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One-room school holds many memories

September 09, 1997

By RICHARD F. BELISLE

Staff Writer, Waynesboro

QUINCY, Pa. - "In a recess on a hillside, just a little from the road,

Sits a school of small dimensions, waiting memories to unload.

Sturdy bricks have held it stable, where it sits on purchased land,

Gladly deeded by a farmer when he saw the need at hand."

Those first lines of a poem by alumna Laura (Benedict) Slothour, written in 1995 about the one-room Pigeon Hill School, tells of public education in a slower, quieter time and about a lonely relic keeping vigil on a bleak hillside on Manheim Road in Quincy Township.

The first Pigeon Hill School, named for a large flock of passenger pigeons that roosted nearby, was built in 1851. Nine years later a larger school was built, which was replaced in 1891 by the 30-by-35-foot brick building standing today.

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Pigeon Hill was one of nearly 200 one-room school houses that dotted the Franklin County landscape. By 1951 the number was down to 25, including Pigeon Hill, which closed in 1955, according to a history of the school edited by Fred W. Benedict, a former student.

Janet Zullinger, 79, of Chambersburg, taught at Pigeon Hill from 1940 to 1943. "It was my first job after graduating from Shippensburg University. My salary was $100 a month."

Most students left Pigeon Hill by passing a test that moved them up to Quincy High School. Others stayed at Pigeon Hill until they became 16 and quit to work on their families' farms.

The summer recess was four months long, so students could spend more time working on their farms, Zullinger said.

Pigeon Hill had no electric lights It did have boys' and girls' outhouses and a pot-bellied coal stove that had to be fired up on cold mornings. Drinking water came from a pump at a nearby farmhouse owned by the Garber family.

"Mrs. Garber always gave me a piece of pie when I went for the water," said D. Marion Benedict, 75, who left Pigeon Hill in 1937. He was one of eight children in his family to go there.

Gladys Geesaman, from the class of 1940, was one of four Garber children to attend Pigeon Hill.

Her classmate Crena (Cordell) Anderson, 72, now of Hagerstown, was one of five family children in school at the same time.

Students sat by grade in seats, with the lower grades up front.

"You taught by grades. Each class came up front for their lessons," Zullinger said. "The older children helped the younger ones. You needed a lot of cooperation because you had to teach all the grades and get the eighth- graders ready to take their high school test."

Brighter students often skipped a grade by listening and learning the lessons from the higher grades, Zullinger said.

"We all walked a mile or more to school," Anderson said. "There was no such thing as a snow day. You came to school if you could. On the coldest days, the teacher met us at the door with a pan of cold water to warm our hands."

Class always began with a prayer, a Bible reading, a song and a salute to the flag, Geesaman said.

Students invented their own games in a schoolyard devoid of playground equipment. A favorite was Tickly Ball, in which two teams stood on each side of the school and a ball was thrown over the roof to be caught on the other side. In the winter, kids spent their recess sledding down the steep hill on the side of the school.

An average class size was about 35 students, Anderson said.

Robert Frye of Ligonier, Pa., bought the school 30 years ago. He boarded up the windows and replaced the roof, but did little else. He has no plans for the building.

Several alumnae, including Anderson, Benedict and Geesaman, would like to see the school maintained as a historic site.

The future of the building will be discussed at a school reunion Saturday, beginning at 10 a.m. at the Quincy Community Hall. Frye said he will be there.

The first Pigeon Hill reunion was held in 1995.

Anderson said the deadline for making a reservation for the reunion is Thursday. She can be reached at 301-582-2045.

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