As I was not alive during World War II I will not even attempt to understand what people went through during that time. I can speculate that losing a family member, fiancée, or one’s own life would, of course, be earth-shattering.
I would like to think that had I been alive back then I would have taken a stand. I would hope to have banded together to fight the evil Nazi party. But the truth is I would not have known where to begin.
Rosie the Riveter would call me into the factory and I would do my part to work for the boys overseas. At home I would cut back and recycle mustard jars into my personal Tupperware.
All of this was good and necessary. But there were some who, on American soil, took an extra step to free those running from Hitler’s grip.
The Scattergood Friends School of West Branch, IA turned itself into a hostel from 1939 to 1943 encouraging war refugees to come to the land of the free and live without the fear of looming smokestacks overhead.
The school was founded in 1890 by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). It was (and still is) a boarding school for children in grades 9 through 12. The school faced some financial turmoil during the Great Depression and was forced to close only to reopen to become the haven for those fleeing Europe.
Scattergood school became a working hostel. There were only several staff members who received a pay check. The rest of the staff was made up of mostly young (30 and under) Quaker volunteers. On the weekends the school would be overwhelmed by volunteers and reporters coming from all over to help and spread the word.
The staff referred to the refugees as guests and the guests did their fair share of work. A large garden was constructed and animals were donated to the hostel. All who were living there were fed, clothed, and housed because of their, and many other people’s, hard work and donations.
During the four years the hostel was in operation 186 people found solace and freedom upon its land. Not to mention all the Americans who were affected by such a life-changing experience.
Scattergood Friends School is still in operation as a boarding school with several daytime-only students. They have a curriculum ranging from science to fine arts. They incorporate community service projects into their school year thus perpetuating their benevolent worldview.
The school encourages visitors to come and meander through the school grounds. Unlike most high schools, the school is set up like a small college campus where students get to enjoy walking outside to class.
If you are ever in the area stop in to see the campus and walk where a few Midwestern heroes changed the course of many lives.