Sunday, December 29, 2013

More For Durango Friends

What Happened to Elco School??

Note — there was a time when Bondad was a station on the Durango-Farmington railroad, called the Red Apple Line and Elco was the post office, the school and cemetery. Consolidation took place and the school was closed, many small post offices were closed in the name of economy and the railroad has been torn up, so Bondad and Elco as used then are only names, except for the cemetery. Elco has been forgotten, except by some middle- aged people who went to school and at least one elderly woman, Mrs. John Bryce who was their teacher.       
  By Mrs. John Bryce, as told to Edith Rhodes

   I was from Ohio and came to Durango in June, 1910, principally as an escort for an elderly aunt to her son's home in Denver and secondly to visit an uncle, Seward S Merry and his family in Durango. When I purchased my ticket in Warren, Ohio, the station agent and no idea where Durango was or if there was a railroad to the place and would sell me only a round trip ticket to Denver. He advised me to buy my ticket to Durango in Denver. I knew Durango was down in the southwest corner of Colorado but the agent knew best, so I stopped in Denver with my aunt and asked my cousin there about Durango.      Good Lord, Edna," he said, "What do you  want to go to Durango for? I have been there once and it is the jumping off place "

    But if my uncle and family could and did  have there it must not be too bad, although I   knew that my grandfather had wondered why   his son had left La Plata City to go to Durango. The "city" had got him. I also knew that my uncle had been superintendent of schools there so it must be a sizeable place; at least it had a school system. When I went to the Denver depot, I found that a ticket would cost t me about twenty dollars and would require 24 hours to make the trip. I had all summer at my command but not twenty dollars.

   I had been teaching in Ohio four years at the salary of 40 dollars a month and had gone to summer school two summers. I just did not have the money so Cousin Burney bought me a mileage book and waited with me until the tram pulled out about 5 o'clock. "What does D. and R. G. stand for?" I asked. "Dirty and
 Rough going," he said and how right he was

   Of course a Pullman ticket was out of the question, so I slept in a day coach with a rented pillow. I don't remember what or if I had any lunch but I suppose I did. I slept fitfully and woke early to find I was in the mountains— me a flatlander from a town 100 feet abovei^J61 ^"^"^tern Ohio. I was both delighted and frightened and when we got to Alamosa and saw the little toy train, I wondered how that little engine would ever get over the mountains and around the curves Again I was divided between awe and fear as we went around and around, passing the same section house four times, each time a little higher up looked down into Toltec Gorge and through the tunnel. The coach was stuffy and dirty and when the door was opened, smoke and Train will leave for Silverton in about an hour." I looked out of the smudged window and beheld — Mexican Flats. Good heavens what a place. Thank God, I had tickets home.'
 But when we finally pulled up to the platform, the big old station looked better and the agent told me how to get to my uncle's place. There were no hacks waiting at the station, so the agent turned me over to the streetcar conductor, and I was on my way. The conductor knew my uncle — I soon found that everyone did —and he let me off at the proper corner. I found the place all right, but a boy in the yard in- formed me that mamma did not want anything today. It was my cousin Bryan. I must have looked like a peddler to him. The family was not expecting me yet, but then they came running out and gave me quite a reception.

  My uncle, having been the county superintendent of schools, persuaded me to try for a school here. He took me to see Rosepha Pulford, the superintendent at that time and we immediately became friends. I even got a job in her office helping make out reports. I did get a teaching job at the Home Ranch of Water Fall School in the Animas Valley and the next year at Elco south of Durango. By that time or a little later, I met my husband and that did it. Ohio became a memory and almost 63 years later I am still here. Yes, I
Like Colorado

      It was in the late summer of 1911 that I boarded the Red Apple at Durango headed for Bondad to apply for the school at Elco. It was what used to be called a "district" school upgraded, with pupils ranging in age from six years to sixteen. It was called upgraded but there were eight grades and about 35 pupils.

  The school and post office were across the Animas River from the stop on the railroad, but someone from the small collection of farm homes met the train daily to trade mailbags and take the day's mail back to the post office. This procedure was repeated at night, or early evening. There was a good wagon bridge across the river, and it was a short walk up the steep little hill to the John Frazier home where I was to meet one member of the school board. Olive Frazier, later Mrs. Temple Cornelius, was the mail carrier that day.

   After interviewing Mrs. Frazier, the board member, I went to the homes of the others, John Anderson and Rank Reynolds. If I remember correctly, one of the Anderson boy took me in a horse-drawn buggy to the Reynolds home which was then, as now, the Bonds' home. Well, I got the school, went back to Fraziers' for a hearty midday meal and about four o'clock walked back to the rail stop,
 Bondad, and waited for the train.

   I was quite pleased with my day's accomplishments and with the school. It was a sturdy stone building, well and neatly-built and furnished, and there was a piano. So far there had not been a teacher who could play it and Mrs. Frazier was pleased that I could play a little — at least hymns and songs suitable for school, church or Sunday School held there each week. I had in mind programs and holiday observance with music and singing, and remembered the tired old organ at the last school.

  I was to board at the John Frazier home and the older son, Vance, would be a pupil.
Vance had a younger brother and sister, Carter and Ramona, too young for school and two older sisters, Olive and Vera in Durango High School. It was a very pleasant place to live and I was there two years.

  I rode the train weekends to spend time with my uncle's family, the Seward S. Merrys in
Durango, but that all ended in October when the flood took out every bridge almost in the county and left Elco without train or Eastern mail for about six weeks. The wagon bridge was not replaced until the next spring but we could go to town by the west road as there was an old bridge near Durango that had been a railroad bridge and it was kept from being washed out by running freight cars on it. It was used then as a wagon bridge.

   One time that fall I took the Frazier's buggy and old Bertha, the black mare, and drove up to La Posta and picked up the teacher there, Bernice Barton, whom I had known in Duran go. We went to Durango for the weekend. After laying in a supply of groceries for Fraziers, we started out early Sunday afternoon to drive home.

   That trip was a nightmare. It had been ram- ,no and tip flinched mud rolled up on the wheels the mud out with a stick. Night was coming on and we were not too far from Bernice's boarding place so we decided to stop there and I would wait until morning to go on to Elco, as the mud would be frozen then. We stopped at the Harry Paxton home near Race Track Hill, where Bernice boarded and were shown the kindest hospitality, though it was a small house with a large family. I do not know where they put everyone. Bernice and I slept with Vadis, the oldest Paxton girl, and I got back to Elco school in time to open school on time.

   It was an interesting group of pupils I had, 35 in all eight grades, and it was a real job to arrange classes for all of them since some were first graders who needed extra time, but could not be expected to sit still as long as the others. After their morning classes they were excused to play out of doors while the older pupils recited. We had to alternate subjects, too — geography and history in upper grades— but the three R's, "reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic" were stressed.

  Some parents objected to grammar, "language," as it was then called, and reading library books was an awful waste of time. So I had to outsmart them by allowing reading time during school hours and assigning "home- work" in arithmetic, a valuable subject. I wonder if present day teachers have these problems.

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