A Tale of Two Schools
Last weekend I attended an Alumni reunion at my old school. This is a common enough occurrence, but for me it is rather unique.
I am a graduate of a consolidated school. A combination of two schools that not only had great pride in themselves, but were also rivals.
The Bruno school is where I began my education. There had originally been two one room schools in Bruno, one on each side of Hampton creek.
But in 1920, the community decided to combine them into one school and built a large campus of buildings to house the elementary and library, a gymnasium and cafeteria, a building devoted to science, and an agricultural building. Several smaller one room schools were consolidated in as well during the following years.
In 1925, the then boom town of Pyatt, about 10 miles north west of Bruno built their own school campus and a rivalry was born. High School basketball became the major sport of the area, the games drawing large crowds of farm folks looking for an evenings entertainment, especially one featuring their own children.
Concession stands sprung up offering goodies not normally purchased for every day consumption. The coaches were good and the students were talented and communities were brought together for evenings of fun and fellowship.
The Bruno Aggies and the Pyatt Pirates became the best of friends off and the worst of enemies on the court. Playing was intense and each team crowed victory when they won. Both schools sent teams to the state tournament, and both schools saw players go on to college with scholarships.
But early in 1970 educators began to get concerned about the schools. A slow decline of students was becoming apparent. While maintenance was a priority with both schools, the buildings had been in use for close onto fifty years and major repairs were beginning to be needed.
Both schools taught two classes to a room, but education was beginning to require that each class have its own room and separate teacher. The state standards were beginning to slip, and the state capitol was beginning to mutter about sending the students to more advanced schools in the county at a considerable bus distance.
So a campaign began to see the two rival schools consolidated into to one large campus. I actually remember being asked to write a letter to Governor Dale Bumpers pleading the case.
Class after class from both schools wrote letters. Parents of the PTA were summoned to meetings. The State Department of Education was consulted.
The communities voted to raise the mill tax to provide funding for the new school. A new location was decided upon located as close to midway between the communities as possible.
Land was gifted for the building. The dirt road linking the two small towns was paved. And in 1972 construction began.
The finished product is a long metal building housing grades K-3, as well as a gymnasium, auditorium, science lab, library, computer lab, and cafeteria. When I was there, we also had a darkroom where we developed our own photos for the school yearbook.
We also had a school newspaper. An Agri building was also built which has been expanded over the years.
While the basketball team sports a new mascot — the Patriot — the FFA club is still known as the “Bruno-Lincoln Chapter of the FFA,” because Bruno was the first school in the state to include an agricultural class in its curriculum and the Bruno-Lincoln Chapter is the oldest FFA chapter in the state.
The alumni reunion has been going on for several years now, but growth has been slow. Technology is helping to get the word out to all, including alumni from both schools. I was thrilled to find out about it, and saw so many people I hadn’t seen for years.
One of my best friends who I started school with met me there and we went about visiting. My father was the Bruno bus mechanic and drove nearly every bus route at one time or another.
My best friend’s father was a principal of Bruno School. So we found ourselves going about introducing ourselves as “Arvil’s daughter” and “Edgar’s girl.” And everyone we met knew exactly who we were and had stories to tell us about our fathers.
Before leaving, I wandered up the long high school hall. My class was the first 8th graders to ever walk this hallway.
So many memories came flooding back. Bells ringing. Scrambling to open lockers and switch books. Snatches of conversations. Passing quick notes between friends and dating couples.
It was a rather tense first year for the school as the rivals had to learn to blend and mesh into one school, one class and one basketball team. It was a bit rocky, but we made it, and by the time I graduated, unity was complete.
And then onto the main hall to take a look at my class. Huge portraits hang there of each class composite. I stood for a long time looking up at the faces, many of which are gone now.
A few feet down from my composite are two more side by side of my children’s classes. They are also alumni, sharing a class with many of the children of my classmates.
Out the front doors and to the left is my class ‘stone’. The tradition began at Bruno for each graduating class to pour a section of sidewalk and write their class roll in it to be preserved for all time.
As I’ve said, I am very sentimental. I enjoyed my trip down memory lane and am eagerly looking forward to next year.
If you are an alumni of these schools and are reading this, be sure to come next year. You will be amazed at the fun you will have.
Photos property of Leah McAllister.
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