Wednesday, September 11, 2013

If only the floors could talk ...

The guys from G M Builders started work inside Puckerbrush School on Tuesday, carefully removing the top layer of flooring --- narrow strips of oak nailed during the 20th century crosswise over original lengthwise floorboards put into place 140 years ago.

The floor has to come up so that work can begin on repairing and replacing the building's underpinnings, badly compromised by time and inadequate underfloor ventilation. We hope to reinstall the oak flooring over a new subfloor once the building is back on its feet.

One of the guys, after turning a short strip of flooring over to knock loose the three-inch nail that had secured it, saw this penciled note: "Laid July 29, 1941, John Haltom and Bown Boys."

So there you have it --- the floor spoke and we know now when it went down: During summer recess 72 years ago, Pearl Harbor just four months into the future.

Puckerbrush, known more formally as Pleasant Ridge, occasionally as Cackler Hall, replaced an earlier building and was completed in time for the first day of classes during the fall of 1874. There had been a neighborhood skirmish about its location, but an acre of virgin soil covered by hazelbrush in Section 17 of Ottercreek Township was selected. 

The new location resulted in consolidation of one rural district with part of another, so as many as 50 students crowded into the building that first year with two teachers, one at each end of the building.

The name "Puckerbrush" came along during the 1880s --- and was bitterly resented by those who had built the school and named it, euphoniously, Pleasant Ridge. My grandfather taught his first term as a school teacher here during the early 1890s.

After World War II ended, rural populations declined and the process of school consolidation began. The last term in this building was taught during 1962-63 by Frances Snuggs. Her students were Kathy, Mike and Linda Patterson, Steve and Janice Haltom, Denny and David Rosenberger, Ed Osenbaugh, Betty Black, Gene Pettinger and Ronnie Penick.

The building was moved to the campus of the Lucas County Historical Society in Chariton during 1968.

By the time all is said and done, we'll spend many thousands of dollars to ensure that this old building --- symbol of a vanished way of life --- can stand for another 140 years. Armed with this much cash back in 1874, most likely we could have built several townships worth of one-room schools.

When the work's done and the floor goes back down, we'll re-install this small strip of wood with a message and ask whoever is nailing the floor back down to autograph and date an adjoining board.

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