From ”The hitching post…” column in the Ottawa Herald, a series of articles about early Franklin County schools researched by Bruce Fleming and written by Herald Editor and Publisher Jim Hitch. This article appeared 12 September. 1991.
Diamond Ridge School, District 81, was located four miles north and two-thirds of a mile east of Pomona on the north side of the road.
The district was organized in 1873 and operated a school until classes were dismissed for the summer in 1942. Four years later the building was razed by Ira Reed who used the material to build a house. His son Ray, and his wife Doris, now live in the house northwest of Pomona.
Mabel (Robbins) Gilliland of Centropolis has fond memories of the rock playhouse at Diamond Ridge, built by Loyd Robbins and the Dunkel boys. It was made of big flat stones, had a thatched roof and had three rooms. They built it in a corner of the schoolyard and we younger ones played house every recess.
“Our parents were scandalized, sure we’d get snake-bit among the rocks, but we never did. Finally, though, the school board tore it down.
“I also remember the fox and geese ring games in the snow—Wasn’t there more snow then—and the snowball fights we had. We’d go back into the school wet and chilled. Then we’d hang our wet clothes around the big old stove that stood in the center of the room.
“As they dried there was the unforgettable aroma of wet wool. I can recall the old double desks that sat in the back of the room, where, if lessons were done satisfactorily, two of us could go and study spelling lessons, test questions or math sums.”
Sometimes, she said, Diamond Ridge students visited Fairview School, to the east, on special occasions. “Once it was a Valentine Day treat. I remember the homemade ice cream Mrs. Barton made for us and the long braids worn by the Barton girls, and how Melvin Barton and another boy, probably Frank Randel, tied those braids through the wrought iron design on the desk behind one of them.”
There were games of “kick the can,” ice skating on a nearby creek, picnics in the timber behind the school and the unforgettable ‘whump’ of a rock against the old outhouse while you were inside. Will today’s children, I wonder, have memories as poignant as hoboes stealing your lunch?”
According to Jo (Dunkel) Thompson, RFD 1, Pomona, the school sat on an acre of ground that was fenced in. The teacher, in the 1920s, sometimes drove to school in a buggy and several pupils rode horses. The horses were usually turned loose to graze in the fenced yard.
Before 1920, Thompson said, “a non-denominational Sunday School was held on Sunday afternoons at the school. Community meetings were held monthly and pie and box suppers were held each year to raise money for play equipment.”
She remembered one extremely cold day when the coal stove exploded, knocking down the stove pipe and filling the school with smoke. “I ran to the nearest house to get help and it was soon fixed. School continued when the smoke was cleared.”
During the fall rainy season, “some of us would walk barefoot in the mud to school, carrying our shoes. We would wash our feet at the well pump and put on our long stockings and shoes before entering the school house,” Thompson said.
Once, when competing in a spelling bee, she said “the word ‘cedar’ was pronounced to me. I spelled it s-e-e-d-e-r. The judge said I was wrong, so I sat down. Immediately some farmers jumped in and said I was right. It was good to have community support.”
The last teacher at Diamond Ridge was Leola Duncan and the last students to attend school there were Mabel, Betty and Shirley Robbins, Ruth, Rose and Mary Marie Wismer, Rosemary Evans and Carl Eichenberger. Other teachers included Letha (Dillon) Louk, Mattie Eichman, Veva (Parks) Hughes, Nina Burns, Lena Bliss, Amanda Cain, Marlin Baxter, Rowena Hale, Julie McFadden and Cleora Louk.
Former pupils still living in Franklin County, in addition to those already mentioned, include : Lloyd Robbins Jr., Dorothy (Kingsborough) Jameson, Ruby (Randel) Whitlatch, Don Randel, Dorothy (Bowman) Lindsey, Lloyd Heidner, Marjory (Neeley) Williams, Cleveland Baxter, Kenneth Baxter, Leila (Baxter) Baxter, Wilma (Baxter) Thompson and Dorothy (McCurdy) Hornecker.