Lake County History Chapter 93: Putting Meat on the Table

Supplying meat for the table by hunting and trapping was essential for the poor folks of Lake County. The Enderling children, poorer than most, set their traps on the way to school. In the afternoon, when school was out, it was the duty of the three Enderling children to collect the snared rabbits and small animals that had been caught in the traps. They were provisions for the table’s dinner.

By the 1900s, school buildings were larger. Some were large enough to hold four or six classes at a time, and those pleasant structures were halls of wooden grandeur. The 1865 Middletown School was two stories high with a bell tower. That building was designed by one of the local folks, an engineer. It stood for years. When the 1906 earthquake struck San Francisco and Lake County, the bell tower was shaken loose and toppled to the ground.

No matter. The folks in Middletown built another. The new one was not as tall, but it was more earthquake-proof than the first one. It stood until 1917 when the school had many a class of Middletown young men and women. Some of the lads went off to war to France. They are there still, as the poet wrote, ‘at their final rest in poppy fields with crosses row on row.’

With the turn of the century came the wonders of modern transportation. The School Bus carried the children to and from their homes to a more distant school. A large windowless box that was placed on the chassis of an ancient Ford Motor car, the bus held ten students packed in like sardines. Slats covered the floor and woe betide a lad who dropped his books and pencils through a crack in the slats. No lesson for him that day. He had to go back and find his books and hope they had not fallen into a muddy rut.

The buses gave the children plenty of exercise. When they came to a hill, because of the weight, the bus sometimes had difficulty getting over the hill. Then all the children piled out to push the bus the rest of the way.

In Winter, they froze on their way to school, and in summer, they were threatened with heatstroke. Still, the old school bus was a wonderful modern convenience.

In 1923, one school picture showed the young women wearing sailor suits, a popular costume after the First World War. In later years a group in front of the school, all wear the same dresses. The sign their leader holds is for Woman’s suffrage.

The Valley School had a class reunion in 1941. Nearly a hundred citizens gathered, with the school building in the background, to have their picture taken. No longer rosy-cheeked boys and girls, Father Time had collected his due. They were old men and old women, but smiling still, remembering classmates and sunny days.

A few of the boys in the photograph never grew any older. The next war had arrived as wars always seemed to do with monotonous regularity. Some of those young men, sent to Europe or to the Pacific, never came home. It was a poignant picture. Despite their ready smiles, the passing of the years and the lost hours were plainly written in their faces.

All the schools: Grove, Canyon, Gravelly Valley, Cobb Valley, Lake Pillsbury, and the one-room school buildings are long gone. The children who were taught and who played there are someone’s memories. Few persons remember the names of those one-room schoolhouses. The buildings have long since fallen into disrepair, or they were taken apart for the lumber. The children were sent to other, newer, and larger halls of learning.

Holtville School, one of the schools that had to go, may claim one of the most dramatic and unusual fates. It had a watery demise. Covered with water along with the homes and buildings of Holtville when Pillsbury Lake was dammed, the water rose to cover the town. The schoolhouse is still there, under sixty feet of water.

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To enjoy all Gene’s books, visit his website; http://genepaleno.com/

Gene Paleno

Gene runs his life at a full sprint. In his ninety-three years he's dug ditches, painted signs, played semi-pro football, worked as a taxicab driver, an insurance agent, and a school teacher. He's been a technical artist, a marketing director, and a business owner. He served in World War II, raised four children, and was married to the love of his life for fifty years. He's an accomplished oil painter and skilled in ceramics. He's written fifteen books, including the definitive Lake County History, and doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

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