One Room Schoolhouse
by Mary Matzek in the Calaveras Enterprise
August 27, 1986 (Gently edited for inclusion here)
Florence Traylor Winge was visiting some friends that had once attended Avery School with her.
“We should get together for lunch or something for old times sake” , she suggested. Russell Petit,(a born organizer),was off and running and the Avery School Reunion is scheduled for this Saturday at noon at the Avery School, a tiny one room school house that was built in 1880. As Russell puts it, “There is nothing that impresses me about the precision of my own memory like listening to some old gaffer telling of an all but forgotten event to which we were both witness”.
And so it is, the not quite forgotten events and the various versions of it to hash over, that make reunions wonderful fun. Just seeing a long-lost classmate can bring back, not only memories, but emotions as well, and of course, a school reunion must inevitably invoke memories of that all important presence, the teacher. Here we share some of those memories of former students with you.
Ester Williams Golob of Angels Camp is probably the oldest former student of the little one room school and she is looking forward to the reunion even though all of her classmates are gone. Ester attended three grades in 1912,1913, and 1914. Her teacher was Lena Adams and there were only eight students in all eight grades, two of them were Ester’s sister and brother. In fact, her sister was too young to attend school, but Ester dragged her along because she had to walk through an Indian encampment to get to school and the unusual language and manner of these people near her new residence scared her. “I was only seven years old”, she laughs.
“I’m impressed with what Miss Hazel Fischer put up with when I compare them with today”, said Dale Brooks of Arnold. “She was a bus driver. She hauled the kids to school in her own car. She picked up kids at Big Trees Park on one end, then all the way down to get Perry Manly, who lived at the pear orchard below Forest Meadows on the other end. She hauled fresh drinking water in for us each morning. She had a crock that had a spigot at the bottom for us and she provided us with our own cup and each morning she filled the washbasin for us to wash in. She corrected papers for all eight grades and managed to keep peace and quiet besides. She was good to us and others. At recess she would sometimes take us to the rock quarry and let us walk off some energy. During the acorn harvest we used to pick up acorns for the Indians. (Of course we sometimes got in acorn fights)”
“It was a funny way to go to school with no bus; school in the summer time when all the other schools were out and no school in the winter time.”
Petttit, who now lives in Portola, remembers that in July it was steaming in the little one room school house. “Air conditioning meant leaving the door open which didn’t relieve the heat a bit, but with a cow pasture next to the school, it sure let in the flies. We didn’t get many haircuts back then and Albert Hazelton was a resourceful boy who invented a hair dressing that kept the hair out of your eyes. It was made of sugar and water for the most part, and it really controlled your hair. In fact if you combed in a goodly amount of that stuff and let it dry, you could rap your knuckles on the top of your head and it felt just like you were wearing a helmet. We boys latched onto this wonderful stuff until fly season, and then we all lost interest in the wonderful new hair dressing.”
“It was unfair, of course, that we were in school when our friends, ‘ down below’ were swimming and picnicking, but worse luck came in February when you went down to visit and gloat a little. The truant officer would pick you up for not being in school. I recall one incident in San Jose when I finally convinced the authorities that I had a right to be out of school, I was told it would be necessary for me to stay indoors during class hours since it would set a bad example for the rest of the students. Talk about an injustice!”
“But it didn’t take away from the good things I remember like Albert Hazelton’s skill at marbles. He could hold a ‘shooter’ at belt level, fire it and split your marble at ten feet away. He was good at so many things. He could take apart and repair your old pocket watch and he could run like a deer. He used to turn on the speed jut to show off and I once heard Miss Fischer remark with a certain amount of awe, ‘My just look at him go!’ ”
Charlotte Shelton Tindell attended the little one room school house one year before retuning to Murphys where she lives still, but she was impressed with the water gathering ritual.
“Miss Fischer would get two big boys to go with her to fetch water. They drove over to the Avery Hotel in Miss Fischer’s car and loaded the buckets with water. Then they’d come back, the two boys standing board holding on with one hand and holding a sloshing bucket of water in the other.
At recess Miss Fischer joined in the games. She’d take one side one recess and the other side the next recess so no one felt left out. If anyone got cold or wet she always had dry clothes for them to put on while their things dried by the fire. We rode up to school with the White family but on nice days we often walked the five miles to school. If no one came to pick us up we’d start walking home. It petrified me to be walking home from school and meet a herd of cattle coming up the road, but my brother always took care of me.
The boys loved to go out and step in the soft tar in the road and get their shoes covered with the stuff, but Miss Fischer made them tow the mark in a gentle sort of way.”
Annabelle Jones Jordan, Avery’s Postmistress, attended the little one room school just a short time before the student body was moved to the new school at White Pines.
“Coming from a big northern California school, it would always impress me that we were allowed to go to the barbershop/bar that sold candy and spend our pennies on something yummy. It was a different atmosphere and I enjoyed it. I remember that Miss Fischer always paid close attention to those students that were needy. She did it in such a way that you never felt it was favoritism.”
Annabelle’s four children also attended the new Avery School.
Wilma and Marcelle Avery attended all eight grades at Avery School and Wilma later taught at Avery. Of course, the Avery family figures very heavily in Avery School since the town and therefore the school is named after their family. George Avery, Wilma and Marcelle’s grandfather, donated property for the school and paid to have it built in 1886.
“He did it because they needed a school,” said Wilma. “He had nine kids of this own, seven girls and two boys and they all went to that school.”
“Yes, and my father Morton Avery met my mother, Louise Reinking because she boarded at the Avery Hotel to teach school in 1900. She quit in 1905 when they were married,” explained Marcelle. “Wilma had Hazel Fischer for seven of her years there and I had her for all eight. During that time she never had more than 17 kids in all eight grades so things were small scale and homey. Later, when the bunch from the saw mill came in, she had about thirty-five kids in there.
Miss Fischer was very dedicated to her students-she loved her kids. She spent most of her time at the school. She was a small, quiet lady. She wasn’t strong or assertive but she was a real loving teacher. She got around the kids by being kind. She loved picnics and at Christmas time there was a tree and presents for everyone. She let us play ball all afternoon if we had cousins up in the summertime. We only lived a short distance from the school, but we’d take our horse to school and tie him out back, or Buck and Maynard Segale would come up and we’d ride the donkey to school and send him back home when we got there.
Some of the Indian kids that lived up by Raggio’s Mill would come down to school, part way, at least, on the traction engine.
Miss Fischer never had us do public speaking, all of our work was quietly written and the atmosphere was warm and relaxed. She loved nature, birds and animals and she always preached against killing things. One time Dick Raggio was being a devil. He found a dead bird on the way to school and hung it around his neck with a string. Instead of scolding him, she made him sit out back the whole day with the dead bird around his neck.”
Bruce Linebaugh went to school when Blagen Mill moved into White Pines and overwhelmed the little school house in 1939. Wilma Avery was his first teacher. Her classroom was in the Avery Hotel living room, while Miss Fischer held down the crowded little one room school house.
“People lived there at the time so we couldn’t go looking around in the hotel. It was overcrowded with two kids to a desk and Miss Avery would sometimes instruct us to bring a fish pole to school and we’d go fishing or she’d say bring a shovel and we’d dig holes in the orchard. There was a garbage dump out back and we could go and catch horned lizards or little frogs. I wasn’t interested in school, those are the kind of things I remember. I know we were hauled to school in a car, about ten of us would fit with the little kids on the laps of the big kids. When we moved to the new school in White Pines, I had Miss Fischer for a teacher for a couple of years.”
Miss Fischer has become somewhat of a legend in the area, the school at White Pines in Arnold is named for her. Marcelle and Wilma were related to Miss Fischer and she often visited their family and went on outings with them. That she is revered by her former students is well known and the Avery sisters feel it was because she was so kind. Still, Hazel Fischer was a quiet rather inhibited person. Marcelle and Wilma remember that Miss Fischer had a boyfriend but she was so shy that Morton and Louise Avery would have to contrive to get them together. He ended up marrying someone else.
Jean Kirkpatrick was a substitute teacher and worked with Miss Fischer in later years and got to know her. She describes her a very determined person.
“Here she was with this beautiful new school and already it was overcrowded, but she knew every kid in that school by name and sight. She had very firm ideas about how things should be done and she wouldn’t compromise. The Unified District decided that school would end at 3:30, but Hazel Fischer insisted that her children would be released at 3:45 as always. Of course, this messed up the bus schedule, but she held to her decision against everyone, and the following year she was demoted from principal to teacher. She was a person that never opened up much to others, but she had that inner spirit that you couldn’t miss as one of her students described to me at eighth grade graduation at the new school. Hazel kissed each student as they were given their diploma and handed them each a small gift. Inside was a silver dollar and a note written backwards so they would have to read it with a mirror. The note said nice things about each one of them.
She lived all those years at the Avery Hotel. She inherited a ranch somewhere and had cattle, I know, and one time she was stopped in Stockton by a policeman because she had a calf in the back of her car” Jean laughs at that picture.
“Louis Malaspina offered to give her an acre of ground in Avery so she could have a house built, but she refused. She was quite happy where she was.“
That happiness depended on being near her school, dedicated to her children, being a workaholic who was criticized for leaving the school lights on until 10 p.m. until it was found that she was still at the school working away.
So, while the reunion is about a building and classmates, looming over it all is the omnipresent personality of Miss Hazel Fischer.