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Friday, Nov. 27, 2015

'Rembrandt Remembers'

Thursday, July 25, 2002

Community reunion

Rembrandt celebrated its community reunion last weekend with the first showing of the new book "Rembrandt Remembers," a series of 158 essays on growing up in the rural community, contributed by graduates from every class dating from the 1920s to the school's closing in 1979.

Ordering information for the book is now available via e-mail at rembrandtbooks@ hotmail.com or by calling 515-274-1479.

The book was edited by Helene Ducas Viall, class of 1963, and Betty Foval Hoskins, class of 1960.

Hoskins, now a professor in Virginia, said that compiling the memories for the book proved to be "one of the pleasures of my life," but said that she had no idea where the project would lead where her cohort first suggested it to her.

Hoskins wrote an essay herself after being touched by the people who entrusted so many of their personal memories to the two editors. The following is an excerpt from her writing, which is featured as a conclusion to the "Rembrandt Remembers" book.


Special to the Pilot-Tribune

One of the pleasures of my life has been compiling the memories of those associated with Rembrandt. Thank you all for taking the time to write down your thoughts, to send them on to Helene, and to entrust them to us; thank you for remembering.

When Helene suggested this project, I had no idea where it would lead. But I have learned about Rembrandt in a way that I never thought possible. When I lived in town, I was in my own small world of family and friends. It was a pleasant world, one that revolved around school and church activities; it was a comfortable world with a strong sense of community, a wonderful sense of caring. I knew all of this in some sense but not in the way that I know it now.

What I have learned is that Rembrandt was settled by like-minded people who took hard work for granted, that they often went off to college and returned to farm, that they were civic-minded, that they were not worried about class, race or financial distinctions because essentially there were none. I learned from alumni and teachers alike that Rembrandt was a wonderful place to be educated. I knew that myself, but I was unaware that everybody we would hear from felt the same way. I learned that certain people, businesses and events would show up again and again in these stories. In some sense, the people of Rembrandt still form that community in spite of vast differences in occupations and locations. We have moved all over the country and traveled all over the world. We have experienced sadness and joy. But we have in common the tie to our hometown and, therefore, to one another.

Our common roots are uncommon in the world in which I now live. Constant contact with ever-young college students has given me a perspective from which to view my own experiences in Rembrandt. In a university of 15,000, students challenge my values and assumptions every day. I often find my religious, political and social views at odds with those of both my students and my colleagues. I am challenged to take sides on serious issues and often think, but do not say, "But that wasn't the way it was in Rembrandt." When students confide in me about their problems, I listen and I grieve for them, and I wish they could have had the experience of a supportive family and community - of a hometown that "fits on a postcard" (as my colleague from New York City says with amusement.)

The Rembrandt we knew represents something all of us have lost to a greater or lesser degree - security in our everyday lives, a strong sense of community, and shared values and beliefs. These stories reaffirm the importance of honesty, integrity and respect for others. What we have lost is not only a place but also a time. We live in a world vastly different from the one we left on our graduation day. In fact, several contributors referred to Rembrandt as "idyllic," a "treasure," a "utopia," a world no longer accessible. Our stories reflect both the old world and the new.

Our stories also reflect a changing way of life in a rural community, a move from intensive farm labor (picking corn by hand, for example) to almost complete mechanization (spraying, not cutting, corn in the bean fields). Life was not necessarily better, but it was certainly different. In spite of the changes, however, the value of education never faded. Whether these stories are about attending a one-room school house, moving to Rembrandt Consolidated School, or resisting reorganization, the message was clear - the small school and education were important. Our education included not only what we learned in the classroom but also what we learned through extracurricular activities, particularly sports and music. We learned to be a part of a team, to recognize the worth of all the participants, and to work hard and well together. Many stayed on the family farm preserving the very values we still hold dear, but far more left to become teachers, lawyers, professors, engineers, accountants and professionals in a wide variety of fields.

William Faulkner said in his Nobel Prize speech that he was optimistic about the future which he saw in the moral authority of what southern essayist Hal Crowther identifies as "the small-town matrix of history and family and the reliable moral leadership that is inseparable from the fabric of the community - which first means there has to be a fabric." As evidenced by the contributions to this book, Rembrandt has had a moral fabric from the beginning of its existence, and those values have touched all of us. Thank you again for remembering.

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