Non­profit As­so­ci­a­tion Works To Save Old School House

McDonald County Press - - FRONT PAGE - Rachel Dick­er­son

After years of ne­glect, an old school house is get­ting a new life.

Karen Al­me­ter is direc­tor of the New Bethel School Preser­va­tion As­so­ci­a­tion, a non­profit group ded­i­cated to sav­ing the rock school house on New Bethel Road near An­der­son. The non­profit group formed in 2011.

Al­me­ter said, “My hus­band and I and our kids have lived by the school since we came to Mis­souri in 1984. I al­ways loved that old school.”

She said she used to imag­ine the chil­dren laugh­ing and dreamed of re­fur­bish­ing it and re­open­ing it, how­ever, it was pri­vately owned. Then, in 2011, it came on the mar­ket.

“We called a meet­ing and de­cided to form a non­profit to save the school. We had a fair­sized group at that first meet­ing

and I just pre­sented the ques­tion, ‘How many of you are in­ter­ested in sav­ing the school?’ We in­cor­po­rated and started sched­ul­ing fundrais­ers.”

Us­ing fundrais­ers and pri­vate do­na­tions, the non­profit pur­chased the school and started the work of re­fur­bish­ing it.

Al­me­ter said the school was in ter­ri­ble shape. The stone walls were cov­ered in vines, and there was a hole in the floor. Much work had to be done.

“We’ve done a lot of the la­bor our­selves. We’ve had a lot of la­bor do­nated,” she said. “We had a cab­i­net­maker do­nate work to build new win­dows. About half of them had to be built from scratch, they were so dam­aged. An elec­tri­cian, Todd Long­necker, do­nated his la­bor and the wiring for out­lets.”

“I’ve done a lot of work up there, but oth­ers have helped too,” she con­tin­ued. “We’ve raised enough funds to have the ceil­ing dry­walled. We also had the well pump re­stored. That was Jim McBee from Tiff City Pump.”

The pump head and the well are orig­i­nal, she said, but McBee had to get a new cylin­der for the well, the part that ac­tu­ally pulls the wa­ter up.

“That was quite an un­der­tak­ing, just lo­cat­ing the parts for a hand pump well and some­one with the ex­per­tise to in­stall it. It was amaz­ing. I stayed there and watched the whole thing. To see that first wa­ter pump­ing was pretty ex­cit­ing,” she said.

The non­profit had to tear out and re­place part of the school’s floor and also re­place some of the floor joists be­cause of wa­ter and ter­mite dam­age, Al­me­ter said.

“Find­ing the lum­ber to match the ex­ist­ing floor­ing took some do­ing. We laid that floor­ing our­selves.”

Some of the wain­scot­ing had to be re­placed be­cause of wa­ter dam­age, she said. All the wa­ter dam­age came from a leak in the roof, which was re­paired be­fore they bought the build­ing, she added.

They tore out some of the plas­ter on the walls, which was badly dam­aged, and re­placed it with dry­wall, she said. They re­placed the porch and steps and added a handrail. The next thing will be re­pair­ing plas­ter around the win­dows on the in­side and paint­ing, she said.

“With a build­ing this old, there’s just a lot that has to be re­paired,” she said. “As far as we know, it was built in 1915.” The school closed in 1948, she said.

As for what the school will be used for once fin­ished, Al­me­ter said it de­pends on the need.

“We’re reach­ing out to homeschool fam­i­lies for them to use the school for group lessons. We’re also reach­ing out to pub­lic schools for them to spend a day learn­ing what school was like dur­ing the early 20th cen­tury,” she said.

She added that they will put in black­boards and old-fash­ioned desks with inkwells, of which she al­ready has sev­eral.

She con­tin­ued, “An­other thing we want to do is de­mon­strate and teach old-time skills and teach peo­ple about the way of life in the early 20th cen­tury, so we will prob­a­bly have work­shops for par­tic­u­lar skills. I en­vi­sion hav­ing sew­ing classes and show­ing them how women used to use a trea­dle sew­ing ma­chine.”

Other demon­stra­tions could in­clude quilt­ing, wood­work­ing, black­smithing, rope mak­ing, spin­ning, etc.

“It would just de­pend on who’s avail­able to teach and how much in­ter­est there is,” she said. “I also hope we would be able to have square dances and con­tra dances, a type of folk dance.”

The as­so­ci­a­tion will hold its an­nual Old Time Craft Fes­ti­val from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 5 at the school. There will be his­toric craft demon­stra­tions, in­clud­ing black­smiths, rope mak­ing, quilt­ing, spin­ning, Dutchoven cook­ing, hand pump­ing wa­ter, wash­board laun­dry, horse­shoe­ing, etc. There will be a gen­eral store with hand­made aprons and sun­bon­nets, rag dolls, old-time toys, lye soap, beeswax can­dles, farm-fresh eggs, black­berry pre­serves, var­i­ous con­fec­tions and penny candy. There will be blue­grass mu­sic and a smoked chicken din­ner by His Ta­ble.

RACHEL DICK­ER­SON/MCDON­ALD COUNTY PRESS

Karen Al­me­ter, direc­tor of the New Bethel School Preser­va­tion As­so­ci­a­tion, is pic­tured out­side the school. The as­so­ci­a­tion is restor­ing the school, built in 1915 and closed in 1948.

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