Editor’s note: This series on Carpinteria’s early schools originally ran in CVN in 2011. Part one can be found at coastalview.com.
A trio of tiny schoolhouses served Carpinteria children in the late 1800s, and each represented its own school district. The Carpinteria School on Santa Monica opened first (see last week’s “Throwback Thursday” for details), followed by Rincon School to the east and Ocean View School (also called Serena School) to the west. Few historical records remain from Ocean View School, but accounts of Rincon School paint a vivid picture of a rustic educational experience complete with creek wading, horseback riding and schedules adjusted to the rural, Carpinteria lifestyle.
Records indicate that the one-room Rincon School was built in the mid-1870s along the banks of Carpinteria Creek where the Carpinteria Lions Park is located today. According to a history piece in the 1934 Carpinteria Chronicle, “The trustees experienced some difficulty in agreeing as to the dimensions of the Rincon School, and finally settled the argument by allowing each one of the three to decide on one dimension of the structure—that is, one the width, one the height, and one the length.”
The little school held a wood burning stove for the cold, winter months and several chalkboards for students to demonstrate their spelling and arithmetic. Students from families living on the east end of Carpinteria—including the Bailards, Ogans, Treloars and Shepards—attended Rincon School. Ed Bailard, a Rincon student in the late 1800s, recalled later in life that 60 students in nine grades were instructed by one teacher at Rincon School.
For several years this teacher was George Metcalf, whose diary has provided insight into the early days of Rincon School. One day he reported that a group of boys were kept after school for pushing another boy into the creek. One entry states, “Halloween hoodlums full our mailbox with mud. Schoolhouse all torn up by Halloween rioters.” And on another day, he stated, “Johnny Bailard plays hookey. Something must be done.” At some point, Mr. Metcalf made a filter for drinking water from the creek, but after the water was filtered all the students drank from the same empty gourd.
The creek beside the schoolhouse often made the pages of Ada Lescher’s diary, too. Lescher, a 12-year-old Rincon School student in 1893, reported daily items of importance such as the following: “(Jan. 12, 1893) Emma Grubb missed one word in spelling. R.C. wades in the creek with his shoes on. We had a clod fight on the way home.” “(Jan. 19, 1893) A cow came pretty close to the schoolhouse today.” “(March 10, 1894) I got a ride to school but there was no school. The teacher was sick.” “(March 24, 1894) I went to school and lost my ball in the creek.” “(March 31, 1894) At school I played ball most all the time. Charlie Wride dent my dinner pail way in with my ball.”
Tina Rodriguez, who attended the school, later recalled, “The Carpinteria Creek was one of our main playground spots. We had no supervision, so we made up all of our games. Sometimes we would get in a fight over who was right, and the teacher would come out and straighten things out.”
Children walked or rode horses to the little school, unless rain muddied the road and forced parents to deliver the students by buggy, picking up other children on the way. Often the rain kept students and teacher at home. On Feb. 9, 1894, Ada Lescher noted in her diary, “Papa took Royal (Ada’s brother) and I to school but no teacher came so we staid home all day.”
The school trustees also adapted the district schedule to accommodate the needs of early Carpinteria farmers. School let out for summer in early May, then closed again for the month of October so that the children could help their parents harvest walnuts, Carpinteria’s major crop at the time.
For the next several issues of Coastal View News, “Throwback Thursday” will continue to cover the history of Carpinteria schools. Much of the information presented in the series is from Jayne Craven Caldwell’s in-depth history of Carpinteria schools included in her book “More About Carpinteria As It Was.”