(HOST) Vermont’s one-room school-houses are mostly gone now, but one of the last survivors has been restored as a museum, and commentator Alan Boye recently paid it a visit.
(BOYE) I have a long way to go yet today, but when I see a sign that reads “Historical Marker Ahead” I decide it would be a good idea to get out and stretch my legs a bit.
I pull into a small gravel lot and stop. I get out of the stuffy car. A small truck zips by me up Vermont’s Route 11, followed by a car. Neither driver has noticed me.
I turn around to face a small, squat building sitting in the shelter of a few trees. At first I think it’s made of stone but then I see that a craftsman has simply used pine shingles to simulate quarried rock. A sign tells me that this is the oldest one-room schoolhouse in the state of Vermont.
Inside, a kindly gentleman invites me to look around. Rows of ancient school desks stand ready for the day’s students. A dusty portrait of George Washington hangs on a wall. The slate blackboard at the front of the room is as clean as a whistle, while the pot-bellied stove in the center looks as if it had been fired up yesterday.
I walk around the room trying to imagine what it was like in here when the Eureka schoolhouse held its first classes.
“This building was built over 220 years ago,” the man at the front desk says, nearly reading my mind. “It was in continuous use as a school up until the early 1900s.” He looks as if he might have been in one of those classes, his skin resembles the seasoned wood around him.
He points out the finer details of the old, wooden structure; and tells me that this schoolhouse is one of the few surviving 18th Century public buildings in the state. It was built at “Eureka Four Corners” northeast of Springfield, where it served as a country school for five generations of Vermonters. In 1968 it was moved to this spot along Highway 11 and restored as a museum.
I linger at the door before stepping back outside. It must have been quite a job to teach here. Not only would you have to teach readin’ writin’ and ‘rithmatic to students ranging in age from five to seventeen, but you’d have to handle everything from mending scraped knees to breaking up fights when the big farm boys started to wrestle in the schoolyard.
When I step back outside an eighteen-wheeler blasts past me on the highway. As its roar fades into the distance, I hear the flag flapping in the breeze above the tiny building.
This is Alan Boye, just walking the hills of Vermont.
Alan Boye teaches at Lyndon State College.