Desert Messenger

September 04, 2013

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September 4, 2013 Voices from The Past in Quartzsite, AZ Excerpts from "In the Shadow of Saguaros" by Rosalee Oldham Wheeler Back to school in '52 Back to school in 1952 for Quartzsite's 23 elementary-aged children and their parents was a grand occasion in their almost new, cement construction schoolhouse situated just south of the old wooden schoolhouse built by William Scott back in 1908. For over forty years the old gray schoolhouse, constructed of 1 by 12inch planks with batten boards nailed to cover the joints, had been Quartzsite's meeting place; schoolhouse by day–community center by night. The 30 by 40-foot building had a hip roof covered with corrugated iron. Inside was one large room with a raised stage on the north end that was often used as a separate classroom. In the middle of the room was a wood burning stove fueled with ironwood gathered by parents, then carried in and stacked by the children. That big stove kept everyone warm in the winter, even when the wind blew through the joints of the single-wall construction and past the missing knotholes in the wood planks. The school had two outdoor privies, one for the boys and another for the girls. In 1950, plans were drawn for a modern new school. A $20,000 bond measure was passed by the voters in Quartzsite's School District #4 with a Phoenix firm buying the bond for less than 3% interest. The Homer Lee Construction Company of Yuma won the bid to build the school on the acre of land donated by Mrs. Field. On March 3, 1951, a potluck dinner was for the dedication of the new school. Folks came from all around to tour the new school. Homer Lee came up from Yuma for the dedication as did Gwyneth Ham, the Yuma County Superintendent of Schools. The old wooden schoolhouse was put up for bid. B. F. McKnight (whose son Dewey had been a student in the old school) offered the highest bid of $100 with the understanding that the building would soon be removed. Children in front of new schoolhouse in 1952: March 5th was movL to R back row: Jimmy Cowell, Carol Young, ing day. Beginning with Frank Young, Jim Datig, Genevieve Washum, the first graders in IsaPatty Oldham, and Helen Cowell. bel Kildoo's room to the Middle row: Jody McDaniel, Carol Stetler, eighth graders in Monroe Hellen Oldham, Merna Scott, Isabel C. Buse Tate's room, each child (teacher of grades 1 - 8), Ruth Young, Davella put their books and supScott, Maxine Young, Denise Dollar. plies in a bag and carried Front row: Frank Scott, Paul, Ralph Underwood, it across the play yard to Tom, Benny, and Michael. Not pictured are their new green schoolRichard Oldham and Fred Brown. house. Before Mr. McK- 15 night could remove the old schoolhouse, a windstorm came along and blew it down. As we parents contemplated the scene, we marveled that the new school had been completed only weeks before the collapse. The voters had been right to pass that bond measure. Parents in front of old schoolhouse in 1949: According to the L to R: Virginia Underwood, Elsie Kuehn, Mrs. McKnight, children, the first Rosalee Oldham, Madeline Young (holding Frank), day of school in 1952 Mildred Cowell, Frances Scott, Miss Isabel Kildoo offered several "real(teacher of grades 1 - 4), Betty Larkin, and Mrs. Field. ly neat" things about their new green In 1966, the County Superintenschoolhouse, one being the boys and dent of Schools (still) Gwenyth girls restrooms were inside the build- Hamm announced that a new school ing with flush toilets and water basins, would be built in Ehrenburg and the even if the tap only ran cold water. Quartzsite children would ride a bus Another was the heaters and refriger- to the new consolidated school. The ated air conditioners on the roof that Quartzsite Senior Citizens organizawould keep them warm in the winter tion leased the school building where as well as cool in the summer. they planned to hold potluck dinAt the beginning of the school year, ners, dances, card parties, and movMrs. Buse taught all eight grades but ies for the growing number of retires as more families moved to town, a who were spending their winters in second teacher, Thomas Deaton was Quartzsite's beautiful sunshine. hired to teach grades five through Mrs. Epp assisted in cleaning out eight. That's when another of the the decommissioned schoolhouse "neat" things about the new building and told me that in one of the supcame into use, the lime green vinyl ply closets she had found two caresliding-folding doors that separated fully rolled-up "dioramas" drawn by the interior into two classrooms. the children in 1952-53 as Mrs. Buse Gone were the row desks and bench- read Ester Forbes' "Johnny Tremain" es at the old schoolhouse, replaced and William Locke's "The Red Planby shiny new blonde wood individu- et". I hurried over to retrieve the al desks in three sizes with lids that artwork, but was told they had been raised up to reveal individual storage burned with the "rest of the trash". compartments. Mrs. Buse arranged Also stored in one of the supply closfor the Yuma County Library Book- ets was a 1945 Rock-Ola Jukebox mobile to visit the Quartzsite School that the Hi Jolly 4-H Club had purtwice a month adding a "really net" chased in 1957 with the premium portable library to the school. Mrs. money earned from their exhibits at Buse also selected books she planned the Yuma County Fair. to read to the children during readAnother forty years has passed and ing time, which often extended into Quartzsite has an elementary school recess during hot summer days. She on Kofa Avenue where the grandchilinvited Dave Scott at Scott's store to dren of several students of '52 are atdonate a 36-inch-wide roll of white tending school. Time moves on crebutcher paper that she unrolled and ating more memories with each new taped onto the walls around the room first day back to school. where each child could sit and illustrate their minds eye of the story.

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