to Belden School
"Welcome to my journey... a journey that led to the discovery of a limestone one-room schoolhouse on a path hidden in the hills of the Galena area. This discovery led to the restoration of Belden School, an anti-bullying series for children, visits to the school for lessons, and most recently, a summer writing camp for inspiring young authors!
Many years ago, I had the honor of meeting Bob Kleckner, a gentleman farmer, who lived in Stockton. Big Bob, as he was fondly called, had a passion for one-room schoolhouses.
One day, to the dismay of his wife, Big Bob went dumpster diving on a tip. Knowing that he loved history and one-room schoolhouses, a friend told him that the local towns were destroying old journals from these icons, some dating back to the 1870s. Those journals contained untold stories of events and happenings within the schoolhouses in the surrounding Mississippi Valley area. Big Bob rescued many of those historic journals and kept them orderly in his garage for future reference, not really knowing for whom.
In 2004, I was given Big Bob’s name. I was told that he might be able to help me with my Master’s class assignment, which was to go into the field and find something that might benefit children of all ages. My friend Beth said that he had saved the school journals and had knowledge of all the abandoned schoolhouses in the Galena hills.
From that first phone call, our friendship was formed. Big Bob was helpful far beyond what I could ever have imagined. He put me in contact with elderly students who were the last to attend Belden School in the 1940s before the one-room school closed to consolidation. From their oral histories, I was able to create fictional characters that had similar adventures within the walls of this unique schoolhouse. Big Bob also entrusted me with two journals from Belden School dated 1871 and 1923. He told me to keep them in my care and I did. I read them cover-to-cover and used them as inspiration for many of the stories in my first Belden Boy book.
When the day came for the grand reopening of Belden School, Big Bob was there. He finally saw his dream come true. It was my dream, too. And it was with great pride, that I dedicated the first book in the Belden Boy Series to Bob Kleckner…my friend and a champion in preserving the life of one-room schoolhouses."