Tuesday, January 17, 2012


TOOLING AROUND on a mild January afternoon, I came across a community hall that, in an earlier life, served as a one-room schoolhouse in Western Placer County (California.) This got me thinking about the old one-room schoolhouses and how they were our first foray into public education. I began to compare the enormity of yesteryear – 17 to 30 kids ranging from six to sixteen all in one room – with the enormity of today. I was reminded that the teacher’s job has never been easy.

If I hadn't parked that blasted motorbike in the way, the discerning eye could see that the old Fruitvale schoolhouse had been added-on-to in order to accommodate an expanding population of kids from this rural area. Behind the porch is the original structure. To the left is one of the additions.

Back in the days before lawsuits and insurance riders, a rope flung over a stout oak limb and tied securely to a weathered old two-by served as a fine swing. Imagine the sample here tied with sisal, you know the stuff: the fibrous rope, that, when new, leaves painful tiny splinters in soft fleshy hands. Here modern nylon that works but never quite feels right has replaced the authentic.

Tarrying beneath that grand oak would come to a halt when one of the older boys – they didn't allow girls to do this – tugged on the (again sisal) rope, clanging the bell, alerting all that class was about to take up.

I imagine those who lingered by the rope swing a bit too long, or found a bit too much of interest on the long morning walk to school entered to regret their tardiness, back in the days when the board of education was a paddle.

A second wing was added at some point. Closed in the 50s, the old schoolhouse serves as a home base for Fruitvale area 4-Hers. In the foreground, someone has cut up some oak into rounds. One the opposite side of the schoolhouse, a shed houses bales of straw for some project or another. Peeking inside, a bunny is housed in a hutch near the rippled glass window in order to absorb some winter rays. Kids are still learning stuff – real stuff – at the old Fruitvale Schoolhouse.

ON TODAY’S OUTING, I’d already paused at the nearly forgotten site of Manzanita School. Long since razed, it leaves only a weathering concrete foundation located in the middle of a cemetery of the same name maybe four miles west of Fruitvale…

…accessed by taking the gravel Chamberlain Road east from state route 65 three miles north of Lincoln.

Positioned where it was, my imagination tells me that a Margaret Hamilton look-alike schoolmistress (think Wicked Witch of the East) could point out the window at the many, aging graves and pull back into line even the squirreliest of young male pupils - such as myself.

ON MY EVER-EXPANDING BUCKET LIST is to visit a few of these sites on those winter sojourns where the radius of exploration is limited by the drop in temperatures at the end of a very short day. Most of these intersections I think I know from “tooling around” on the Guzzi or the Beemer. I suspect that remnants of concrete or brick foundations – like that of Manzanita School – will serve as the only evidence that these little learning centers ever existed. More lasting, perhaps, must be the educational foundation provided by the school marms to each and every one of her rural charges, teaching them reading so they could understand the Constitution and the Bible; writing, so they could communicate in the days when “Twitter” was simply the melody a song bird carried; and arithmetic, so they could help with feed and fencing and cooking from scratch.

Foundations indeed.

NOTE: One-room schoolhouses dot our historic past. There’s a great hall off highway 16 in the Capay Valley (Yolo County, CA); one up on Table Mountain ay Cherokee (Butte County, CA) and another one up that way at Oregon City.

The Church of the Open Road invites you to comment on relics such as these found in your neck of the woods.

© 2012
Church of the Open Road Press


  1. Centerville School in Butte Creek Canyon 10 miles east of Chico, CA. Nice museum next door. Beautiful place to visit and imagine.

  2. Here in San Benito County we have the ghost town of New Idria, the former quicksilver mining town. Now best known for meth labs and the fact that the resultant pollution from the mercury mining has it designated a superfund site.

  3. At the Marshall Gold Discovery site in Coloma, there is a one-room schoolhouse. On many weekends a period-dressed docent will walk folks through the one-room class experience.

    I hope this park isn't on the state list for closure!

  4. Kent, Connecticut, about a 45 minute ride from me over some very nice roads,


    Lots more furnaces in this area but this is the only one with a website..

  5. The city assembly occasionally threatens to have my house declared a historical site due to its history as the hq of the red light district from before the 2nd world war until "urban renewal" cleaned out the brothels. Yes, I live in the Madame's house, and the undersized rooms thoughout are very obviously the employee's 'cribs' from back in the day. When the district was active, there were no streets through the muskeg. Drunks and customers staggered along boardwalks that were elevated above the bogs. Occasionally one would fall off and drown if he wasn't noticed in time. I still find morphine vials and blue glass pill bottles when I dig around in the back yard. Less frequently I'll uncover an iron nickle or little russian artifacts. That's when the assembly starts talking historic site again. They say it should be 'grandmothered in' because of it's history. Me, I'm resisting it.

  6. A one stop town...Nashville, Ca on Hwy 49 between Plymouth & El Dorado

    Nashville (formerly, Nashville Bar, Quartzville, and Quartzburg)[2] is an unincorporated community in El Dorado County, California.[1] It is located on the North Fork of the Cosumnes River 10.5 miles (17 km) south of Placerville,[2] at an elevation of 863 feet (263 m).[1]

    The place was first called Nashville Bar, then Quartzville and Quartzburg, before being named for Nashville, Tennessee.[2]

    A post office operated in Nashville from 1852 to 1854 and from 1870 to 1907.[2]

    1. my Grandmother was born in Nashville in 1902 on the north fork for Cosunmes. They were Nishnan

  7. Nashville (CA) is one of those places easily whizzed past - and I've done it too many times. This response reminds me that I must stop there some time, root around a bit and then be able to say that I've marked another one off my Bucket List.

  8. The problem appears to be "anal" people. There were some old log cabins and frame building around here that had some historical signifance. Not historical in a huge way, but stage coach stops, etc. They were torn down by new owners because they were "ugly". Not Disneyland caliber. An owner may protect a site, but eventually some new owner will raze these old buildings. Some people think "sanitary" is the only way. They would scrap Old Ironsides.
    An family cemetary in TN (it was overgrown) was razed by a woman who developed around it, she hired a dozer to push it all into the creek, some stones were 5 ft. tall. She had to fix it back, but how can one ?

  9. The guys and gals in my 20th century philosophy course way back in the day decided we would group visit Old Ironsides when it was announced that the Professor was out ill suddenly and no one was available to teach. We all MBTA's it over to the Yard and did the tour. When the guide informed us that 64% (or something like that) of the wood had been replaced (as a hint to us to contribute money) we got into a long arguement as to how much of OI could be replaced before we were no longer on OI (sort of Heraclitis You can't step into the same river twice (or human cell replacement-ho ho ho). We then returned to school via Fenway Park and the Bleachers where we soaked up the beer and the Sun......ahhhhhh life has its moments. (obligatory motorcycle element) 3 of the 7 motorcycle riders at NU at that time were present: 1 BSA 650, 1 triumph 650 single carb,and my humble 305 Super Hawk.

    We have in central Mass lotsa boulder foundations of past factories, factory villages and some no longer factory ponds used when waterwheels were the driving force of industry. Kinda neat to ride up some old road and find these old relics. On Devils Elbow Rd on the North Brookfield/Brookfield line there is a short strech of a preRevolutionary (I think)War Military Road.

  10. I've got a neighbor friend down the road that lives in a hewed log house with some small additions. He went to school there as a child , it then being a 1-room school house. The chalk board was the back side of his LR front wall.Maybe not "lost to history", huh? Lots of people in my native KS live in old stone school houses.
    In nearby Mt.Sterling,KY I have little doubt that Indian mounds have been destroyed at some time in the past. There is one right beside an Advance AP store that closed & moved.
    Another sadly true ,close by e.g. of history lost is the many "cliff houses" in my area(and many other parts of KY) that have been gone through/looted by locals looking for Indian artifacts.

  11. In my town it is the Fremont Raceway Dragstrip. Lots of records set there. Also had a dirt oval and I used to race mini-stocks there. Also had a tow-up glider airport for nearby ridge flying. Now it is all just one huge mall complex.

  12. History is disappearing around here every day as development buries sites and landscapes that had been essentially unchanged since the War Between The States.

    I don't know what you do about it, though. It costs money to preserve old things, and there's only so many people who care .....