SCA's history coming together
By Stephanie Bettick
CATAWISSA — From many one room school houses to one main school, the history of Southern Columbia Area School District is long and rich, and school employees, alumni and board members are working together to bring that history to light.
In 1962, Roaring Creek Valley, Ralpho Township and Catawissa came together, forming the new Southern Area. It wasn’t until 1965 that the official name became Southern Columbia Area.
Recently, alumni from the three former schools came together to create the Development Office, which has a mission of preserving history. Researching the history lead to finding and sharing information, school memorabilia and old archives.
Ann Marie Schetroma, administrative assistant for student information systems/PIMS, said it started awhile back when they had wanted to get old pictures of the former one-room classrooms and the different schools.
Tresa Britch, board secretary and secretary to the superintendent, said they had started doing research to learn when specific events had happened.
Britch said, “There’s a lot that we learned just about the district and how it formed, and how these things came about.”
Superintendent Paul Caputo said the high school was nominated for the Blue Ribbon award, and part of the application was to provide a history of the school, leading them to do other research.
He said, “We had primary documents, and original documents to look at, which was excellent.”
Years ago, Schetroma had come across books of hand-written permanent records from 1921 and earlier on a shelf in the high school. She said she had been holding onto the old records for a long time, determined to keep them together and make sure no one got rid of them.
The books, which show individual teacher records, are from a combination of little schools that then became one large school. The records are from the one-room school houses, some from Roaring Creek Township, Quaker Meeting House, Ralpho and Locust. She said some of the buildings are from grades first through sixth, and some are high school records.
Records from the elementary schools have also been found, Britch said, and are in “pretty good condition.”
Mike Yeagar, school board president, said he had seen some records go back as far as 1892 or 1894.
Yeagar said, “That may be one thing that the Development Office might have to find, some fireproof file cabinets to try to preserve them forever, and it would also be a way to get more storage space for the school.”
Caputo said the process of preserving the documents has already begun by taking photocopies and cell phone pictures. Saving the documents is a goal of the school, and they hope to eventually digitize yearbooks as well.
The records found by Schetroma had served more of a purpose than just teaching them about the history. Social security was validated and verified for a lot of people because of the school records by matching grade and year to approximate ages.
“A lot of people were born in their homes, and there were no birth certificates,” Schetroma said. “They applied for social security, and the social security administration would contact us and we’d have to go through these, approximate the year, and try to find their name on the list.”
Caputo said they are currently collecting photographs of the old one-room school houses. Board member Gail Zambor Schuerch is working with someone from the Columbia County Historical Society, and has a list of 25 school houses just in Catawissa Township.
Caputo said there are seven townships that came together to form one school; Roaring Creek Township, Cleveland Township, Franklin Township, Catawissa Township, Ralpho Township, Catawissa Borough and Locust Township all came together in 1956 to form the Southern Jointure before briefly falling apart.
Yeagar said one of the most interesting facts he learned was that Catawissa had dropped out of the jointure in 1957, and was forced by the state to rejoin in 1959.
His father was a Catawissa board member at the time, and when a vote was taken on whether to go back to Southern Area or else join Bloomsburg, three out of five had voted to return to Southern, so he didn’t have to vote.
Yeagar said, “There was a petition of 600 people in Catawissa who wanted to rescind that decision. They had a big bonfire, a big thing trying to prevent Catawissa from coming here.”
Denise Kreisher, business office supervisor, said in 1959-60, the one-room schools from the Catawissa area began closing, and when she was in sixth grade, the students had started attending school at Southern Area.
Caputo said the most interesting thing about the whole experience of learning the district’s history is the fact that each township was its own school district.
“In terms of history, it wasn’t that long ago,” said Caputo. “That was monumental. Nowadays we have debates about consolidating school districts, and it’s happened before.”
Memorabilia from the different schools was brought in for the launch of the Development Office early April. Jackets and sweaters were hung around the board conference room. A table was set up with etched blocks, photographs, papers and other things unique to the different schools for alumni to look at.
Caputo said they would like to have the pictures, diplomas and other items put on display, and historical documents stored in a fireproof safe.
Yeagar said they are just getting started and haven’t yet discussed how to showcase the memorabilia. He said one goal of the Development Office is to create an archive so that if people don’t want to hold onto their memorabilia and documents, they could donate it to the district.
Yeagar said if anyone happens to have a class list, are interested in becoming part of the Office or have any memorabilia they could archive, email him at MLY01@verizon.net.