The Fairview Area Historical Society
Posted September 3, 2015
SCHOOL IS OPEN!
At one time the schools in Fairview were neighborhood schools - twelve frame buildings and four brick buildings - out in the township. In the village area the first school was a frame building, constructed on William Sturgeon's property in 1810. Another was built in 1825 and in 1844 two others were built and the earlier buildings were abandoned. The township and the village/borough area did not merge to become one school district until Chestnut School was built in 1927. But, it was only for high school students. Prior to that the township children either quit school after the 8th grade, or traveled to South High (the large brick building on the northwest corner of Sterrettania and Avonia Road (Route 98) to continue their education. South High was built in 1905.
And where did the older borough children attend? Located where the post office is today, the building was called "the Union School" officially, but in the 20th Century, generally referred to as the Fairview High School.
The Union School was a two-story frame building, erected in 1866, and big enough to accommodate all the children in the borough. With the completion of this building the other two from 1844 were closed and sold for other uses. Alas! In 1891 this building burned down, but it was rebuilt to the same specifications on the same site that same year. In 1892 the first class to finish (eighth grade) had three students. The principal was Prof. D. S. Swaney. In 1895 the ninth grade was added, making this building the first in the county to offer upper grades. The class of 1896 included Grace Temple, the aunt of child star Shirley Temple. Four others graduated with Grace that year.
The 10th grade was added in 1902 with seven graduates. No one graduated in 1903 and the 11th and 12th grades were added in 1908. No one graduated that year either.
In the mid 20th Century all sorts of antics went on with ambitious boys trying to outdo each other. Today kids would probably be arrested for some of the stunts that were pulled! For example, the Union School bell, weighing about 400 pounds, mysteriously disappeared one night in 1963. The building was about to be torn down to make way for the post office. A call went out to please return the bell so that it could be mounted on the new high school (Garwood, which was built in 1961 as a high school and now functions as the Fairview Middle School).
"The appeal touched a few hearts and three bells were returned. There was no special markings on the bells, so one was selected to represent the true one." (See the article on the history of the schools in Those Were the Days, page 27.) Ah, but this article goes on to say that those in the know believe the true bell lies at the bottom of Lake Erie. By 1976 the representative bell was moved to the new high school (built in 1973) and was placed in storage there. Since that time the school district donated that bell to the Fairvew Area Historical Society.
Halloween certainly was a time to expect trouble from the boys - and possibly some of the girls - out that night for mischief. But some people just seemed to invite trouble, as was the case with Perry Sturgeon whose home was on the north side of Main Street, near Linda Avenue. His house was a frequent target.
In the early days of the last century Weislogel's was a meat market that made deliveries in a horse-drawn wagon. That wagon just couldn't seem to stay put on Halloween. The next morning it could be found any number of places - even wedged onto the porch over the front door of the Union School. It was a flat roof and some say that one year a cow was somehow hoisted up there during the night. According to the article mentioned above, no one would lay claim to that legend, only that they had heard it somewhere, from somebody or other at some time or other!
After the joint high school was built on Chestnut Street the old Union School continued to be used for the elementary classes on the first floor. The second floor became a good place for band practice and other after-school activities.
John Klier tells us about the vocational agriculture course available there in the late 1940s. The school operated a greenhouse across the street from the Chestnut School, on the backside of Weislogel's store. C. J. "Connie" Kell taught the classes; Carl Nordberg later took over from him on the faculty. John Shepley was the principal at the time. The "Ag Boys" raised strawberries and managed an apple orchard near Walker Avenue. Money raised from the sale of their produce was used to pay for paving material for a sidewalk between the Union School and Chestnut School. Not only did they pay for the paving, but they paved it themselves - at a personal cost to two boys who stayed behind to do the work while the rest of the school (the whole school!) went to Waldamere for the day. The boys didn't lose out too badly, however. Principal Shepley was so pleased he took the boys to Treasure Island for a steak dinner.
The agriculture progam was so successful that a program sponsored by the Sears Foundation awarded a heifer - a Holstein - to a boy each year. John Klier was the first to win one. The one condition for the prize was that the first calf be turned back into the program in order to award another student.
Fairview schools have been called "the tie that binds" by Charles E. Merwin, a native of the Manchester area, born in 1854. Children attended their local neighborhood school during those early days, yet a school program, annual fairs, etc., brought the children together. Today the centralized school district for all the childen brings the township together.
Tradition: the handing down of information, beliefs, or customs from one generation to another.
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The Fairview Area Historical Society is one of 26 members of Erie Yesterday, a county-wide consortium of historically-oriented organizations and individuals. Together these organizations are saving history for the future. For more information, see erieyesterday.org
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