Updated in 1977, Hazel Baker Austin’s book “Surface Creek Country” chronicles the history of the region’s vintage schoolhouses. The back cover of her informative volume features a hand-drawn map depicting the general locations of no fewer than 20 schools ranging from Sand Creek School to the north to Fairview in the south. Erected west of the village of Austin in 1900, the Fairview School was torn down in the mid-1960s. The Sand Creek structure was also constructed in the early 1900s, but the little red schoolhouse which once sat near Dirty George Creek survived to take a place of honor in Cedaredge’s Pioneer Town.

Most of the other schools are gone now — preserved in a handful of souvenirs and precious family photos. Recent trips down memory lane generated a variety of stories and images.

Sharon Wear sat at her dining table to share a folio of mementos about her mother’s time at Coalby School. Sharon herself graduated from Fairview in 1952 and rode the bus to Delta to complete her high school degree in 1956. She has fond memories of Fairview including a series of reunions held over the years. Fairview students had their final formal get-together in 2017, but classmates still keep in touch.

The parents of Andy Wick worked in area schools including Fairview. Taking time from his Upper Valley Holsteins dairy, Andy drove Highway 65 and back roads to reach sites where schools once stood and point out remaining buildings. Andy owns a set of pictures which his father rescued before Fairview disappeared. Around 1966, demolition workers telephoned Harold Wick to ask if he wanted the pictures. Prints of famous drawings by English illustrator Edwin Landseer (1802-73) once graced the walls of Fairview classrooms. Now four of the pictures reside in Andy’s recreation room.

A phone conversation with Patsy Bruton revealed that her father-in-law attended Coalby School. As a boy, John Bruton ran a trap-line before school, hoping to capture anything which might earn his family a little extra money. He hadn’t counted on catching a skunk and his early morning encounter meant he wasn’t allowed inside the schoolhouse. To continue his lessons, young John was obliged to sit outside next to a window.

More stories and photos of old schools can be found in Hazel Baker Austin’s book which is available for checkout at the Delta County Libraries.

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