Saturday, May 7, 2011

Willow Creek School

Willow Creek School was built in 1848. Originally a one-room schoolhouse, it is located at the corner of Willow Creek and Agard Roads, halfway between Trumansburg and Ithaca, New York.

I still feel the excitement of each new school year. There was the opportunity to pick out a new pencil box, a new lunch box, and of course choosing just the right outfit for the first day of school.  The dress had to be comfortable, yet eye-catching, with new ankle socks and shoes to match. 

In 1951 the small Willow Creek community faced a crisis: the school could no longer support the growing number of students.  A committee of parents was set-up to investigate the options of consolidating with either Ithaca or Trumansburg.  A record turnout of residents at the next meeting agreed they did not want their children bussed elsewhere. Over the summer all able-bodied residents worked on renovation and an addition to the schoolhouse. The building now had two classrooms, two new bathrooms, a new cloakroom space, and an additional teacher. Enrollment rose from 30 to 42 students. My father, Ed Nunn, was instrumental in working to keep us at the Willow Creek School.  The closing paragraph of the Morse Chain Echo newsletter where Dad worked stated: “Willow Creek is a closer knit and a better community today because so many of its people have gone to school and learned, very literally, to work together and like it.”

When I started school the schoolhouse had grades K-3 in one side and grades 4-6 in the other. In the middle entryway was a long line of coat hooks and at the end of the hall were the bathrooms. We arrived each morning and left our coats, boots and lunch boxes in the cool entryway before entering the classroom.

Our teacher, Miss Marian Evans, drove from Spencer, New York each day. I enjoyed attending a two-room schoolhouse, and took advantage of listening to the lessons of the other grades. When a grade had its instruction the students were asked to sit at the front, as to not disturb the other grades.  My third grade class consisted of three students.

Everyone brought their lunch, and my favorite lunches were bologna sandwiches made with lettuce and mayonnaise on white bread, or a cold hot dog on a roll with ketchup. Sometimes I brought a thermos of hot soup, and always a container of milk that Miss Evans opened. She opened everyone’s milk to minimize spillage. It was always a special treat at the beginning of each school year to shop for a new lunch box. They were metal and had popular television or book figures on them. Our lunch boxes were stored on shelves above the coat racks in the hall of the school. The hall was not heated – or at least not much, consequently our lunches stayed cool. After lunch we went out to the playground. There was a whole line of swings and slides along the hedgerow to the side of the building. At the back of the school was the Lehigh Valley railroad track. Trains went by on a regular basis; it was fun to be on the playground when a train went by.  We stopped what we were doing and waved. One day students in grades 1 through 3 were driven to Geneva where we boarded the train and rode to Ithaca. The older grades that remained at the school lined up along the fence separating the tracks from the playground. When the train went through we waved to each other.

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