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Preserving One-Room Schoolhouse in Ozarks

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Linda Smith-Johnson at Bunker Hill School
My dad says he broke his left arm playing jumprope outside the one-room Bunker Hill School.  He told me this story the summer after my mother died from cancer, when he asked me to come along to an old-fashioned gospel singing on the lawn.  The outhouse was the only restroom facility on the grounds.  There was no running water or air conditioning in the historic building in the Ozarks region of Southwest Missouri.

The Bunker Hill Community Club rallied donations and volunteer help to construct a modest community center next door to the schoolhouse by 2006.  Yet, when singings or major events like the Quilt Show come around each May, the new air conditioned building can’t house everyone.  They overflow to the rustic school and even outside.
Just like my dad, nearly everyone has a story that relates to Bunker Hill School.  A few people are still around who were students there.  Many others remember 4-H Club, Women’s Club, baseball or other reasons for gathering at Bunker Hill around 1950 and beyond, when the school had become a community center.

Retired McDonald County art teacher Judy Rickett says of her interest in the quilting group, “Preserving that school building is one of my goals for being here.”  The Rickett family has donated a couple of vintage desks.  She hopes to someday bring back more period furnishings to the structure that now houses an eclectic mix of furniture.

Some of the plain wooden benches are original to the school, while others are donated pews from an old church.  Solid, paneled wood doors fold up when they’re not dividing the large room.  The school housed 1st through 4th graders on one end, with 5th through 8th graders on the other.

Retired McDonald County business teacher Linda Smith-Johnson gave me a tour of the building, “I envision putting central heat and air in here so we can use this building year-around.”  Smith-Johnson says work has already been done to level the original hardwood floors.  She is hopeful that an eventual historic designation will open more opportunities for saving Bunker Hill School for future generations.  In the meantime, lunches on the Pineville square, singings, the Quilt Show and an annual raffle are all opportunities for people to support Bunker Hill as a place where community still thrives.


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