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Two-room school alumni reunited

September 24, 2000

Two-room school alumni reunited



By DON AINES / Staff Writer, Chambersburg


ROXBURY, Pa. -- Looking over Robert Powell's eighth-grade report card, he did fairly well in most subjects, with As in spelling and penmanship and Bs in reading, geography and deportment.

Deportment, or proper conduct, may no longer be something students are graded on, but it was 1939, Powell's last year at the former Roxbury School.

Generations of Lurgan Township children learned the three Rs at the red brick, two-room schoolhouse between 1887 and its closing in 1955. The building itself was torn down in 1979, but about 50 former students got together Sunday for their ninth biennial reunion at the Lurgan Township Lions Club building.

Dozens of tiny schools dotted Franklin County in the early part of this century before giving way to consolidated school systems. Many have been torn down, others were converted to homes or businesses, and some just sit abandoned. Only the former Brown's Mill School north of Greencastle, Pa., has been preserved as a museum.

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For Powell and others Sunday's reunion was a family affair. Sisters Gertrude Hollar and Dorothy Finkey were there, as were Gertrude's daughter Charlotte Salmon and Dorothy's daughter Phyllis Perry.

"I attended it, my father attended it and my grandfather attended it," said Joanne Pogue of Chambersburg. Pogue went there in the 1940s, but the amenities were reminiscent of the 19th century.

"Even when I went there, we didn't have running water. We carried buckets of water over from a house nearby," she said. The school had an outhouse, Pogue added.

Students in grades one through four were taught in one room, with fifth through eighth graders in the other, said John Timmons of Roxbury. His last year there was 1946.

Timmons didn't think being in a classroom with children from three other grades hurt his education. "I think we learned a lot because when they were teaching the other classes, the little people would learn right along with them," he said.

Powell, who now lives in Mount Holly Springs, Pa., agreed. "My first two years of high school, as far as math, English and history, I'd already had them in eighth grade," he said.

"We had to learn a poem a month. I never heard of that at any other school," Powell said.

Class sizes were small and the number of boys attending often grew smaller as they got older, according to Pogue. "A lot of our boys came from farms and never even went to eighth grade," she said.

"I'm an antique," said Gertrude Hollar, at 90 the oldest person at the reunion. She said her family moved from the Steelton, Pa., area to Roxbury in 1918. "Floyd Swanger was my teacher," she said.

Just two of the school's teachers are still alive and neither was able to attend the reunion, Pogue said. Nevertheless, the former students remembered Swanger, Frank Stewart, Florence Geyer, Frank Killian, Robert Brenize and other teachers from the past.

"The days that Frank Stewart taught we had good discipline," said Charlotte Salmon. She added, however, that Stewart enjoyed recess as much as his students.

Most of the reunion participants stayed closed to home. Patricia Corwell lives just two houses away from where the school once stood.

Corwell, who graduated from the little school in 1949, has worked for the Orrstown Bank 46 years and is now a vice president. Classmates asked her if she was working when the local branch was robbed last week, but she told them she was on vacation.

The youngest attendee, 51-year-old Will Holtry, stayed in Roxbury. He owns Holtry Equipment and has been pastor of the Blue Mountain Brethren in Christ Church for 20 years.

There may be two hundred alumni of the school, but the number shrinks with each reunion. Pogue said at least six have died since the 1998 reunion.

She helped organize the first reunion 18 years ago, and said future plans may include inviting former students from the Lurgan Elementary School, which replaced the Roxbury School 45 years ago.

Gertrude Hollar, whose memories go back to making Red Cross aprons during World War I, plans to keep attending the get-togethers.

"I hope this goes on many more years. I'd like to be 100 and tell people I'm from Roxbury School," she said.

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