Former students recall classes at one-room schoolhouse near Pine Grove

·3 min read

Sep. 18—PINE GROVE — For Gertrude Lengel Pezzoni, going to class at the one-room Stanhope Schoolhouse meant having to face all kinds of environmental and weather conditions.

"I had to wear boots to school, as the road was muddy," the 89-year-old recalled Saturday.

There was also no such thing as snow days.

Before more than a dozen people Saturday afternoon, Pezzoni, her sisters Patsy Lengel Weckle and Janet Lengel Miller, along with Paul Ziegler, reminisced about going to class in the schoolhouse as part of the first Stanhope Schoolhouse Project educational presentation.

The quartet recalled walking to school, sometimes as far away as a mile and a quarter, while carrying books and their lunch.

Miller said students were expected to be at school, which operated from 1876 to 1952 along Camp Road in Pine Grove Twp., regardless of weather conditions.

"No one missed school," she said.

Their teachers had to come to the school early in the morning to turn on the furnace to warm the building for classes, which, they said, had as few as five or six students.

For Pezzoni, she was the lone student in her grade.

"That meant I was the best and worst student," the Pine Grove Twp. native, now living in Blairsville, Westmoreland County, said with a chuckle.

The school had no electricity, meaning students had to rely on the sun and kerosene lamps for light.

"We would sit near the windows to get the light," Ziegler said.

The school also lacked running water. Students had to get it from a nearby spring or a metal bucket. And they used outhouses for restrooms.

"We weren't germophobic," Ziegler said.

Being in a rural area, school was the only time they saw other children, as they worked on the farms that dot the area over the summer. The school day started at 8:30 a.m. and would end at 3:30 p.m.

All four recalled taking a test to go to high school. Ziegler, a retired educator in the Pine Grove Area School District, said students were better prepared for high school with the math, reading and writing they were taught at Stanhope.

They were also taught and graded on penmanship and had to recite math equations.

Asked how a single teacher managed a class of students in multiple grade levels, they said the teacher would teach a few students, while the others did their schoolwork

The four agreed their favorite subject was geography, because it exposed them to far away places.

"We didn't get to go many places. We stayed on the farm," Miller said.

They also went to school at the tail end of World War II and when the Korean War started. Ziegler recalled hearing about V-J Day over the radio while at school.

Responding to a question about lockdown drills, he said they didn't have fire drills back then.

The former students said they are happy to have attended the school in their youth.

"It got us far," Ziegler said.

Saturday's program was the first educational program in the building in 70 years. Volunteers with the Stanhope Schoolhouse Project, organized by the Pinegrove Historical Society, have worked since 2014 to restore the schoolhouse and had a grand opening last month.

Pezzoni said she is glad her old school has been restored.

"It's an accomplishment," she said.

When the school closed in 1952, students moved to Pine Grove Area School District.

The district's current superintendent, Heath Renninger, said it feels great to see the building still standing. His grandmother, Esther Schneck, was a Stanhope student.

"I like to hear the stories of people that have come before," Renninger said. "It's a cool feeling."

Linda Mills, chair of Stanhope Schoolhouse Project, said the group plans to have the schoolhouse open to the public on select dates from May to September, with intern Reanna Reynolds, a sophomore at Kutztown University studying elementary education, organizing programs.

Mills said additional information can be found on the project website, https://pghs-stanhopeschool.org.

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