culture shock for Bob, who had attended city schools in East St. Louis before his family moved to the country.
"Miss Ohms" had taken over LePere by the time John's generation came along. Students started each morning by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and the Lord's Prayer and singing.
Retired day care provider Janet (Sliment) Schilling, 72, of Waterloo, still has her tattered copy of "The Golden Book of Favorite Songs."
"You also had to learn a lot of poems, like 'October's Bright Blue Weather,'" said Don Scharf, 74, of Belleville, a retired sheet-metal worker. "And you had to know them because you'd be asked to recite them."
Ohms called students up to her desk, one class at a time, for lessons. Then they returned to their seats to practice reading, writing and arithmetic.
Don remembers Ohms allowing his brother to skip seventh grade because he was the only one in the class that year.
Students brought their own lunches and got 15 minutes for recess. They didn't have fancy playground equipment, just swings and a sandbox.
"When we played ball, (Ohms would) go out and play with us," said retired legal secretary Mary (Idoux) Spreitler, 73, of Belleville. "She never got a break."
LePere moved into a new, two-story brick building next door to the old school in 1952. Ohms kept teaching upper grades, which is how some students ended up in her classes for seven years.
"She was strict, but she was a good teacher," said Dale LeBrier, 74, of Millstadt, a retired engineer at Belleville East High School.
LePere continued to have school "picnics" on the Admiral in St. Louis. Ohms took eighth-grade graduates out for dinner and a movie in East St. Louis, paying out of her own pocket.
LePere joined Millstadt Community Consolidated School District in the 1960s. It housed first through sixth grades and later first through third.
Today, students who attended the one-room school vigorously defend the quality of their education and insist they were better prepared for high school than many "city kids."
They point out the benefits of older children serving as role models and teaching younger children. Some even argue that lack of extra-curricular activities boosted study habits.
"You'd be surprised at how many people went on to college after going to a one-room school," Bob said. "It showed you could get a good education with everyone in one room with one teacher."
LePere School All-Class Reunion
When: 5 to 11 p.m. Saturday
Where: Bluff Grange, 8601 State Route 163, Millstadt
Cost: $15 per person
Social: 5 p.m. (bring appetizer to share, if desired).
Tours: 5:30 p.m. in the school building, across from the grange.
Dinner: 6 p.m. at the grange (soft drinks provided; can bring alcoholic beverages).
Music: 7 to 11 p.m.