SHADY GROVE SCHOOL - COMMUNITY BUILDING

 

Shady Grove

Located 6 miles east of Hwy 171, on Hwy 27, Southeast of DeRidder

The building which served from 1919 to 1928 as the Shady Grove school and subsequently as the small village's community center, survives completely unaltered in a rural setting southeast of DeRidder.

Having a T-shape footprint, a single large space is located in the middle that served as an auditorium/classroom with cloakrooms at the front. To each side of the auditorium is a single classroom. Numerous windows appear singly along the sides of the auditorium that contain small panes of glass. That was quite the "colonial" look of the era. The building's entrance is marked by a flat roof porch with four Tuscan columns and matching pilasters.

The school-community building survives surprisingly intact on the interior as well, including two of the three wood-burning cast-iron stoves. (One chimney remains.) Next to each is a wood closet. While the stove in the west classroom is gone, its wood closet remains. All interior spaces are sheathed in narrow gauge beaded board (walls and ceilings). The wooden floors remain uncovered. Door and window frames feature a fairly pronounced molded cornice. The west classroom even retains its blackboard, which is remarkable, considering that the building has not been used for education since 1928.

According to the recollections of former students, the double entrance doors opened into a foyer with a long cloakroom along each side and then the classroom/auditorium space. One suspects the cloakrooms were removed soon after the building was converted into a community auditorium center in the late 1920's to provide additional space. The homemade wooden reclining bench on the stage is the one they used as a prop in play-acting. The auditorium is now filled with church pews not original to the building.

Hundreds of schools such as the Shady Grove School existed across the state in the early twentieth century - they were the face of rural education. Today there are probably less than 20 remaining, if that many. Shady Grove survived because it continued to be used.

Prior to consolidation of schools which generally occurred in the 1920s and '30s, every little community had a school where grades 1 - 6 or 1 - 7 were taught. Shady Grove's closing in 1928 was due to consolidation which resulted in fewer but larger schools. There were between 1 and 3 teachers and estimated enrollment of 60 students.

School days back when, were a far cry from today's standards. There was severe ciscpline, sharing lunches on the grounds, and the fun of walking to school in groups, fighting and playing along the way. The longest walk was about 2 miles. Common for the time was farm children doing their chores before leaving home for school. Teachers boarded with students' families.

As consolidation changed the face of rural education, the school closed nine years after classes began. School board minutes reveal that in October 1928, the parish superintendent was authorized to offer the building first to the community for purchase. Finding money was a problem but finally on May 31, 1929, over 40 Shady Grove citizens incorporated and bought the school building.

The history of Shady Grove gives us an insight into the rural life in the 1930s and '40s. Business meetings of the Shady Grove Community Club, held once a month, also included some type of social event (a program or a covered dish supper). Locally organized three-act plays, performed by both children and adults, were quite popular. Two week "singing schools" were held regularly, with teachers boarding in the community. "Chalk talks" (colored chalk drawings done to musical accompaniment) were also much anticipated events. Boxed suppers and pie and cake sales were held to offset upkeep expenses. Besides social events, the home demonstration club met in the building in the 1930s, and after WW II, veterans took classes there. A few weddings and funerals were conducted there.

The building remains in community use and is used mainly as a polling place, for reunions, auctions, and garage sales.

Shady Grove School was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, December 20, 2002.

Significant Dates: 1919-1928 (education); 1928-1952 (social history)

Contractor: Ira A. Lundy

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Donna Fricker, LA Div. of Historic Preservation

Shady Grove Community Club

Reddie Harper

Provided by: Velmer Lenora Smith, DeRiddr Historian