Local alumni of the Howard School hope to restore the historical structure

Photo Credit: KEVIN SPERL - Sharon Allured (far left), Val Grubbe, Bill Grubbe, Gerry Grubbe, Lucy Woodward, Bill Quant, and Merle Williams reminisce about their school years in front of the recently relocated Howard School building.

When Craig Woodward was asked to consider moving the old Howard School in order to save it, he wasn’t particularly interested, until his wife, Lucy, reminded him that she went to school there.

It was then that it became an item on his “Honey Do” list.

“The new owner of the property that the school sits on, Chub Fessler, needed to get rid of the school,” said Craig. “He asked if I wanted it, but I had no real interest. He talked to my wife who went to school there and she had a different outlook than I did.”

So, it came to pass that, on Sunday, July 13, Woodward’s company, along with crews from the O’Ryan Ranch, Line Shack Log Structures, and SMAF Construction raised the building on steel beams and, with a front loader on each corner, moved the old building less than a mile down Ochoco Creek Road, approximately one mile east of the split with Highway 26.

“We started around 6:30 that morning and got the structure out onto the highway around noon,” explained Lucy. “The building was heavier than we thought it would be and we broke a few chains.”

Lucy was a student at the school in 1953, attending classes there from first through fifth grade.

“It was a one-room school house for grades one through six,” she said. “When I went to school, there were about 26 students in all grades. The older kids would be assigned lessons and they helped the younger kids as well. It was a collaborative effort.”

In February of her fifth-grade year, Lucy’s parents moved into town, but she continued to attend classes at Howard, hitching a ride with her teacher. Three weeks before the end of the school year, that teacher got sick, forcing Lucy to attend Crooked River Elementary.

Woodward has put out the call to former students of the school to come together and brainstorm ideas about the building’s restoration.

Earlier this week, she was joined by a small group of Howard alumni for a tour of the building including Bill Quant, Gerry Grubbe, Sharon Allured (Tooley), Bill Grubbe, Val Grubbe and Merle Williams.

“Everything looks so much smaller,” remarked Allured, a student from 1957 through 1959, as she entered the building.

The wood stove is missing, the walls appear to be a little unsteady in places, and there is a lot of dust and accumulated dirt on the floor. The green chalkboard seems to have survived relatively unscathed, now covered in chalk with names of people who had “been here,” albeit recently.

Bill Grubbe was quick to add his name to the board, along with his dates of attendance, 1949 to 1956, while relating the same old story that everyone tells about how hard school was back then.

“I used to walk one-and-a-half miles each way to school, and it was uphill both ways,” he laughed, adding that school bus service finally arrived when he entered third grade.

Merle Williams, who attended first and second grade in 1945 to 1946, proclaimed that his nose print just might be firmly implanted on every corner of the building, implying that he was a less-than-perfect student.

“There were eight students in here when I was a student,” he said. “But, after second grade we moved to Fox, Oregon, living there for awhile before moving back to Prineville.”

It is Lucy Woodward’s best guess that the school was built around 1915, replacing the old log-built school that burned in 1895.

Her husband added that most people would be surprised by the number of people that went to school in the building.

“There were logging camps up and down the valley and the Forest Service had people working out at the Ochoco Ranger Station,” he said. “People weren’t as mobile as they are now and the loggers and Forest Service workers tended to live closer to work. After they paved the road, the school was closed and the students moved into town.”

Craig Woodward explained that the school was named after the old Howard cinnabar mining district, owned by Jimmy Howard, his great great great grandfather who arrived in Oregon in 1844.

That mine turned out to be quite a draw for the students as well.

Lucy Woodward recalled that everyone who went to the school was told to not go near the mine, so, of course, that’s exactly what they did.

Bill Grubbe reminded the group that they had to write their names on the board near the rear door when they left the building.

“When you went out you had better be either in the woodshed or the outhouse,” he laughed. “Going to the mine was a big no-no.”

His sister, Val, added that it was never OK to have both boy’s and girl’s names on the board at the same time.

“That was frowned on,” she added with a laugh.

Now that the heavy lifting is complete, Lucy Woodward is hoping to build on the interest shown by the group that visited the school.

“I think I know about 20 to 25 people that are still in the area that went to school there,” she said. “When the fire season winds down I’ll try to start an effort to put the building back the way it was.”

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