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History of the Bardsdale School

Fillmore Methodist c 1912.jpg

As we begin the new school year I thought it might be interesting to look back at schools at the beginning of development in the area now known as Bardsdale.

The history of the Bardsdale School is really the history of Bardsdale. In 1888, Mr. Thomas Bard of Hueneme bought land from the More brothers. His partner, Royce Surdam, laid this property out in farming tracts around a Community Center. To this settlement he gave the name of Bardsdale.

There were no citrus orchards then. People raised what they thought would grow the best. Though the crops were good, the market was poor. Mrs. Chadsey told of a very fine cabbage crop from which they only sold one head. The next year, they raised potatoes and though they had a pile higher than the house they sold none of them. It was hard for the people to make a living and some who came moved on to other places.

There was a large German colony which had come from the Middle West. They held the first school classes in their little church which was on the east side of Owen Street.

The first school board meeting was held May, 1888. Two members, J.C. Wilson and B. Broderson, were appointed by the County Superintendent. Brice Grimes was a member by virtue of the statute law (he lived in the school district). Their first duty was to call an election. The election was held in Bardsdale in Robertson’s store. There were eight votes cast. Henry Klages and B.T. Chadsey were elected to the board. On May 22, 1888, the newly elected board employed Miss Nettie Hamilton to teach three weeks the following August. Miss Jessie Fuller was employed to teach four months at $65 a month.

The community was still without a school building. Mr. Bard had given land on Ventura St. for a school building but there were no funds for construction. On October 20, 1888, eleven votes were cast for the purpose of raising $1,722.00 in order to build a school house and furnish it.

The school year was divided into two parts. Miss Fuller’s term closed December 14th and on February 11, 1899, Miss Gibbins began the second term at $60 a month. (There is no word about what happened to Miss Hamilton)

Mr. O.J. Goodenough was awarded the contract to build the Bardsdale Schoolhouse according to the plans and specifications. He was to furnish all material and finish the job in a good and workman like manner for $ 1,397.00, excepting outhouses.

On June 8, 1889, the new school was accepted by the trustees. It was then moved and carried, unanimously, “that the school house should not be used for dancing and that smoking and chewing tobacco be prohibited in the schoolroom and smoking on the ground.

​In August, 1889, Miss Minnie Taylor had the honor of being the first teacher in the new school house.

The school consisted of one room and a cloak room. There were two entrances, one for the boys and one for the girls. A huge iron stove stood in the back of the room. On rainy days, the children would take off their shoes and stockings and dry them around the fire. The desks and seats were made for two people and if a pupil was good, he or she was allowed to choose their desk partner. The teacher did her own janitor work with the help of the older children. There was no water on the school grounds and it was considered an honor to be allowed to go fetch it. The water bucket was set in the cloak room where all the children drank from the same dipper.

History of the Bardsdale School

Fridays were red-letter days. The children held spelling bees and gave recitations.

The adults who belonged to a literary society came to the school in the evening to study and debate. One of the topics of debate was “Can the Santa Clara River be Bridged?” Box socials were held from time to time.

In the beginning there were thirty or forty children. There were nine grades in the school because the nearest high school was in Santa Paula and often the river crossing to Santa Paula was impassible.

By 1895, there were over 60 children in the school and so another room was added to the school. When school began in 1896 there were two teachers each paid $50 a month and a janitor who received $6 a month.

One year later, in 1896 a principal had been hired at $65 a month.

The school continued to grow each year until in 1917, when the need for a larger school became critical. The new school that was built included 4 rooms, a library and teachers’ room. The cost was $18,000.00. The grounds were improved by the addition of a front walk, lawn, shrubs and playground equipment as well as tennis courts and school garden.

Throughout the decades, children arrived at the school either walking or on horseback. One child boasted of a buggy. When the Riverside School district located at the foot of Balcom Canyon closed, those children needed a ride to school. A Model A Ford was modified by “experienced” hands to serve the purpose. It lasted until spring 1932 when it gave out all at once one fine morning.

Bardsdale School had one of the earliest PTA organizations although it wasn’t called by that name. It was originally called the “Congress of Mothers”. It was organized in 1925 or 1926 and started with meetings of the parents during the day. But soon the group noticed that many of the small children who walked to school each day arrived without breakfasts and sometimes with very little lunch. They decided to do something about it. The mothers began to take turns bringing the children hot lunches which they prepared at home. After lunch two of the mothers would stay and wash the dishes. Soon they raised enough money with cake sales to purchase cooking utensils and hot plates. They cooked lunch in the hallway and served the children on tables built for that purpose.

The end for Bardsdale School came in 1966 when the building failed Field Act earthquake specifications. The school was closed and the children joined their junior high and high school siblings traveling to school in Fillmore. The old school bell that had hung in the tower of the old school was eventually given to the Fillmore Historical Museum where it has been rung by each child who visited the museum with their classes.

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