× 12/22: This website is no longer being updated. Thank you for your support over the past 25 years!

Greens Fork: School Closes After 80 Years

1877 Greens Fork School HouseEducation in Clay Township progressed from one room schools to the beautiful edifice that still stands in 1998 east of the main section of downtown Greens Fork. The school was built in 1891 and closed its doors to students in 1971 due to reorganization with the Nettle Creek School Corporation. Mrs. Phyllis Beers, Class of 1954, wrote the following words on June 12, 1971. She titled her piece an "Ode to Our Alma Mater" and "These Were The Years, 1891-1971." This is her story.

Ode to Our Alma Mater - by Mrs. Phyllis Beers

We are gathered here tonight paying a final tribute to our beloved Greens Fork High School whose doors after this evening no longer will swing open to welcome young children to her house, nor feel the patter of their feet upon her floor or hear the laughter of happy children - this will be no more.

So called progress has caused this school to become extinct except in the hearts of we graduates who have received our education within these walls - to us, "She’ll live forever."

1891 where pupils walked to attend in the early days with its kerosene lamps, candles, and old heating stove, hard wooden benches, lunch pails and the old school bell - we’ve come a long way.

Next came fire furnaces, electricity, the school hack and hot cafeteria lunches. In the late 40's we really modernized by adding inside toilets, removing the antiquated wooden facilities outdoors. (Contrary to what one might expect, no petitions were drawn up to retain them.) Next we paved the driveway, an exterior fire escape was added and Drivers’ Education became a part of the curriculum. In the late 60's this building moved into the realm of being a "Junior High School."

Kenneth Nicholson, ‘21, told me tonight that the two trees out front and the ones noted in your snapshots were planted by his second and third grade class on the first Arbor Day celebrated here.

Progress had sent Greens Fork kids to Economy, Greens Fork and Hagerstown; Hagerstown kids to Hagerstown and Greens Fork; and Economy children to Greens Fork, Hagerstown, and Economy. To be more exact, you’re lucky to know who’s where or why!

Progress too has given us education by school room TV, foreign languages in second and third grades, Algebra in the fourth, a therapist for each defect in your child and all the newest conveniences and then a senior graduate who after all this formal education we find "can’t read."

To all here, can you imagine how you were allowed to graduate without having had the use of a swimming pool?

Class of H.A. Studebaker. Click for larger viewAs we reminisce about past memories we wonder who some of the students were who for generations have had families in school here; such names as Davis, Gentry, Nicholson, Boyd, Shiebla, Stackhouse, Foland, Bond, Linderman and Kitterman.

The next group of graduates includes families not so deeply rooted into the original school but ones with children who were in school for years and years and years. These were: Bane, McMullen, Weiss, Sutherland, Bryan, Brooks, Pentecost, Cranor, Ridge, Sadler, Smith, Beers, Clevenger, Campbell, Davis, Coddington, Rodenburg, Cloud, Cummins and Hoover.

Besides reading, writing and arithmetic, what did we all do back then for entertainment? Early school days enjoyed ciphering matches and spelling bees. Later years a class play was produced whereby parents came to see if their child would be a possible candidate to become Hollywood actresses and actors. What a debut!

In the fall it was "Take me out to the Ballgame," then basketball all winter and by spring track time came. In our midst tonight are a few stars of that track record breaking crew - these being Charles Bane (High and broad jump holder) and the half-mile relay was the foursome of Ladd, Bane, Ridge and Strickler.

From the looks of the trophies around and there’s more we can’t find - this school has produced some great athletes. I’ve stood many times in front of the trophy case and read and re-read the engrave names on the awards and beamed with pride as I read that ‘36 Sectional Team and related an occasion to someone that our basketball team won the sectional in 1936. You’d have thought I was there cheering them all the way but the real truth is I wasn’t born for three more months.

1924 Primary Class.  Click for larger view.Have you wondered or do you know why we were called "Demons?" I don’t know the origin but I do know that to tackle those opposing us like "Little Giants, Bulldogs, Terriers, Bears and whatever a Wampus Cat is - to say nothing of Yellow Jackets, Cardinals, Tigers, Pirates, and the awful thought of those Red Devils" well, we’d have to be some sort of spirit - So Demons were we!!

I suppose basketball was the number one sport whether a fan or a player. Maybe you were up in the balcony as you followed the cheerleading of McMullen, Pegg, Turner, Cates, Bane, Cranor or VanCamp in that quiet yell of "2 bits, 4 bits, 6 bits, a dollar, all for Greens Fork, stand up and hollar." The people downstairs were never sure the concrete wouldn’t fall or that deafness wasn’t the price you paid for good entertainment. On the other hand, maybe you were ones who booed the refs on their poor vision except of course our own Jim Ridge!

Mischievousness today and mischievousness of yesteryear was a mite different. Back in the early 1900's boys like Ted Davis turned a mouse loose to see if the teacher would die of fright and thus school could be dismissed and from the horse’s mouth I know this isn’t all the orneriness he did. In the 1950's, boys like Combes, Wilson, Workman, Dearing, Frame, Carter, Karn, Oldham, Beers, and Sadler turned pigeons loose in the study hall (accidentally, of course). I believe they claimed this was part of their "Pest Program." This week I learned more about this incident. This probably was the first conspiracy act to upset the principal and the whole idea was to get yourself kicked out of class so you could witness the "Flight of the Pigeon." The boys were successful in arranging their plot; but the whole thing was climaxed later in the week when a magician visited the school and the principal introduced him like this; "Sir if I would’ve known three weeks ago when I hired you what I know now - we would’ve saved our money, because you’re only going to pull rabbits out of a hat and I’ve got boys upstairs now that can pull pigeons out of the wall.

We may have thought of meanness to do but I know of no one who thought of burning the establishment or blowing up a school or demonstrating for our rights even though we did welcome a heavy snow or a sick teacher to keep school from being held.

The English language has probably changed the most in our time with new lingo and jargon being used. For instance there were a lot a things smoked in our day but I don’t recall any of it being called "Pot." (This had another use.)

The only mob riot we knew was standing out in front of Civic Hall, the coldest night of the year waiting for the doors to open that we might be the first inside to yell and shout at the tourney finals.

What about "To split" we thought this meant wood or maybe an atom.

"Cool It" was a term used in Home Economics that you did to something hot before you ate it.

"Do you dig?" We answered yes or no - we could either use a shovel or we couldn’t. That simple!!

"Cop out" meant "Beware, there’s a Trooper or County Sheriff in town."

Consolidation terms schools like our "Punk Schools" capable of producing only dumbbells, retards or fools but from these schools like ours have eventually come doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers, architects, government officials, agriculturists, farmers, business men, numerous other vocations to say nothing of good mother, fathers, husbands and wives.

The last day of school I paid a visit here to look over my Alma Mater, to walk the halls, climb the steps and then to buy some books from the library that had been a part of yours and my past. As I chose various books from the shelves I came across names like Noval Kutter, Mary Maynard, John Riggleman, George and Maxton Sowers, Fola Swain, Frances and Bettie Butner, Russell Pegg, Lucille Lake, Elma Burg, Christina Allison, Don Richardson, Abner Byrd, Betty Roller, Jim Brown, Lawrence Knose, Martha Davis, Malcolm Jeffers, Linda Martin, Grace Sherman, Sharon Ullery and Lowell Burris. Many more I’m sure would have been there if index cards hadn’t been changed and old one discarded - names like: Setser, Scruggs, Townsend, McDivitt, Skiver, Reuble, Lorton, French, Mikesell, Conklin, Rosson, Bradrick, Breen, Gause, O’Connell, Black, Gwin, Williamson, Gibson, Albertson, Billman, and Beeson.

We are now about to say goodbye to those school days here at Greens Fork but the memories will live on. One thing progress cannot detach from us is the way we feel about our days here and what they meant to each of us. It is with sadness that we leave this institution of learning knowing this is the end of a great era (80 short years) but it is with a happy heart that we can say: "I’m proud to have been a graduate of Greens fork High School and she’ll always be my Alma Mater."

Charles Collection Photos

Special thanks to Jayne Beers of the Clay Township Historical and Preservation Society for providing this information.


WayNet is Sponsored by:
Reid Health
We R Richmond - Richmond Community Schools
Morrisson-Reeves Library
City of Richmond, Indiana

Community Photo

More Photos:
Wayne County | WayNet Albums

Did You Know?

John Finley, Richmond, Indiana mayor from 1852 until his death in 1866, wrote the poem "The Hoosier's Nest", which is often cited as the first written reference to the word "Hoosier".