|Alba School Burns 1961
March 10, 1961 Associated Press
EARLY MORNING FIRE LEVELS SCHOOL AT ALBA
Alba-Fire which broke out early this morning destroyed the Alba School. High winds and freezing temperatures hampered the firemen in fighting the blaze believed caused by defective wiring. An estimate of the loss was not available this morning. An unidentified trucker discovered the fire which started on the inside walls in the boy's restroom on the ground floor of the two story frame building. Only one floor of the school was in use. The second story had been condemned several years ago and school facilities had been restricted to the use of the one room on the first floor. There were 21 students and one teacher, Mrs. Lucy Saxton, using the building. The truck driver with nearby residents, after calling the Canton Fire Department, broke a window and used snow and pails of water to try to control the blaze. The first alarm to the Canton firemen, led by Chief Thad Hickok, sounded at 3:50 and a second call was received at 4:30. Troy firemen, under the direction of Chief Willis Batterson, were called at 4:30. All school equipment was lost. Ruins of the building which was located about a block east from the main intersection with Rt. 14 in Alba, were still smoldering late this morning. No other buildings were in danger. Relocation of the 21 students, first to sixth graders, has not been determined. The school is under the juridiction of the Troy School System with Harry Crumbling as supervising principal.
A handful of people who had attended the Alba School showed up at the event. They said the school, which had one teacher, housed grades one through eight, and that during the 1950s it was converted to a school that had only grades one through six.
"We still got a good education," despite the fact that so many grades were being taught in the same room, said Alba Mayor Dale Palmer, who attended the school in the late 1950s and early 1960s. "It was a great education."
One of the former students at the school, Gordon Matson, said there were usually only four to five students in each grade, so the school was still very small.
"There was more time (for the teacher) to spend with each child," said Marvin Woodward of Alba, who attended the school in the 1940s and early 1950s.
And Woodward said the teacher who was at the school when he attended it in the 1940s and early 1950s, Florence Saxton, took her job seriously and was a caring teacher.
Besides being instructed by the teacher, older students also helped younger students learn, the former students said.
Matson said that when he attended the school, there was no running water.
"I'd carry water in for the teacher, and she'd let you ring the school bell," he said.
There were no bathrooms in the school either, and students had to use an outhouse.
While corporal punishment was allowed at the time, Matson said he didn't recall Saxton using it.
"She could make you do what she wanted you to do, just by talking to you," he said.
Woodward said the Alba School was more of a neighborhood school than schools today. "Everybody (who attended it) lived pretty close" to each other and they knew each other outside school and played together, he said.
Clara Woodward of Alba, who attended the event on Saturday, was a student at a one-room schoolhouse, but not the one in Alba.
She attended a one-room school in East Canton in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and said that her mother had her carry warm, baked potatoes to school on winter mornings because she did not have mittens. She would then eat the potatoes for lunch.
"There were eight of us in my family," Clara Woodward recalled. "If there were any mittens, the oldest ones got them, and for the little ones, there weren't any."
She said she carried her books to school in a burlap potato sack. She said she walked four miles to the school. "Four miles was a long way to school in winter," she said.
The bell that used to hang in the Alba School is now the bell that hangs in the one-room Thomas School, Palmer said. The Thomas School is now part of the Farm Museum in Troy, he said.
James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or e-mail; firstname.lastname@example.org