Teacher Popp – My Pop

John PoppWe have a new guest blogger today.  His name is John Popp.  I am hoping this will not be the only post John writes for us.  John sent me this bio to use for him:

I was born in Altenburg MO, raised in Altamont IL, and retired at the end of 2016 from a career as a geologist in the mining industry which took me to many places. In retirement, my wife Sherry and I moved to Wilmore KY, a small town outside Lexington, placing us close to our daughter and grand children in Nicholasville and son in Lexington. Gardening, photography, learning, exploring local natural landmarks, baseball, and tinkering on garage projects are some of the activities I enjoy, plus buttoning down details on family ancestry.

My dad, Richard Paul Popp, was born on April 15, 1913, the same year the 16th Amendment established Congress’s right to impose a Federal income tax.  I doubt that my grandfather, Paul B. Popp (see “Teacher Popp’s Pop“) was ever able to take a deduction for his 4th child of the 7 he and Emma (Mueller) Popp would have.  But Dad’s birthday was easy to remember because of the subsequent income tax filing deadline.

Dad was born in Longtown, Missouri, where his dad owned and operated a wagon repair and woodworking shop.

Photo #1_1912-003est

The exact location of the shop is a mystery, but with the coming of automobiles, the handwriting was on the wall regarding the future of wagons.  By the census of 1920, the Popp family moved to Altenburg where Paul Popp was involved with Altenburg Roller Mills.

Photo #2_est 1920s-001

The family attended Concordia Lutheran church in Frohna where Richard was confirmed on May 28, 1926 by Reverend G.W. Hafner.

Photo #3_1928-05-28-001

Like so many young men from East Perry County, Richard shipped off to Concordia Teachers College in River Forest IL to attend high school and college, in order to supply the growing number of Lutheran schools.

Photo #4_1929-01-001

I recall Dad saying he would flag a train at Wittenberg for the long trip to Chicago.

It is my understanding that LCMS teachers were able to begin teaching after completing two years of college, perhaps because of a teacher shortage.  Richard began a series of one-year assignments; the reason for one-year assignments also is not clear to me.  His assignments began at Trinity in Fredericktown in 1935, then Trinity in Shawneetown, then Immanuel in Clarinda IA, followed by Immanuel in Rolla.

Photo #5_Clarinda IA 1938-001
Immanuel Lutheran – Clarinda, Iowa

From Rolla he was called to Zion in Summit IL, a blue collar town west of Chicago Midway airport.

Photo #6_Zion Lutheran Church_Summit IL_1930s
Zion Lutheran – Summit, IL

Life became more complicated in Summit: he married Rose Mahnke, a second cousin on the Popp side – they shared Johann Martin Popp as their great grandfather.  Their marriage took place at Bethlehem Lutheran Church on August 9, 1942 in Sylvan Grove KS, where the Martin Mahnke family had moved after leaving Perry County.

Photo #7_1942-08-09-001
Richard and Rose Popp

Their first daughter, Joyce Eileen Popp, was born in Summit and shortly afterward Richard accepted a call to Trinity in Altenburg.

Moving to Perry County was like moving home for Dad.  His parents and a number of siblings still lived in the Frohna area.  My parents moved into the old teacherage in Altenburg which housed the family until a new teacherage was built across the street.  Three more children – Mary, Nancy, and John – were born in the new house, and I remember the house fondly, especially having the Ed Bucks, Glenn Hughey’s and Rev. Kaltwasser’s as neighbors.  Dad taught Grades 1-4 (see “A Blast from Teacher Popp’s Past”) in the red brick Kleine Schule.  One of his hobbies, pencil collecting, took off while in Altenburg, and the collection is housed at the museum.

Photo #8_RPP009

Even though I was young when we left, the names of many, many people remain with me because they were so often mentioned by my parents.

In 1955 Richard accepted a call to Immanuel in Altamont IL, a thriving “metropolis” of 1,600 people, which had 3 other LCMS churches and schools in the surrounding rural area, as well as an American Lutheran Church (ALC, now ELCA) in town.  Dad taught 7th-8th grades, became principal, and soon was involved with a school building project that resulted in a modern, 4 classroom school with gymnasium, cafeteria, and other facilities, and an enrollment exceeding 100.  He also was able to complete his bachelor’s degree from Concordia by attending summer school at Concordia.  Before he retired from teaching in 1975, four additional classrooms were added through growth and merger with rural Lutheran schools, becoming Altamont Interparish Lutheran School.

Though retired from teaching, Richard began working half-days in maintenance at the Lutheran Care Center in Altamont.  The job and the people interaction suited Dad very well, and he finally retired for good in 1990.  His love of fishing, gardening, and keeping up with the St. Louis Cardinals kept him busy.

Photo #9_1998-08-009

He died on February 1, 1999, and both Dad and Mom are buried at Immanuel’s cemetery.

Photo #10_2013-07-28-001


9 thoughts on “Teacher Popp – My Pop

  1. John, My dad was Elmer Mueller, I believe he and your dad were cousins. He was teaching in Uniontown,MO when your family was in Altenburg. Then they both ended up in Altamont, dad taught at Bethlehem. I was excited to see your blog and read the story of your dad, because I could relate to much of it.


  2. I was born in Clarinda, IA and baptized in Immanuel Lutheran Church there. My parents moved to Farrar and now I live in Frohna and attend Concordia Lutheran Church there


  3. My sister, Martha Haertling, recognized the teacher on the right in the Clarinda, Iowa school photo as M. E. Burroughs, a Frohna native, who later was a teacher in Pocahontas and Farrar. Through a Google Search, I found an article that listed M. E. Burroughs of Clarinda, Iowa.


    1. Thanks Fred. I have a few more pictures from Clarinda without any identification.

      Probably in the 1980s or 1990s I believe there was a male teacher at ALIS in Altamont – I can see his face but do not remember his first name, and I think his last name was “Burroughs” too. The “Burrow” name is very common in Altamont.


  4. John, I remember your Dad well, he was the only teacher I had for grades 1-4 in Altenburg, highly unusual by today’s standards.


    1. Thanks for remembering my Dad, Harry. I remember the Schilling name but not you specifically. Of course my sisters and I also had Dad as a teacher, Grades 7 & 8 for me.


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