One-room school house rocks

Sunday July 24, 2011

PITTSFIELD -- Sixty years after graduating from the third grade at what turned out to be the city’s last one-room school house, five former students gathered at Morewood School Saturday for the first time since 1951.

Morewood School used to handle overflow kids from Redfield Elementary in the first, second and third grades. It was built in 1843 and served as a school until 1974. It later served at the city’s headquarters for the Pittsfield Bicentennial Commission.

But generations of former youngsters remember it fondly as Morewood. This particular generation of ex-third graders also hold fond memories of their teacher, Miss Martha G. Burt.

"Miss Burt used to have plays every spring," recalled Liz Ginn Moran, 68, of Sierra Madre, Calif. Indicating her two classmates, she added, "The three of us were in ‘Cinderella.’ Wendy was Cinderella and we were the step-sisters."

After gathering at the former school, the group walked through the inside of the building, recalling where the teacher stood, which way the desks faced, and tried to recall where they once sat.

One row, they said, was for the first-graders, the next for the second-graders, and the next for the third-graders. The bookmobile came by weekly from the library. An art teacher and a nature teacher also dropped by once a week.

The little school served children in the neighborhood of South Street, and they were all friends.

"We used to call ourselves the South Street Gang -- we all lived near each other," recalled Wendy Davis, 68, of Sarasota, Fla.

"We were such a tight-knit group," added Moran.

In the front yard of the school house, they wondered whether the swing set and the flagpole were the original fixtures from the mid-1900s.

As the 1950s and 1960s passed by, calls for the closing of the school began to crop up. At first such a notion drew opposition. But by 1973 there was little opposition to the idea, and at the end of the school year, the little red school house was shut down permanently.

The school was eventually sold into private hands, and today serves as a one-bedroom vacation rental on South Mountain Road. In 1984 it was added to the Nation Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The reunion was organized by a friend of the grads, John Sottile of Pittsfield, who attended Redfield School with them.

Throughout the afternoon, memories kept coming back to Miss Burk.

"We all loved her," noted Charlene Bingham DiCicco, 68, of Pittsfield. "I was sick for a couple of weeks, and when I came back, she took me out to Newberry’s for lunch."

"I don’t think she ever got mad at us," added Moran. "And she even taught us to square dance."

"It’s an unusual concept, but we were so happy here," said Wendy Thomas Bingham, 69, of Stockbridge.

"I just remember it as being fun," DiCicco said.


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