1953 parents boycott unsafe schoolhouse

I ran across a newspaper article recently that was brown and fragile with age. I had to be careful unfolding it so it would reveal the story hiding since Sept. 8, 1953. The headline said: "Dayton Parents Agreed to End Strike."

The story noted that, for a week, parents had kept their 21 children away from the then 88-year-old school on the grounds the building was unsafe and lacked adequate sanitary facilities.

Now, it's true enough that the kids in those days used the outhouse, and had done so since 1865. The article quoted former District Judge Clark Guild, who had attended the school when he was a boy. His father had helped build it, so he got involved in the role as a "friend of the court," or one might say as a peacemaker.

Guild said it appeared to him that the solution lay in parents making the best of it so as not to burden the residents of Dayton with a large bond issue. He suggested the school be repaired, and that the children be speedily enrolled while repairs were being made.

Dayton diarist Emma Nevada Barton Loftus had a thing or two to say about these rebels upsetting the whole town. She felt everything was going along fine before these parents came along and stirred up trouble.

My folks used to say something to me when I refused to change that only old folks like me who have witnessed it understand. The saying was: "I eat my peas with honey, have done it all my life, makes peas taste funny, but they don't roll off of my knife."

So, in those days, the older Dayton people were against any change.

Mrs. Victoria Kraai (now Victoria Pradere) was the president of the elementary district school board, and one of the rebelling mothers. The article said Victoria agreed to send her two children to school (while waiting for repairs to be made), and felt most of the other parents would do the same. She said she had talked to one mother who vowed she would not send her children back.

Mrs. Kraai said that Guild (whom she praised highly) had agreed to head a committee to see that repairs were made. She said some families, including her own, were ready to move to Carson City if the compromise settlement didn't work.

Well, they didn't live up to what they promised, and the school closed forever in 1959.

The school building, our museum, still stands - and bathrooms have been added.

The Dayton Museum is on Shady Lane and Logan Street in Old Town Dayton. It's also the location of the Dayton Chamber office. The museum is until February.

The Historical Society of Dayton Valley meets at noon on the third Wednesday of the month at the Dayton Valley Community Center. Visitors welcome. Check out daytonnvhistory.org.

• Ruby McFarland is a 17-year resident of Dayton, a board member of the Dayton Historical Society and a docent at the museum.


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