Several days ago, I posted on Face Book a black and white photograph of the fire that consumed the old Poplar Run School. A huge column of black smoke rose as the tar paper roof melted and burned. The building was located between Normalville and Indian Head, Pennsylvania where the Poplar Run Road intersected with Route 711.
The one room, white washed clapboard school building wore a hand hewn sandstone block foundation. Eight steps made of the same stone were inserted into the earthen bank to allow easy access to the hollow where the school was nestled.
There was just enough room for the teacher to park her car on the berm and still permit the flow of traffic on Route 711. Every weekday, Miss Ora Woomer would descend those stairs and open up the school. Cold days she would start the fire in the pot bellied stove and on warn days, she would raise the windows to allow the air to circulate and cool the uninsulated building.
Ora was a roly-poly short statured woman with close cropped gray hair, wearing glasses only when she was in the classroom. The heels of her black lace up shoes would tap as she crossed the wooden floor.
To one side of the school was the coal and kindling shed. It was the responsibility of the older boys to keep the coal scuttle filled and that there was kindling to start the fire for the next morning. At the rear of the building were the two privies, little more than latrines. There was one for the girls and one for the boys. Peeping was discouraged, but it didn’t always deter the more ambitious.
Recess was always a much anticipated event where the boys would disappear into the woods that surrounded the school lawn. It was mostly a game of cowboys and Indians. Occasionally, someone would get tied to a tree, unable to respond to the bell announcing that recess was over. When Ora would discover that a child was missing, she would send out a search party, extending recess for nearly another hour, until the “lost” child could be found.
All of these stories were shared with me by the neighbor boys. If the Poplar Run School would have stayed open for one more year, I would have joined those who could claim that they attended a one room school. I did get Miss Ora Woomer as a teacher in third grade. It was in the newly built Springfield Elementary School