Two-Room Schoolhouse

With a hundred or more families living in Phenix, a schoolhouse was a necessity for all the company children. The school at Phenix was a two-room building constructed in 1915. With 1st-8th grade taught in rotation, the school served as many as 80 students at a time.

"Phenix School, Sep. 9th 1924 J.M. Coble and Tennie Hagter Teachers (Photo courtesy of Dave Richter)

"Phenix School, Sep. 9th 1924 J.M. Coble and Tennie Hagter Teachers (Photo courtesy of Dave Richter)

Hildreth Lee Kirk-Firestone, a former resident of Phenix, compiled the text, "Phenix: The Town We Can't Forget" from memories from her own experience and other children who grew up there. Not surprisingly, the school featured heavily in many of their impressions of their childhood in Phenix.

That fall I enrolled in school at the two room schoolhouse. The seventh and eight [sic] grades were taught in alternate years. Just my luck to take the eight grade before the seventh. That accounts for me being out of step with the rest of the world
— Hildreth Kirk Firestone

The teachers at the school were members of the Phenix community, and it some cases, from surrounding towns. One teacher would be in charge of the classes in the "little room" of the schoolhouse and another would take the "big room". Some of these teachers were remembered more fondly than others by the children...

After a few years away from Phenix we returned there and I enrolled in the sixth grade. Jimmy Coble was the teacher. The seventh grade teacher was a young woman named Bernice Davis, she carried a pointed stick and was always punching the bigger boys. Leo (Bally) Cates and David (Red) Brady were a couple she picked on. I think Mattie Hammontree was our eighth grade teacher.
— Lucille Brady Suddoth
Returning in 1916, Jim Bloomer was teaching. He was so strict, frightened me nearly to death my first day in school. I knew nothing about fractions, he screamed at me and finally told me to sit down. I later learned fractions. Lera Killingsworth was my next teacher, I adored her. Jim Coble was my seventh and eighth grade teacher.
— Belva Higgins Daniel

Aside from lessons the children also played baseball and basketball outside the school.

The basketball court was covered in cinders and I still have a few pieces of cinders imbedded [sic] in my knees.
— Lois Cauble Johnson

Before Kiel Hall was built, the schoolhouse served as a community gathering place, hosting box socials and pie suppers. There was an annual 4th of July picnic held on the schoolhouse grounds that featured a ferris wheel and merry-go-round. According to one former resident, you could stay on the merry-go-round all day as long as you stayed just ahead and out of sight of the ticket taker.

Due to its large size and amenities, many of the community events were hosted at Kiel Hall after its construction. But the schoolhouse remained throughout the life of Phenix, teaching generations of its sons and daughters.

Mary NeelyComment