I will forever equate the arrival of Fall with the smell of sharpened pencils. Even after years of being out of school, many of my clearest memories of Fall are tied to the return to the classroom, reconnecting with friends who were away during the summer, and the simple worries of childhood.
As a child, I attended Cleghorn Elementary School in Rapid City, which was the oldest school in the Black Hills. It began as a one-room school house. Over the years, the facility expanded until it could accommodate about a hundred students. Our classes were small and I only had four different teachers during my seven years there. In many cases, several grades were taught in the same classroom by the same teacher.
Despite sounding like a scene descended directly from a Laura Ingalls Wilder tale, it was a wonderful school. While I was there, it even won an award for being the best elementary school in the state. Not long after I left, however, the decision was made to tear it down in favor of sending the kids to more modern facilities. Though it was old, the school building had been restored and added onto so many times it could no longer be classified as a historical structure. I was sorry to see it go.
There are many similar tales around here. One-room schoolhouses really were the norm in the early days of the frontier, and I find something romantic and fascinating about the fact that even as late as the 1980s, I had a chance to take part in that history. I think about that as we’re driving along the highways and lanes that twist through the Black Hills. It is easy to spot old, abandoned buildings. They may be part of ghost towns or simply abandoned homesteads, but they all whisper to me about the people who used to live there or work there or learn there.