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Class trip down memory lane: Former Pine Grove Schoolhouse student recalls tutelage in a one-room schoolhouse

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LOWVILLE — David Austin looked nostalgically around the one-room Pine Grove Schoolhouse on the Lowville Academy campus.

Gesturing to a seat in the back, he chuckled and said, “I don’t remember this place being this small.”

The Castorland resident attended grades 1 through 6 at the school from 1949 to 1955. The white school, about the size of a shed, is now situated beside the elementary playground.

Mr. Austin was one of about 10 people, four of them former students, who visited during an open house tour Sunday.

“I’m glad the school didn’t get destroyed. It means a lot to me because it will be here for a long time,” said Mr. Austin.

The exact year the school was built is unknown, but it is thought to be between 1875 and 1878. It closed in 1958. Originally standing on Pine Grove Road in the town of Watson, it was moved to the Lowville Academy grounds and restored in 1988 by the Alumni and Friends of LACS, now the Alumni Association.

Looking through old photos of the school, Mr. Austin recounted that in place of a playground the students had a glorified sandbox. At recess they played dodgeball and tag.

Each grade, which consisted of two or three students at a time, had its own section within the room.

Their teacher, Dorothy Duflo, would start the day by teaching math to the first graders, then the second graders and so on. While she was teaching one grade, the other students had classwork to keep them occupied. Mr. Austin recalled it was not a distraction.

“You had your own classwork or you could read a book to keep you occupied till she was back to your class,” he said.

Following the closure of the school, Ms. Duflo, who Mr. Austin described as “the nicest lady,” taught third grade at LACS.

Gesturing to the back wall, he said there had been an extra room with “flushing toilets” for boys and girls, with a furnace between them. The side room, no longer attached, was part of the original schoolhouse built in the 1850s.

A lot of effort has been put into making the school house as true to it’s original appearance as possible.

Patricia L. Homer, who organized and delivered the tour, is a retired Lowville Academy elementary school librarian. While she admitted not everything was the same as when Mr. Austin had attended, members of the Alumni Association “strived to bring it back to the 1880 to 1910 era.”

In the schoolhouse cellar are the Lowville Academy archives, which were also open to guests. The archives hold old band uniforms, photos and excess yearbooks, which are available for sale for $5 each.

The open house was organized by the Lewis County Historical Society. Following the tour, guests were invited back to the Lewis County Historical Society at 7552 South State Street, to view a slide show.

A recently obtained one-room schoolhouse in Martinsburg was also open for a self-guided tour.

To learn more about upcoming Lewis County Historical Society projects, visit www.LewisCountyHistory.org.

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