Elodie Reed, St. Albans Messenger
‘It’s a wonderful memory.’
ST. ALBANS BAY — Alan Elrick, 86, Irene Quintin, 92, and her sister Arrietta Demar, 88, all remember: at the Point School there was a shed outside with Rocky the horse and the outhouse in it; there was a field beside the school where all the kids played ball; and there was only one teacher – Edith Bascomb, or Lois Fortin, depending on the year – to instruct eight grades of students.
“It’s a wonderful memory,” Quintin said last week of her former school.
The old schoolhouse, which had stood at St. Albans Bay since at least 1871 when it first appeared as Number 17 on a school map, was torn down last Wednesday. After going through various uses and owners, the property is now owned by Jackie Brown and her brother-in-law, Gary Brown, who would both like for something like the original building to be built there.
To do that, they needed some help. Prior to several weeks ago, all the Browns knew was that the property was once a school, and that Jackie Brown’s father-in-law, Clarence Brown, bought it in 1962. Brown unsuccessfully tried to start a gas station there twice before the small brick building was remodeled into an apartment-style space and was abandoned by the 1970s or 1980s.
Past those facts, the property’s history was a mystery. Fortunately, some Point School alumni still live in this area, and several saw a May Messenger article about the Browns’ plans to remodel the old schoolhouse, which had deteriorated past the point of renovation.
Elrick, Quintin and Demar each contacted Jackie Brown a few weeks ago to share that they attended the Point School in the late 1920s and 1930s and that they remembered the property quite vividly. Quintin and Demar, who now live in St. Albans, and Elrick, who lives in South Burlington, met with Brown at the schoolhouse last Tuesday to talk, reminisce, and tell Brown more details about the one-room school before the old building came down.
“We lived just down the road here,” said Quintin. She and Demar were two of 18 children in their family, which lived on Point Farm. They moved there in 1927.
“That’s why we went to this school,” Demar added. She and her twin attended the school with Quintin, along with another sister, Eunice Shanks, who is now 91 and living in Austin, Texas.
Elrick lived on Hathaway Point. “My mother and father operated a farm,” he said. “A small dairy farm.”
All remembered Rocky the horse quite clearly, who would pull a sleigh in the winter.
“Oh my goodness, that horse was spirited horse,” said Quintin.
There was no running water, so the children trekked down to the lake for it. In the winter, they’d have to break a hole in the ice.
There was also no toilet, just the outhouse in the horse shed. “It was an inside outdoor,” said Elrick.
“The boys used to peek in the window,” Demar said, though Elrick quickly added, “Not this boy.”
In the schoolhouse, four lines of students sat in front of the teacher, with about 25 children in eight grades sharing bench-like seats.
“My sister and I sat in the same seat,” said Demar of her twin.
Students would switch seats from back to front so the one teacher could instruct each grade. Older students helped watch over younger students.
There was also a stove at the front of the classroom to keep students warm. “In the wintertime, we used to sit around the stove,” Elrick said.
In the warmer months, all the students played baseball in the field next door. “All the kids played ball,” said Quintin.
Quintin attended from 1928 to 1932, Demar from 1932 to 1934, and Elrick from 1934 to 1937. Quintin and Demar moved to Swanton in 1934, and Elrick was at the school until it closed in 1937. He moved to the new Bay School, which was a two-room schoolhouse.
“That was a step up,” he said.
Demar also attended that school, while Quintin went to the Parsons Avenue School in Swanton. All three graduated from Bellows Free Academy high school in St. Albans.
Elrick went on to study at the University of Vermont and University of Connecticut, and he eventually ended up working for U.S. Customs and Border Patrol in various places in New England and Canada.
Both Quintin and Demar were married after high school – Demar had 10 children with her husband of 57 years, William, and Quintin had 11. Quintin was married twice, most recently to Armand Quintin.
The alumni remembered their school days with fondness, and they said last week that they were interested to see what the future holds for the Point School property.
“I think it’s wonderful,” said Demar of the rebuilding idea.
“I think it should have been done 50 years ago,” added Quintin.
“It’s nice that they’re doing it,” Elrick said.
All three left the school last week with a brick from the original building, a way by to remember the original school.
Brown has been working with the three students to come up with ways, such as using original bricks as detail, to incorporate the old schoolhouse into a new building. Now, Brown said, she has some ideas. Some of those include putting in the four rows of seats, chalkboards, and permanently writing all former students’ name she can find on those boards to be remembered more permanently.
“It’s been fun,” Brown said of the project thus far.
Jeff Adams Excavating took down the building last week, and with the help of P.I. Charbonneau Construction and JL Masonry and Hardscaping, Brown said a foundation should be poured and framing up by the end of the summer. “We’ll go from there,” she said.
Brown hopes to secure a variance, which she is in the process of applying for, to use the space commercially, perhaps as an office or even a café.
“I think Point School Café would be a really cool thing,” Brown said.
She added that speaking with former students about the Point School’s past has been a big help in visioning the future of the property, which will probably take a couple of years to complete.
“We’ve got a bit of history now,” Brown said.