Priscilla Mangnall

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December 13, 2012
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THE WAY WE WERE: Historic Fruitvale, a town centered around its proud school

I'm, getting to know a lot about Fruitvale. Kim Sutherland and John Hocker jumped right in and not only told me a thing or two but they pointed me in many directions. I also had calls from Jeanine Sisler Kendall, Gordon Strain, Ernie Satterfield and Carl Zohner, all from Fruitvale. I went over to Lena Mae Collins Scott and Ray Scott's house and poured over their old year books and heard tales. A few they wouldn't let me repeat.A thriving community, the Fruitvale District seemed to be centered around the school, here are some excerpts from the school's first annual of 1917. The Fruitvale School sat on the southwest corner of North Avenue and 29 Road where the Mesa County Workforce Center is now. "Fruitvale School District No. 28 was originally established in 1895. During the first year, school was held in a building rented from Mrs. Kinney, with Mr. E.B. Wilson as teacher. On Feb. 29, 1896 the District accepted an acre of ground one-half mile north of the present building donated by W. S. Jackson and the following summer a one-room building was erected at a cost of $150. In 1900, this building proved too small and it was decided to locate the new building on the main road, now known as the Midland Trail (North Avenue). One and one-half acres were purchased from J. B. Matthews at a cost of $225 and the main Assembly room was erected and at the time was one of the best school buildings in the country."As the district grew, so did the little clapboard school, they added new buildings including three grade rooms, the junior and senior high school building, a home economics room, and they bought a wagon to haul the students in from the remote parts of Fruitvale. In 1915, the first graduating class consisted of three young ladies - Roby Davis, Hazel Cutbirth and Eva Ellis. Being a farm community, it's apparent that the boys were needed at home. The mascot for the school at that time was The Sphinx. They later became The Vikings and that name stuck until they consolidated with Central High School.The Mother's Club was deemed one of the "most potent influences in making the rural school possible." They purchased two pianos, a lantern, a Victrola, playground items and furnishings for the home economics department which was responsible for fixing the school lunches. By 1917 the school had grown to 65 students with a faculty of six. R.A. Ross was the superintendent of Fruitvale. He went on to become part of the Hoel-Ross Business College in Grand Junction.Once again, the Fruitvale School outgrew its membership. In 1936 a new building was put up and was built of 18-inch thick adobe by Franklin D. Roosevelt's Work Project Administration. Jeanine Sisler Kendall, a 1946 graduate told me that the bathrooms were in a separate building outside with boys on one side and girls on the other and a real mess when the pipes would freeze. Lena Mae Collins Scott remembers the same facilities where the boys would call out through the walls, "I can see you!," to annoy the girls.Lena Mae told me the girls weren't allowed to go out for recess, just the boys. They stayed in and embroidered. She also told me a funny story about Miss Eller who she described as "tough but good." One time Miss Eller put a boy named Clayton under her desk for punishment and he found her lunch, where she always kept it and he ate it. Miss Eller was a big old hunk of a woman and adopted three local children into her home and walked 3/4 of a mile to and from school. Mrs. Long was another of Lena Mae's teachers and a favorite. She taught her classes to play the harmonica which cost the students 5 cents each. Mrs. Long bought many a harmonica if a child couldn't bring the money from home.The Mother's Club still helped with school lunches. Cooking and serving them in the old home economics building out back. Jeanine remembers that the lunches weren't free but if you were from a less fortunate family, you could bring canned fruits and vegetables from home in trade for your lunch.John Hocker went to Fruitvale and remembers the school bus that replaced the horse-drawn wagons: "A Mr. Winslow drove the school bus to the Fruitvale School. It was a very old model with a wooden body and wood benches to sit on. We called it the 'Cheese Box.' Mr. Winslow was a real grouch and tolerated no bad behavior on his bus or off you went. He never booted anyone off on the way to school, but he never forgot, so on the way home - off you went."Those healthy farm boys made good athletes. Jack Scott played basketball and was a self-proclaimed "Rip Snorter." His Vikings beat the Grand Junction Tigers twice in one season. This was a big deal back then before the schools were classified. The little schools had to play the big schools. Jack was also on the team when they won the state championship. They had to drop their football team during World War II because they didn't have enough boys to make a team.Fruitvale has proved to be a community that wants itself to be remembered. I'm waiting to hear from John Krizman and am told I need to interview C.R. Brown, Dr. Broderson and Vern Davis. Let's see what I get done next week and then we'll talk more about the old fruit stands, dance halls and roller rinks. If you don't have a computer, you can always mail me at 1406 Cedar Ave.In the meantime, I need to go out to Graff Dairy and do some research on their ice cream cones!Got a memory or picture to share? Call me at 970-260-5226, or email

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The Post Independent Updated Dec 13, 2012 05:40PM Published Dec 13, 2012 05:37PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.