PROLOGUE:  "Before the Big Yellow Bus"      

                Ron Scherer and Yvonne Scherer Meckfessel, authors of this book, are first cousins, both having grown up on farms about two miles apart on U.S. Route 50, east of Olney.  Neither Yvonne nor Ron attended one-room schools as students, but their parents and other family members did.  Both authors have fond childhood memories of Hickory Point School when it operated as a thriving community center in the 1950s – after the last students and their teacher packed up their books and left the school for good.

                Yvonne has always loved the sight of a dilapidated old red barn, or a lonely one-room schoolhouse sitting out in the middle of nowhere.  The barns and one-room schools hold the secrets of past years, often leaning under the weight of the long years and many storms they endured.  Since those days from the middle of the last century, most of those leaning buildings have been demolished or fallen to the ground from their own weight and old age.

                During Ron and Yvonne’s childhood and teen years, the building that housed Hickory Point School hosted numerous events – from ice cream socials and chowders, to meetings of the local detective association and the Happy Workers 4-H Club – which both of their families attended, along with their neighbors in the community. 

Ron fondly recalls the winter evening at Hickory Point when, around the age of six, he played the role of Tiny Tim, and was hoisted on the shoulders of a bigger neighbor boy to proudly utter his single line – “God bless us all” – at the end of the neighborhood performance of Dickens’ “Christmas Carol.”  And he remembers the Halloween party when Yvonne’s dad lay still in a long wooden box, while the lights were dimmed and various “body” parts, such as grapes and other slimy items, were passed around to the eager-to-be-scared neighborhood kids.

                 Yvonne recalls the day when, as a child of seven or eight, she walked into the old Hickory Point schoolhouse and gazed upon the stern-looking portraits of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  Those pictures continued to hang on the walls of the former schoolhouse long after it closed.  At the time, it was hard for her to imagine attending school in such a small and quaint building, but even then she found an interest in the old encyclopedia books that remained – visualizing the students diligently leafing through the pages in search of information.  Now, she says, it is difficult for her to imagine students using computers, smart phones and iPads in their search for information.

                Not long before Ron and Yvonne’s school days began, the big yellow bus had arrived on the scene, making its rounds on the country roads of Richland County, picking up each family’s children, and then faithfully delivering them home after school.  Yvonne and her brother, Clifford – who often explored the surrounding woods and fields with Ron – were the last ones to be dropped off the bus in the evenings.  On one of those day’s, at the end of school, the three Scherer youngsters decided they could get home much earlier if they just walked home from Claremont School, as Ron had often done alone.  The plan was to walk through a couple of farm fields to Ron’s house, which was closer, and then the rest of the way, Yvonne and Cliff would walk on old Route 50 to their house, about another mile or so on down the road.

                Without talking over the plan in advance with either set of parents, the three started out walking on the warm, humid afternoon.  Yvonne remembers encountering  wire fences, some brush, bug bites and the hot sun – but eventually she her brother, after leaving Ron’s house, made it home…just in time to see the school bus drive by their house.  It was on this day when Yvonne began to most appreciate the fact that students who attended the one-room schools walked to and from school every day, no matter what the temperature or the distance.

                Jointly working on this book – a three-year labor of love – was a challenge in many ways for both Ron and Yvonne.  Searching for information about all of the eighty-plus one-room schools in Richland County often proved disappointing when only the name of the school could be found, which often happened due to the loss of many records during the 1913 fire at the Richland County courthouse.  But, after issuing numerous pleas, photographs began arriving from many different sources, which was fulfilling for Yvonne, who headed up the procurement of photos.  And, perhaps through fate, Ron and Yvonne were brought together with Don Wilson, an Olney native, who also had been searching for photos of the old schools and their students.

(L to R) Ron Scherer, Paul Wirth (past president of the Richland Heritage Museum Foundation and special consultant for the book), Yvonne Scherer Meckessel (co-author), and Don Wilson (photo scanning)


                After going away to college and living outside of the area, Ron often entertained the thought of someday restoring the old Hickory Point schoolhouse.  But, while busy building a career and raising a family, the lack of time and resources prevented it.  Then, on a trip back to the home area, he drove by the old schoolhouse, only to see that it had given up its fight to remain standing.  The building that housed so many childhood memories had crumpled to the ground, with weeds growing high around it.  But, now, with the help of cousin Yvonne, the two have, in a sense, “rebuilt” Hickory Point – along with the more than 80 other Richland County one-room schools just like it. But not stopping with the one-room schools, they also addressed all of the early schools of Richland County, including those of Olney and Noble and the two parochial schools in Olney and Stringtown.

                We are deeply appreciative to those who took the time to see that we received so many pictures and stories, although even now some schools are without a photograph or the historic information we wish we could have found.  But, all of us can always resort to our imaginations, picturing children playing at recess, or reciting the lessons for the day, or walking home in the cold and snow.

                Although memories gradually fade away, perhaps – just perhaps – this book on the one-room schools of Richland County will help people from now and the future preserve and remember those bygone days before the big yellow bus.