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Last updated on Sunday, May 19, 2013
(BEDFORD) - On display in the front window of the Lawrence County Museum of History’s main gallery is a representation of an historical schoolroom.
Becky Buher, reports the museum staff and volunteers are looking forward to class field trips and giving students opportunities to experience history first hand.
The display is based on Bedford's Central School, which was built as a part of a school complex that encompassed the city block with 15th Street on the north, 16th Street on the south, N Street on the east, and O Street on the west. Central was used by students for about 90 years. The building was razed in 1963, and Schafer Auditorium was built on the site.
During the past two centuries there have been several public school buildings located on the site. The first school building burned down in 1871, and was soon replaced with brick buildings. The builder of the brick school complex was the local architect, Thomas N. Stevens. By 1922, two of Stevens' brick school buildings had been replaced with limestone faceted buildings and were known then as Bedford High School, and today are known as Bedford Middle School. The third brick building in the early complex was Central School, and it was used primarily by elementary students until the 1950s when Parkview Elementary School was built.
Many of Lawrence County's senior citizens will remember Central School or the similar school in which they spent their school years. They might fondly remember the fat metal fire escape tube on the outside of the school building. During fire drills, students entered the tube from the second floor and joyfully slid to the ground -- about 25 feet.
Central had a clock in the hallway, creaking wood floors, a long stairway, tall windows, cloakrooms, chalkboards with felt erasers that students would clean, roll-down maps on the school room walls, American and Indiana state flags in the rooms and student-sized wooden school desks. The school bell in the tower rang to call the pupils to class. Some will remember the paddle that hung in the principal's office -- always an incentive for good behavior. Courses would have included reading, spelling, arithmetic, penmanship, grammar and geography.
The current display includes a teacher's desk used by Miss Doris Hockersmith, who was a teacher at Bedford High School. The children's desks came from various schools. On the wall, is an example of the roll-down school map system, student writing slates, feather and nib pens, an early tin lunch box and the bell wheel from the tower of Central School. Working much like a pulley, the wooden bell wheel, located in the tower, held a rope. Down on the first floor, the rope was pulled to ring the heavy school bell.
For many years Bedford's Central School was just one of many schools located throughout Lawrence County. In the 1970s, the schools were consolidated into just two school systems, North Lawrence and Mitchell.
The museum also has on display posters and memorabilia from many of the former county schools. For example, you'll find "senior cords" in the gallery -- not really cords, but a nickname for the yellow corduroy pants and skirts worn by the senior class members. The yellow fabric made a perfect "canvas," and students elaborately decorated their senior cords using tube paints and ink to promote a personal style and school. The senior cord (corduroy) tradition is thought to have originated at Purdue University in 1904 and lasted for more than 60 years. The phenomenon spread to most of the high schools throughout Indiana.
You'll also find honor jackets and letter sweaters. There's an IU basketball signed by BNL basketball standout, Damon Bailey. Coming soon will be a photo showing Damon and his daughter, Alexa, each holding their respective BNL statebasketball championship trophies.
Parents and grandparents, don't forget the Duke Energy World of Discovery program on Saturdays from 2-5 p.m. It's designed for the younger set, children ages 4 to 12. The focus for Saturday will be 1950s-1980s kid culture. They will be having a sock hop, making pet rocks, playing some old fashioned video games and more.
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