Thursday, June 8, 2017

A Trip Down Memory Lane - Box Elder County Schools

I have been reading for some time of a temporary exhibit in the Brigham City Museum about the history of the schools in what is now Box Elder County.  I thought Mom might enjoy it since she is a product of those schools, so we set off on a Tuesday afternoon to see the exhibit before it is changed.  Since she is 93 years old and somewhat weak to do much walking and recently had cataract surgery, I popped her into a transport chair and we headed down the ramp to the museum which is the basement of the building.

The exhibit was mostly pictures with a few artifacts thrown in.  We hoped to see more names with the pictures but it was not to be.  Two ladies were working there in the museum, one in the back office and another wandered through briefly. We enjoyed discussing the pictures at a fairly high volume so Mom could hear me, but I think we didn't disturb anyone, since we were the only patrons there at the time.

A case in the front contained the report card of a Thelma Bott with a notation by her teacher that she was doing better, but that her mind just seemed to be somewhere else.  It was signed by a relative, Olive Hale.  As we got to the back of the room, Mom said, "Now there are some people I know!"  It was a picture of six people.  Mom immediately started naming them.  About that time the head person of the museum walked through and heard mom saying the names.  She said, Wait right here while I go get a pencil and paper.  I want to write these down!"  So we made our contribution to the museum knowledge.  If you look closely at the picture, you can see Mom's reflection just in the lower center of the picture.  It is a picture of the PE department at the time mom went to school there.  In front, from left to right, are Zula Hansen, Louise Call and Elizabeth Romney.  Two of the men were Coach Ferguson (football)  and Coach Rasmussen (basketball) who also taught biology. She didn't remember the other man.

The next picture is Box Elder High School.  When Mom attended there, the building to the right was not there yet.

 When the school system in Brigham City was started, there were 4 church wards in town. Each ward was apparently tasked with providing a school.  Since Mom's family lived in the old 4th Ward, she went to Lincoln School

This building is Lincoln School.  It has since been torn down.  If you look closer just next to the main entrance, there is some sort of fancy stone work.  My family didn't live in Brigham City, but once when I was about 6 years old and we were in town visiting,  I was sent off to school for the day.  My great-aunt, Thelma Kotter, was the teacher.

One of the artifacts in the museum was a piece of the stone work salvaged when Lincoln School was torn down.

 Before we left the school exhibit, Mom got her picture taken by a fairly modern Box Elder High School sweater.

Mostly we were interested in schools Mom attended, but there were pictures of many other schools as well.  One of them was this shot of the Intermountain Indian School.  It was a boarding school for Native American kids which has since been closed and mostly torn down.  Originally the school was built for use during World War II and was called Bushnell Hospital.  It specialized in caring for amputees with war time injuries.  Once the war was over, it was no longer needed, so became a school.  Ernest Freeman, my grandfather, was an employee there for a time, and even my mother remembered working there.

After looking at the school exhibit, we looked at some of the more permanent exhibits depicting life in Brigham City in the old days.  I was interested in the embroidery on this bonnet as well as the slat bonnet since I wear things like that sometimes.

Since we have a woodworker in the family I had to take the tool picture.

I think he would not mind having a lovely grindstone like this one to sharpen his tools.

Even more than the artifacts in the two rooms they had, were perhaps the signs with them with names of some relatives as donors.

Then we saw the shoe making exhibit and had to stop there. Before the Freeman family moved to Brigham City from England, they were shoe makers.  One of them eventually carried on the trade sometimes in Brigham since they brought their tools with them.  Although there were no names on the shoe lasts, we wondered if they might have come from Uncle Harry's shop.

The side wall of one of the rooms was two rows of adobe bricks covered with plaster.  Many of the older homes in Brigham have adobes in their walls still.  Norma Kotter lived in one of those homes.  The walls were thick and even in the summer heat, her home stayed cool without air conditioning. Norma's father, Henry Kotter, was a German man who ran a brickyard in Denmark before emigrating to the US.  He was also put in charge of a brickyard in Brigham, so he is likely responsible for some of the adobe bricks in many homes.

On one wall is an exhibit  with pictures and one page biographies of many early Brigham City folks.  Mom knew a fair number of them or their descendants.  The lady working in the back room eventually came out and chatted for a while about various folks in town.  It turns out that her father, Ephraim Johnson worked for the post office at the same time as Grandpa Ernest Freeman was the postmaster  What a small world!

They had no Freemans or Kotters in the collection, sadly, but we agreed to help them remedy that.  There was a time when pretty much everyone in town knew one of the Freemans.  Uncle Alf was the principal of the school as well as a teacher, Uncle Wilfred was also a teacher as well as Bishop of a local ward, (Mom took Biology from him.)  At one time Alf was also the mayor of Brigham City.  Their younger brother Ernest worked as postmaster, in the county assessors office and various other places and at one time was a Major in the National Guard.  The oldest brother, Harry, carried on the family shoe making and repairing tradition and worked as a carpenter.  The youngest brother, Bert, joined the Army for World War I, but tragically died in the Spanish Influenza epidemic

Hopefully some day if we revisit the museum, we will also find our family there.

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