The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Kelly View School

By Vadna L. Bush © 1986

Issue: September, 1986

The old school sat on top of a hill above our house in Kelly View and consisted of one room about thirty by thirty feet. There were about thirty five pupils which made up six or seven grades, all taught by one teacher. The building was old when I attended and some of the information I have states, that it was built in 1885. I was also informed that the first Superintendent of Wise County, Virginia Schools went there to first grade, J.J. Kelly Sr., his dad was whom Kelly View was named for.

A few years ago, my Uncle Elmo who was caretaker and night watchman at the school, pointed out his initials that had been carved in the front wall of the building some fifty years earlier.

The building was constructed of wood, and I have no idea what kind, but it withstood the weather and swarms of children through the years. Both Mom and Dad attended here as well as myself, one brother and one sister.

As long as I can remember the outside was painted white with the inside a dull grey at one time. At least that is the way the memory of a small child still thinks of it.

I forget how many steps went from ground to door, but it opened from the middle of the front wall. There was no knob, but on the outside was a whittled wooden lock. If the day was pretty and sunny the door was left open, but if it was cloudy it would be closed and I don't remember if there was an oil lamp lit or not, since there was no electricity.

In the center of the room a large pot bellied stove sat in a sand box. I suppose the purpose of this was to prevent fires. Every now and then the teacher elected two boys to sift the sand. Some times it needed it worse than others. There were always cores, bits of leftover biscuits from someone's lunch, and if a boy had a "forbidden" chew in his jaw it would be discarded before the teacher caught him. With a quick rake of the foot in the sand the evidence was covered. The teacher would always caution the boys to sift the sand easy so no dust would be raised, but the fallout was so great there was always a job of dusting to be done later.

Without a janitor or anyone to build the fire before classes started the students would gather around the stove until the teacher had the fire going and the room was warm enough to sit at our desks without freezing.

Looking back I now know what an asset the teacher was and even though I did not like attending then, I was taught to love books, and the knowledge to keep learning is with me now.

The one teacher I had there cared, and thinking back, I know just how much. During the winter months when it was too cold for the children to go home to eat lunch she would bring soup beans from home and cook them on top of the stove. At various times during the day between classes, she would stir them with a big ladle, and at noon we would have a hot lunch of beans, crackers and cheese. We loved them.

Some of the memories at Kelly View were not so good, and these were the times we all had head lice. Mom would say she thought they lived in the walls of the building, because no sooner did she rid us of them, than we would have a new crop.

The other worst memory I have, is when we all caught the itch. When the first little watery blister would break out between our fingers, Mom would break out the sulfur and lard. Imagine if you can how a house full of kids standing around a hot stove would stink after they had all been greased with this concoction. As far as I know this was the only treatment for the itch back then.

Our drinking water was carried from a spring about a thousand yards away from the school, and the bucket was emptied pretty often in the summertime. One of the older boys was chosen to go after it and the trip there and back always seemed much longer than necessary. When the water was brought back, the tin dipper was put in and all the children drank from it, except the ones who rolled a piece of tablet paper in the shape of a funnel and poured water in it. They also got a lot of ink to drink that way.

The school building has been restored, and since it is Wise County's oldest school it still sits near the site it always occupied. The Appalachia Elementary School sits in the spot now, but the laughter of all the children at play can still be heard as they are gathered around it each day in the school yard.