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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Remembering Painted Post High School

Painted Post High School
Originally uploaded by Sally Ann.

Note from Sallyann: Since I posted the site on the blog for an open discussion concerning the Middle School Facilities Proposal to be voted on June 21, many of the comments centered on the old Painted Post High School. Although many people would like the district to renovate Painted Post into a third middle school, we were told the cost and the lack of "green space" would keep this from happening, much to my distress. Feeling a bit nostalgic, I wandered upstairs to my library room and retrieved an old"Poster yearbook" from 1963, the last year Painted Post functioned as a high school.

As I turned the pages, most of which were stuck together, I saw old classmates, some long forgotten, but easily remembered when I traced my finger along their names beneath their class pictures. I wanted more than anything to post a photo or two of the kids who walked the halls of the "Blue & White" that last year, but what class, what group, what teacher? To scan in one photo wasn't enough to properly memorialize a building that has stood since 1868 and only recently designated useless as a school.

I have an obsession with old buildings like Painted Post High School. They are our link to the past not only for their architecture, (although it should be a crime to ignore or tear them down believing they are structurally unsound, or worse yet, to pave the way for progress), but for what they stood for in the community. That old school on Charles Street was the heart and soul of Painted Post, the town. When it thrived as an institution of learning, it filled the streets with excitement, hope and purpose. And when Painted Post became your alma mater it was a place to go back to and remember who you were and where you came from. Without an old building like Painted Post standing stoically as a keeper of the American Dream we will forget our traditions and our values. Some would say that has already happened.

I wanted to honor that old building with a photo as it passed into obsolescence, but I came across something even better in the pages of the 1963 Poster: it was a speech by E. Douglas Bonham from the class of 1900 before the Painted Post High School Alumni Association Banquet, June 23, 1962. In the speech, Mr. Bonham speaks of history, traditions and values, the essence of a building now standing empty. I yield the floor to Mr. Bonham....

Mr. Toastmaster, members of the Board of Education, members of the Faculty, Fellow Alumni, members of the Class of 1962, Ladies and Gentlemen, good evening.
There are two things that are might hard to do-kiss a girl backing up and living up to an introduction such as you have just heard. I will make no attempt to do the latter.
When it was suggested that I give a little history of our Painted Post Schools, here this evening under the title of “The Little Red School House”, it was announced that the keynote for the evening would be brevity. I will be brief, at least I will try not to be like the preacher who announced to his congregation one Sunday morning that his discourse would be upon the Prophets and so he proceeded to go down the long list of Prophets describing each one in great detail and painstakingly placing each one in his proper niche in the halls of time and at long last with his congregation tired and groggy, he said, “And now good people we come to Malachi, and where shall I place Malachi?”, and a little old fellow down toward the front jumped up and cried out, “Put him right here in my place, Parson, I’m going home.”
Right at the start, let me emphasize the fact that in whatever I may say here this evening I will be speaking not as the representative of any group or organization, but simply as an individual who is deeply interested in Painted Post, the greatest village per square foot in the USA.
Why am I so interested? My great Grandfather was a member of the State Legislature from the Painted Post Territory. He was a member of the Convention that revised the Constitution in 1821. I was born in Painted Post and am now the oldest Painted Post native living in the Village. My roots are deep in the Painted Post Territory.
Now for a bit of school history.
The first Painted Post school house of which there is record was located on the north side of the old Painted Post-Bath highway. It would be around 500 feet westerly from the present Ingersoll-Rand pattern shop. That first school house was a plank building, wood colored and not red. It was eventually taken down and a tenant house for the Hodgman brother’s farm built on its site. Some of you have seen that tenant house, for at one time it was the dwelling of the P.R.Kinsella family.
The School District on its part guaranteed to keep a sufficient supply of fuel on hand and to have the windows washed.
In 1848 or 1849, Arthur Erwin built a school house on his farm. As a boy I knew it as the Scott Erwin farm. You people know it today as the Robert Dann farm.
That school house would be in the center of the present bridge over the misplaced Conhocton River. It would be about opposite of the C.J.Chatfield house, a large two family dwelling located well back from the Addison Road. Some of you people knew it as the McCray house.
The Watson McCray and the Willis J. Masters families lived there for years. Mrs. McCray and Mrs. Masters were Chatfield sisters.
That school house as built by Arthur Erwin was a two story frame building about 50x75 feet with a one story wing on both the north and south sides so that the overall frontage on the Addison Road was about 100 feet.
Having been built by an Erwin, it had a projecting front gable supported by four colonnades just as our auditorium does today.
The model brick building together with its site and furniture cost $14,000 and it was our first red school house.
Major McGrath was also the architect for the Methodist Church built in 1850 on the corner of Chemung and Steuben Streets, as well as for the Bronson Block, now the Scudder Building, on the southwest corner of Hamilton and Water and the Baptist Church on Water Street, both built in 1860.
The Bronson Opera House on the third floor of the Bronson Block was the largest auditorium in Steuben County when it was built.
All of Major McGrath’s buildings are still in use.
When I attended the Painted Post Union School, Miss Wolcott taught the first four grades in one of the two first floor rooms and Miss Beehtel taught the next four grades in the other.
There was one large room on the second floor and one class room where Mrs. Mason, the Preceptress, taught her classes. The principal taught his classes in the front center seats in the study hall and this at times led to a bit of confusion.
For instance, a boy might be doing his bookkeeping assignment at the rear of the study hall while a Latin class was in progress at the front, and when he came to check his work he might find that instead of shipping five barrels of flour to John Smith he had consigned the flour to Julius Caesar.
There were two slippery elm trees in the side yard. A well-chewed end of slippery elm will nestle very nicely in a girl’s hair when propelled by a rubber band. The punishment for misdeeds was real and rough and nearly always came in a double dose for when a boy was chastised at school, he and his father visited the family woodshed that evening.
Folks, it was a sad, sad day for America when woodshed were abolished.
There was no physical education in the school then, but we did manage to get some exercise. In favorable weather we could play outside without supervision during recess period. Inside we could exercise an arm by raising it and then meander over to the water pail to drink from the same dipper all the other kids in the room used or we could exercise the fingers (raise the arm and open one, then two fingers) and then trudge 25 or 30 yards through the snow to the seven-holer and after an interval trudge back again.
The ground on the south side of the building sloped quite sharply and at the south boundary line there was an almost perpendicular drop-off from six to eight feet so that some winters there was quite a pond in the school yard.
The ice on that school yard pong was unusual because for some reason it would never let a boy break through until just as the last bell was ringing and then, of course, the wet boy would have to hurry home and his solicitous Mother would keep him there for the afternoon. Not an unbearable hardship.
In 1911, a three-story addition was erected at the front of the brick building. Dr. J.N.Shumway, the first of our three Shumway doctors, was President of the Board of Education at the time and was largely instrumental in getting that bond issue across.
In 1924-25 the present gym, auditorium and high school were built.
The unbounded enthusiasm engendered by the unexpected success of our 1924 basketball team was the main incentive in putting that bond issue through.
And now 38 years later some of the members of that team led by their captain have provided the spark and done much of the spade work in the reactivation of Alumni Association.
And now in 1962, the Corning Consolidated School District is about to build a new high school on the Parsons Field. But, folks, do not for one moment be misled by the name of the District. Painted Post was here first. This whole area, including six townships was the Painted Post Territory. The stained Post was here when the white man arrived.
Elementary schools in the District have been named for distinguished personages. Should the new Corning school be called Houghton High (East High) that would be just fine and logical, but here we have an entirely different situation. For one hundred and fifty years our schools have carried the name of a famous area. For Painted Post is a famous area. It has a great history. It has deep, deep tradition. And folks, here is something which for me at least bears a peculiar significance. I hope it remains in the minds of others.
Our new high school (West High) about to be built will be located on the same farm on which that first Painted Post plank school was built.
The Painted Post must be perpetuated. It must not vanish from our community nor from our High School.
“Montour” has spoken.
And thanks for not going home.


Anonymous Tammy said...

Sally, Thank you for such a beautiful and meaningful speech. I was the last class to leave the doors of the old school..mid 80's...before it was closed. That year I had designed the school flag and won a contest for it. I received a $50.00 savings bond from the Principal and the Home-Economics Teacher made the flag exactley as I had designed it. What an Honor! So many of us had entered! I was so proud. Afterall, the school had never had its own flag. To make things short, I was saddened to hear it would be closing its doors when I left that year. I knew my flag would never fly again. One experience Ill never forget is that last day. It wasnt your usual end of school-summer break excitement that day. The halls were quiet and tears were in lots of eyes. Everyone from the Principal to the teachers to the kids...we all knew it was the last day of life in that school. It was the last time its bells would ring and kids would flood the halls. Students and teachers cried on our way to buses that would take us on what seemed like the longest ride home ever. As buses pulled away with teary eyes staring out the windows, teachers waved the last goodbye. Walking students sadly shuffled down the streets, some not wanting to look back. I knew my siblings wouldnt get to experience the halls as I had or be taught by any past teachers I had. It was a great school. I hear my flag is somewhere in the school archives, but never really checked. I havent seen it since the last day of school. Sure wish it would fly again and stand for those "Mighty Indians." It was a GREAT school and I wish my kids would have had the opportunity to enjoy as I did. To many it was just an old school. To me, it was MY old school and I dont care what reasons the board gives for not fixing it up and letting it be its self again, their reasons just wont be good enough and I'll never understand.

9:02 PM  
Anonymous An Old Painted Poster said...

And now the Painted Post Alumni Association fades into the past like the old school. However, one thing that will not be lost is the memories and friendships that were nutured in our Alma Mater.

10:15 PM  
Anonymous Sallyann said...

Tammy: Thank you so much for your memory of Painted Post's last days as a school. I was truly touched by your words and I wish I could find the flag you designed and let it fly one more time.

10:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What was the name of that candy store across the street from Painted Post school? Remember those cinnamon flavored toothpicks?

10:49 AM  
Anonymous Lindley Historian said...

Think you mean -Jay Allen's.Bread used to be 15 cents a loaf. His daughter --- Gestwicki(?)is still active in CPP Historical Society.

11:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The name of the store across from PPHS in the 60's was Kelly's. Remember Mrs. Kelly and how kind she was? We also used to venture to Bements for ice cream at lunch time. Life was simple then.

12:34 PM  
Anonymous Old Timer said...

In the 1930's and 1940's the store was owned by the Jay Allen family.

1:38 PM  

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