Inside McEwensville High School

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Friday, May 31, 1912:Today seemed like Monday to me, as I didn’t do much work yesterday. Went over to see Carrie.

Grandma’s gravestone is in the foreground. The brick building in the background once housed the high school that she attended.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

I’d like to tell you some more about last week-end. I got to tour the inside of the building that once housed McEwensville High School!

The school building is next to McEwensville Cemetery and  is now empty, but from the late 1950s until a few years ago it housed the McEwensville Fire Department.

When I went to the cemetery to put  flowers on relatives graves for Memorial Day, I noticed that the building doors were open and that there was a garage sale taking place inside.

With my heart beating rapidly I went into the garage sale, and told the story of Grandma and her diary.

I met a wonderful family, including Vincent Emery, who had purchased the building several years ago. He even gave me a tour of the second floor where the high school was located (the primary school was on the first floor).

Vincent Emery giving me the tour.

As I ascended the stairs, my whole body tingled with excitement. I finally was going to be in the room that Grandma had written so much about. Some things had changed since Grandma’s time. The stairs had been moved to enable the building to serve as a fire truck garage and the tile ceiling was from a later time.

But much appeared to be the same as it had been when it was a school. . . . wooden wainscoting . . . the chalk board . . .

The old slate chalkboard now sits on the floor.

The hole in the wall where the chalkboard once hung.

I thought about the times Grandma sat at in this room and worried about tests . . .  the time  a boy chased her around the wood or coal stove . . . the time she teased her teacher about drawing a picture of a ring, the times wind rattled the windows, the time she cheated on a test . . .

Whew, even now, five days later, I’m still in awe that I actually stood in the same room where Grandma attended school.

22 Responses

  1. Oh geez! That is VERY exciting! I would have loved that as well! I’m glad you got to go in. :)

  2. Oh, how wonderful – such a serendipitous day!

  3. That is so awesome that you were in the right place at the right time.
    Once I was in a local cemetery doing genealogy research. As I was leaving, I saw someone making notes from the family tombstone I had been at minutes earlier. But I was too chicken to talk to her and I left;P

    • I’ve had similar experiences where I’ve missed opportunities because I felt shy. But I find that the older I get, the less shy I’ve become about approaching people who may have knowledge about something I’m interested in. And, that as a result, I’ve met some great people and had wonderful opportunities. I guess there are some advantages to getting older. :)

  4. How special this was for you to have spent time in the same space as your grandmother. I am always amazed at how well the building is preserved and maintained.

    • The fire company maintained the building until a few years ago. I’m not sure what the current owners plan to do with the building, but they seem to really care about it and its history.

  5. Sheryl, I am so glad that you had that wonderful opportunity. A couple of years ago, I had a similar opportunity — I still get goosebumps when I remember visiting the old McPherson school that was built on land that my 2x great grandfather donated. In his diary, he chronicled the building of the first school, and the testing of the “scholars” (he was on the first school board for the school.) Amazing how much and how little these old schools have changed over the years.

    • You’ve described so well how I felt–It gave me goosebumps to tour the school.

      It’s interesting that the school board was involved in testing the scholars years ago. This makes me think about all of the school accountability issues today. People still are worried about whether students are learning what they were supposed to have learned.

  6. That’s great that you got to go into the old school building. I hadn’t realized that you had never been inside it before. And to be allowed to take some photos – what a great addition for future blog posts.

    • It was absolutely awesome.I may have been the building once or twice when I was a child for fire company events–but I can’t really remember what it was like back then (other than that there were fire trucks parked on the first floor).

  7. That is so perfect. Do you have photographs of how the room looked back in the days your grandmother was going to school there?

    • No, I don’t have any photos. Several of the McEwensville history books have photos of the school, but I think that all of the photos in the books were outside shots.

  8. I can imagine how exciting this was. It seems that so often these opportunities and discoveries turn up when we are not necessarily expecting them.

  9. It sounds like you had a really thrilling time! It’s such a pleasure when we can connect with our history in this tangible sort of way. It must have been a real buzz.

  10. I know how you felt! Glad I didn’t miss this post. I wonder what Mr. Emery will do with the building…do you know? You’re so lucky to absorb the atmosphere and feel the ghosts, before any further major renovation.

  11. Sheryl, that is so great that you got to experience the actual building. It’s one thing to imagine it; another quite entirely to be able to see it. I’m glad you got the chance to do it. :)

  12. Sheryl, how wonderful that you were able to have this visit! You really were at the right place at the right time! Thanks for sharing!

  13. How exciting Sheryl… I was “tingling” too, just reading about it …

  14. […] the wall. I can picture Grandma sitting in this room struggling to concentrate on her lessons.  Click here for more about the school building […]

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