By: Virginia R. Manuel
Stories were a flyin at the Dewey School Reunion as alumni gathered together for an afternoon of renewing old acquaintances. The oldest person attending being 91 years of ager and the youngest 67.
The earliest school anyone can recollect was built on the old Blaine Cole Farm in Doe Valley. The students from Swift Hollow had to walk through a place called The Bee Cove – a distance of two to three miles. Food for the whole family was carried to school in an old lard bucket. Lunch usually consisted of a ham biscuit or a piece of cornbread spread with molasses. The area was becoming more popular and a decision was made to build a new school in the Dewey Community. It was named for the community and was called the Dewey School. The first Dewey School was up Swift Hollow and sat up on the bank about a quarter mile up the hollow from the main road (Highway 67). It was used for years until one day the teacher made a couple of the boys mad. They sneaked back to the school in the middle of the night and stuck some paper into a knothole in one of the boards and set it afire, burning down the school. The rest of that school year the Dewey School students had to walk to the Doe Valley School. A new two-room school was built and located at the corner of Highway 67 and Swift Hollow Road where the present day Dewey Christian Church stands. As near as any one can remember it was built in 1935 or 1936 and continued in operation until 1952 when Doe School was built. Several schools were consolidated to the new Doe School, Butler, Doeville, Doe Valley and Dewey.
The new school consisted of two rooms. Both rooms were actually the same size but were known as the Big Room and the Little Room for the big kids and the little kids. There were four grades in each room. Some grades had five or six students while others had two or three. Heavy wooden doors separated the two rooms. When there was something special going on the doors were pushed back into one big room.
Each room had its own small room we called a cloak room where we hung our coats and boots. In the front there was also a kitchen where the school cooks, Ms. Winnie and Ms. Hazel, prepared our lunch. There was no running water at the school so water had to be carried from the creek or from the well up on the main road. A bucket full of water and a dipper sat on a small table and we all drank out of the same dipper.
The potbellied stove sat in the little room near the door. When it was cold the teacher would gather the class full of students around the stove to do their lessons. One day one of the boys threw a handful of firecrackers into the stove. Pandemonium reigned until they all exploded and everything was settled back down.
There was a belfry with a big old bell which was rang by the principal when it was time to take up, recess, lunch and when school was over for the day. I remember asking him once if I could ring the bell. He told me if I did that I would be sucked up into the belfry and never come down.
There were no bathrooms. There was an outhouse with a dirt floor on each side of the school – one for the boys and one for the girls. It worked out just fine until one day we had a tornado touch down and destroyed the boys outhouse. After that we had one common outhouse.
At the end of the day the boys would go to the coal shed to bring in the coal, wood, and kindling for the next day. Others would shake the erasers against the side of the coal shed. We girls had to sweep the oily, dirty floor.