An Old Schoolhouse

| 3/23/2018 9:43:00 AM

Renee headshotWay off in a large field of scrubby bushes a herd of pronghorn antelope are grazing. One looks up suddenly at the sound of children playing. It's a rag tag bunch of boys with bowl cut hair and girls in pigtails. Some are very young and some are almost teenagers.

There's a woman standing on the porch ringing a bell for the children to come in. Her hair is pulled back in a severe bun and her wire rimmed spectacles sit on her nose. Her prim white blouse is buttoned up to her chin and her feet are clad in sensible shoes. She has a kindly but stern countenance.

Ding dong! It's time for school!

school house
The old Berenda school house. Berenda is the anglicized version of "verrendo" which is Spanish for pronghorn of which many were found in the area .

Such was the image that conjured up in my mind as we stood before the old Berenda School just north of Madera in the middle of California's Central Valley. It was a cold and rainy day but we had gotten a break in the weather. The green grass bespoke of a kinder, gentler time. Soon all the grass would be dried up and the summer heat of the Central Valley would be oppressive.

How did these people do it? Furnace heat and air conditioning wasn't even a glimmer in an inventor's mind. Heat came from a wood stove in the middle of the room. On a cold rainy day would the teacher rotate the kids, in back of the room freezing to the front of the room where they were roasting? Or did she let them all gather round the stove?