By Carol Mowdy Bond
Teresa and Ben Bryan own and live on five rural acres in Yukon. When they purchased the land 26 years ago, they also acquired Yukon’s historic Spring Creek School building. Built about 1890, Spring Creek School was annexed to the Yukon School District on July 16, 1947.
Teresa said, “We’ve lived in Yukon for 47 years, including the 26 years we’ve lived here. Our kids attended Yukon schools. When we first moved here, a lot of people would drive out on Sundays, and ask if they could take a picture of their parents in front of the school building. Their parents had attended the school.”
The Bryans remodeled the school building, and are using it for their own purposes. But the original, period blocks still form the exterior walls, and the cistern remains on the grounds, north of the building.
The storm cellar, built in the late 1920s, is still in place, immediately outside the back door on the building’s south side. The door still opens directly into the underground, concrete bunker, but originally the door was attached to the opening. And a small, hinged and vented door, at the shelter’s south end, still opens. Teresa said, “Since we’ve lived here, one year the storms were really bad. So, the guys went down into the cellar and cleaned it out.”
Above the building’s front door, which faces west, is a white horizontal strip, which originally read “Spring Creek.” Teresa said, “I wish we hadn’t painted over that.”
“The big tree behind the school grew out of the girls’ outhouse,” said Teresa.
THE FIRST BUILDING
Originally known as District No. 5 and built around 1890 on a one-acre tract, the first school building was actually a white one-room building, located just north of the present structure. Though much smaller than the building standing today, the first structure included a bell in the belfry.
Teachers in the first building were: Emma Sanger (who married George Bass, co-founder of Bass Mercantile Company at 5th and Main in Yukon), 1899-1900; Mr. Smith; Nellie
Hancock, 1905-1906; Ada Hulbert, 1908 to 1909; Nellie Phillip; Georgia Bostick, 1909-1910; Gertrude Summers 1910-1912; Florence Spence 1912-1913; and Blanche Garten 1913-1914.
For the eight month school term, the teacher taught about 30 students in 1st through 8th grades. In the early 1900s, the teacher received $35 in monthly pay. But the salary gradually increased to $85 and then $100 per month.
Students who attended the original school building included but were not limited to: Dale Estie; Newton and Andrew Alley; Clifford and Cecile Bates; Vernon Belcher; Collie Emmerson; Gertie, Sam, Thomas, Altie, Lillie, and Violet Ferguson; Charley, Wesley, Rex, Paul, Ernest, Sam, Martin and Nancy Graham; Mattie, Sarah and Robert Hancock; Mary Oswald; William, Ernest, Roy, Joe, Frank, Lillie Belle and Anna Pazoureck; Sewel Simmons Sr.; Lynn Wagner; Stanley and Erving Weber; Mable and Irene Brown; Daultee Merical; Lyle Turner; Stella Siler; Nola, Abe, and Quintin Towe.
Isaac Simmons purchased the building in 1915, moving it one mile east to his farm, where he used it to store hay.
A NEW SCHOOL BUILDING
During the 1914-1915 school term, construction was completed on the block, one-room school house, which is still standing on the northeast corner of Piedmont and Hefner roads. School continued in the new building during that term. Samuel E. Graham, his son Charley Graham, and Charley’s sons Wes and Rex, made the blocks for the building. Samuel owned a block machine, and he used sand to make the blocks, from the Graham homestead located one mile south of the school. Yukon’s Jim Spargur of Yukon was the mason.
Lena Belisle, the first teacher in the new building, instructed her students from a desk and chair situated on a stage. Students sat in various-sized desks with seats attached (some double). As well, chairs were lined up in front of the teacher’s desk, and students sat there when receiving instruction. A blackboard splashed across the front of the classroom, and books waited on library shelves.
The first students who attended classes in the new building were: Lee Pazoureck, Alice Waller; Evelyn Simmons; Anna Pazoureck; Nancy Graham; Frank Smrcka; Martin Graham; Lillie Belle Pazoureck; Mary Smrcka; Robert Hancock; Frank Pazoureck; Domineck Smrcka; Charley Smrcka; Sarah Hancock; Ernest Graham; Joe Pazoureck; Paul Graham; Lawton Brown; and Mattie Hancock.
Some students arrived at school on horseback, or in buggies. But most walked, with some walking two miles one way.
Unless Oklahoma weather was severe, students lined up outside the front door according to the way they were seated in the room. The school bell rang out just prior to 9 a.m. Then, on the teacher’s command, students marched to their seats where they remained standing. They pledged allegiance to the large American flag mounted on the wall at the front of the room, and then sang a song. Former students simply identify the song as “America.” Then students took their seats. The teacher allowed no talking or noises of any kind.
When chilly weather rolled in, older boys took turns bringing fuel in from the coal house, so fuel would be ready for the next day. The teacher arrived earlier than the students on cold mornings, and used the coal or wood to build a fire in the large pot-bellied stove. It sat in the center of the room. Sometimes the teacher paid an older boy to arrive early to heat up the room.
Former students recall enjoying three recess times daily, including two 15-minute recesses, plus an hour at noon. The school playground included a swing set, a teeter totter, a “chinning pole,” and a basketball court. Students played a variety of games including Hopscotch, Blind Man’s Bluff, Annie Over (which is known by many names), Flying
Dutchman, and baseball. The boys loved to wrestle. Fights and torn clothing were common occurrences.
Special times elicited excitement. At times, neighboring school students arrived as guests for spelling bees, ciphering matches, and games. Also, Easter egg hunts, and picnics on Pazoureck’s Creek near the school, were cause for celebration.
The proceeds from a pie and box supper were used to buy a drinking fountain. Amazingly, with votes cast at a penny each, the prettiest female and ugliest male were elected.
Several times daily, students took turns going to the water well. They lugged pails of water to fill the fountain jar. Pushing a button to get a drink was a big deal!
In the late 1920s, a storm cellar was constructed, with its entrance attached to the building’s south side. Other buildings included two wooden toilets, which were some yards back from the building’s east side. One was labeled “Boys” and the other was labeled “Girls.” Though the outhouses are gone, a massive tree, which grew out of the girls’ toilet, shades the property today. There was also a coal house and a wood house. The coal house doubled as a shelter for horse feed.
In 1923, students learned to read from the first story in the primer “The Little Red Hen Found a Seed; It was a Wheat Seed.”
The 8th graders experienced an intense school term. They were required to pass the county examination before entering high school. But for many, 8th grade was the end of their school days.
From 1915 to 1947, teachers included: Helen Schnackenberg; Reta Starry; Bonnie Rose; Mabel Hubatka; Anna Yeck; Herman Weinkauf; Ina Snyder; Lucille Thomason; Hazel Crossfield; Dorothy Luchen; Hazel Pazoureck; Marie Kirkegard; Grace Pazoureck; Margaret Hensley; Gladys Weller; Violet Hart; and Goldie Wright.
In the late 1940s, students attended classes in the Spring Creek School building for the last time.