Since we attended Barnes Creek School,
The years have come and gone.
The school is part of history,
But Barnes Creek ripples on.
Let’s gather by the creek once more,
Share memories with our friends,
Have a good old-fashioned picnic,
With our classmates once again.
And that is exactly what took place on June 27, 2013 on the site of the old Barnes Creek School that once stood between Hwy. 17 and Barnes Creek. Rich and Elayne Ollmann, who built their home there 44 years ago, had invited former Barnes Creek School classmates from the forties and fifties to relive old memories.
Classmates attending were Sandra Jirovec, Mike Jiroven, Virginia Mussell Oestreich, Donald Mussell, Carol Mussell Chieves, Roger Nelson, Nancy Nelson Priebe, Wally and Ron Ollmann. Diane Peterson sent her regrets. Special guest was Mrs. Carol Donner, former teacher. Unable to attend was Mrs. Marie Merkel, also a former teacher.
After a delicious pot-luck lunch, a pleasant afternoon was spent reminiscing and enjoying photos and school memorabilia from over 50 years ago. It was fun to reconnect with old classmates on the very spot where the memories were made.
Barnes Creek, like all country schools of its era, was a one room school where grades one through eight were taught by one teacher. Our school has a separate library room which could be closed off with folding doors. It was the only school we knew of that had indoor toilets in the basement. There was no plumbing, so the toilets back then were chemical.
Water was carried in from the outside pump to fill the bubbler each morning. More water would be brought in and heated on the electric stove in the hall for washing hands before lunch. We felt modern to have a stove on which we could heat soup to eat with our cold lunches on a chilly winter day. In later years we could purchase milk to go with our meals and enjoy at morning milk break. (It helped wash those goiter tablets down).
Although a neighbor started the fire early in the morning, the room took a long time to get warm as the precious heat rose up to the high ceiling, leaving shivering students below. Thus, we often kept our coats on for the first hour of the day. (We were already chilled, having braved the elements as we walked to school).
Of course there was no telephone, so in an emergency a student was sent to the nearest home to get help.
The creek itself brought back memories: Shoveling show for skating, wet feet gotten from testing the ice, making trails and building huts in the alder brush that bordered the stream and watching the creek rise during the annual spring flood. When the creek was high, playing was restricted to the upper level ball field to the west of the school and the gravelly parking area on the east side where running games were played. Kids were warned to stay away from the creek and the teacher kept a watchful eye out the southern wall of windows. There was a fence of sorts protecting us from venturing onto the highway, but the creek was always a beckoning temptation.
Like most rural schools, playground equipment was limited. We did boast a merry-go-round and in later years to swings and a basketball hoop were added. We also had a softball and bats and kids would bring additional bats and balls from home. We had no formal lawn to speak of, but when the grass got tall Oscar Osness would trim it with his hay mower. Many active feet kept it trampled down throughout the autumn and early days of spring. Winter found us sliding down the hill toward the creek on our sleds, playing fox and goose, building snow forts and having snowball fights. King on the Mountain was also played amid warnings not too play too rough.
Yes, we had many memories to share, and of course the spring picnic and the Christmas program were also relived along with Halloween parties where we all wore homemade costumes. Valentine parties found us decorating boxes and sledding down a big hill across Highway 17. Outdoor field trips in the neighboring woods were also recalled. Much of our education went beyond the books in the classroom.
The school was built in 1915 (approx.) on land donated by Hans Osness. It served the community well until it closed in 1958 due to declining enrollment. Students were then transported into town to attend the Lincoln County Teachers College Lab School. Rich Ollmann purchased the building in 1967, and after proposing the Elayne on the roof of her old school, razed the building and used the lumber to build their home by the creek.
Today the Barnes Creek School sign hangs proudly above the fireplace, old school books line shelves, original solid wood doors are in use and even the bubbler was preserved.
Former students all agreed that Barnes Creek School was a wonderful school to attend. The education we received there was second to none, and the caring and nurturing that took place within those walls were a reflection of the community. Many students who attended Barnes Creek School later went on to build successful careers and have credited this old country school with giving them a solid educational foundation.
The building no longer stands, but Barnes Creek continues to ripple on, oblivious to the enduring friendships and fond memories it leaves behind.