The lure of a schoolhouse in Govan

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Clink, clink.

Clink, clink.

Clanging wind chimes  were all I could hear as I stood on a road that may once have been busy with cars, horses and wagons, and maybe children playing.

I was drawn to Govan, Wash., by pictures of the abandoned schoolhouse. Shep and I made the short trek from Spokane on a cloudy, windy day … the kind of dusty wind that leaves your teeth and hair gritty.

In its heyday, writes Charles A. Stansfield in Ghosts of Washington, Govan was a neighbourhood shopping centre, sandwiched between Almira and Wilbur.

“It supplied the daily wants of the people in the surrounding area,” he says. “It had grocery, hardware, clothing, and farm supply stores. It had a post office, a school, and a church. The automobile age brought a service station, along with the seeds of doom.”

The population of Govan started to disappear as people could travel.

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“Cars and paved roads changed the rules by letting people travel much greater distances in the time they were willing to spend going shopping for basic needs. Why not go further for more variety of choice and more competitive prices? People could and did. School buses eliminated tiny one-room schools. Mechanization led to larger but fewer farms in the neighborhood and fewer customers for local stores.”

Signs of life

People still live here. Four, actually … at least according to a few sites found via Google search.  The graveyard is gone, moved to nearby Monroe in the 1970s.

An older model SUV sits in front of the home with the wind chimes but around me, there are many signs of life abandoned.

An International.

grain truck abandoned

A home, maybe once loved but long forgotten.

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The schoolhouse, the piece de resistance.

abandoned schoolhouse govan washington

Others have ventured inside. I took one look at the floorboards and thought, “No, thanks.”

I imagine kids in period clothing running around the field, playing kickball or catch.

A teacher grinding chalk on a blackboard.

Memories uncovered

Russell Yates found one of the many pictures of the schoolhouse online and wrote in the comments that his grandmother had taught at the little school.

“My aunt graduated from it, and my grandfather went there in 1909,” Yates says, his comment dated Nov. 25, 2007. “About 10 years ago, he wrote a short letter to my nephew’s class telling them what school was like when he went to school in Govan.”

We could walk to school, but many of the students lived 5 or 6 miles away. They had to ride in a buggy pulled by two horses. It might take them one and a half or two hours to get to school in the morning. The big brothers or sisters drove the horses. During the day the horses stayed in a barn by the school until the kids were ready to go home again. School started at 9 a.m. and was over at 4 p.m. In the winter those who came by horse and buggy would have to go home in the dark.

The school I went to only had two rooms. In one room were Kindergarten and Grades 1, 2, 3, and 4. In the other room were Grades 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. Each room had one teacher and about 25 students. Some teachers had older kids help younger ones. In front of the room was a row of desks for recitation. When it was time for the teacher to work with my grade, we would go up to the recitation row for reading or other learning from Mr. Sickles, who was my first teacher. The other kids would be at their own desks doing their work quietly. Each grade took turns.

One of the books I remember is Black Beauty. My parents didn’t read to me at home, but our teacher read to the class every morning.

These are the stories that cannot be lost.

They let us know where we came from, an integral piece of the path we forge as we move ahead.

Govan … not forgotten.

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