Scattered around our once rural countryside are a number of small schoolhouses. After 1955, most of them were replaced by larger "consolidated" schools. This article will describe the transition in Haycock Township from four schools to a four-room school, the present Haycock Elementary School.Country children who attended school prior to 1946 experienced the "classic" school in which there was one teacher who taught children from the first to the eight grade in one classroom. One of the students who attended the Mr. Airy School in Haycock Township for eight years from 1939 to 1947 was Bill Cramp.
Bill was a pitcher for the Quakertown High School baseball team which won the Bux-Mont championship in 1950. He went on to become a science teacher in Palisades High School, including 27 years as the science coordinator. His mother was also a career teacher, teaching in one-room schools in Richland, Haycock, and Durham townships. She completed her career as one of the first special education teachers in the Quakertown school system.
Like many who attended one-room schools, Bill has positive recollections. He felt that the education he received there was "fantastic." His teachers encouraged students to advance as rapidly as they were able. Students who were more advanced tutored those students who needed help. These were advantages of the close relationships established in the country schools. Bill had the same teacher, Mrs. Lena Bleam, for the first seven years of his time at Mr. Airy.
School busing became available in 1946 and School boards sought to "grade" the schools by moving children around so that one teacher in an individual schoolhouse had two or three grade levels in a classroom.
In the school term 1952-53 enrollment in the first to sixth grades was 135 students. It was clear that a new schoolhouse was needed. On February 3, 1953, the school board passed a resolution that the school board would construct a new school building at a cost not to exceed $150,000. By June 22, 1953, the school board contracted with H.R. Everett & Associates, an architectural firm specializing in school construction. Land had already been purchased across Bethlehem Road from the old Applebachsville School for the proposed schoolhouse.
Preliminary plans for a new four-room schoolhouse were approved by January 5, 1954. By June 1, 1954 final plans were approved so that bids could be submitted. The bids were opened on July 29, 1954. Because of inflation the cost was more than the original estimate. The bids totaled $204.675.06. Under the regulations for school construction at the time, the schoolhouse was considered to be the property of a building authority, to which the school district paid an annual rent of $11,079.87.
Construction continued during the school year of 1954-55 and into the summer of 1955. The school board was able to meet for the first time in the new Haycock Elementary School on August 16,1955. As the new schoolhouse would have a cafeteria, the school board hired Mrs. Elsie Sheridan to work in the cafeteria at an hourly rate of $1.00. Mr George Zechman was hired as the custodian at a yearly salary or $1200. The head teacher was Mrs. Ellen Werner.
I consulted with two students who had made the transition from one-room schools and into the brand new Haycock Elementary School in 1955.
One was Irena Ulrich, who was born in Austria and who came to the United States in 1950. She attended three different one-room schools for the first three grades. She had first grade with Mrs. Erma Koehler, second with Mrs. Florence Fluck, and third grade with Mrs. Edna Weirbach. She was a member of the first group of students to attend the new Haycock Township Elementary School for the fourth grade. Mrs. Ulrich, who became a career teacher in Richland Elementary School, has fond memories of her experiences in both the one-room and consolidated school. She particularly recalls the cafeteria in the new school, and of students helping in the cafeteria.
Another student who immigrated from Europe to Haycock Township after World War II was Vizma Tupitis, who was among a group of families which came from Latvia to the Applebachsville area. Most of these families arrived in the late 1940s and 1950s and worshiped at the Latvain Baptist Church in Applebachsville. Vizma attended two one-room schools, then enrolled in the new Haycock school in the third grade.
The families from Latvia valued the education that they received here. Schooling was not free in Latvia, and many children there had to drop out of school to help their families in those years immediately after the Second World War. Most of the families tried to have their children go on to higher education, which was not common in the United States in the 1950s. Some of the Latvian students excelled in other areas as well as the academics, such as music and art. One of the best basketball players from Quakertown High School was a Latvain, Jack Znotins, who starred on excellent high school teams in the early 1950s.
Although Visma liked the new Haycock school, she liked the one-room schools better. She recalls that she considered the new school to be very modern, with inside lavatories rather than the old out-houses. Like Irena Ulrich, Visma remembers the cafeteria. Students in the one-room schools had carried brown bag lunches. In the new Haycock school there were a variety of hot meals. The cafeteria manager had special meals for holidays, such as turkey and mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving.
Like the now-aging Baby Boomers who were the first students to enter their doors, schoolhouses such as Haycock Elementary School now are in their fifties. But unlike many of their human counterparts, these schools are not looking forward to retirement. Plans are underway to renovate the Haycock Elementary School, so that it can continue to serve the students of that community well into the twenty-first century.