SOURCE: History of Coaldale - Re-printed from Joseph H. Zerbey History of Pottsville and Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. As published in Full in “Pottsville Republican” and “Pottsville Morning Paper,” 1934, J.H. Zerbey Newspapers Inc., Print, Pottsville, Pa.
NOTE: “The Senior Class, 1934, of the Coaldale High School, gathered this material under the direction of Wilbur E. Berger, of the Social Science Department. It was written by the same students as an English project under the direction of Oscar S. Keebler, head of the English Department. Committees were appointed to do the research work, and the students responsible for each particular phase of the borough’s history will be noted as the matter is printed.”
COALDALE - EDUCATIONAL SYSTEMS - SCHOOLS
(Committee: Boris Kudrikoff, John Bench)
Before there were any schools in Rahn Township, the children received only what little educstion they could get from their parents. But because many of the parents had no schooling, many children received no education at all.
For many years the people felt the need of a school but, because money was lacking, they were unable to build one. In 1849, however, the people contributed material and labor with the result that a small school was built on Jackson St. (now First St.). Although it was a small one-room building, it served its purpose well.
Some time was spent in finding a teacher and finally Graham Kennedy, of Summit Hill, was appointed its first school master. He was paid a salary of $20 a month for a term of six months a year. The money with which his salary paid was raised by taxation.
The opening of the school found about forty scholars, all anxious to learn. Three days a week they gathered around the large stove to learn the subjects which they considered important: reading, writing, and arithmetic. This building served as a school for many years. Recently it was razed and converted into a dwelling place.
In 1858 another school was built. It was located in Centerville. This school provided for the education of the children of Springdale, Centerville and North Jackson St.
This was also a one-room building. In the center of the room was a large store which supplied the heat during the cold weather. The first teacher of this school was William McLaughlin, who received a salary of $25 a month. After teaching a few years, he retired and lived in Summit Hill until his death about three years ago. He was succeeded by Mrs. Hannah Davis Jones, who is now a resident of Philadelphia. Her successor was Leticia Early.
The three “R’s” were the only subjects taught in this school until about 1885. At this time spelling and a little geography were added. There were no regular hoursschool was dismissed when the stage-coach came.
In 1903 this school was used as a pest house during the small pox epidemic. In 1904, it was destroyed by fire.
About 1860 the “red school house” on Phillips St. was completed. It was also a one-room building but in 1875 it was razed and made into two rooms. About this time it was called East Ward School. David Mathers was its first teacher. His salary was $25 a month. This was later raised to $30. This school was torn down a few years ago.
In 1870, Seek boasted of a school of its own. Unlike the preceding schools, it was a two-room building. A few years later it was razed and made into four rooms. Samuel Motzer was appointed its first teacher. His salary was $30 a month.
Among the earliest teachers of this school were Edw. McElroy and Dr. M.C. Ryan.
A few years after the completion of the school at Seek, a four-room structure was built on Fifth and High Streets. Only two rooms were used as a school while the other two served as a home for Jeremiah Foley, its first teacher. A few years later the four rooms were used as a school. Among its earliest teachers were Mrs. Annie Stuart and Miss Margaret A. Bonner. Miss Bonner is the oldest teacher in Coaldale. This school was recently converted into a two-family house.
There were no janitors in any of these schools butthe teacher took the place of them. It was their duty to clean the room, make the fire and do other things as well as teach. The boys usually brought in the coal and wood.
When a child first entered school he began to learn the alphabet until he mastered it. After this he was given a primer. This was a book containing pictures of common objects with the name above it. The child had to spell the name over and over until he knew it perfectly. This system was discarded soon after 1885 and the and the phonogram (word systems) was used instead.
The year 1889 marked the construction of the first large school in Rahn Township. It was the present East Ward building on Phillips Street. There were eight rooms with as many teachers.
The School Board at this time was composed of: Bernard Boyle, Pres; James A. Mundy, Secy.; John McLean, Samuel Boyle, Wm. Mitchell, Jno. Elliott. Samuel Boyle is the only one of these still living.
In 1906, Coaldale became a borough. At this time the school directors were: Neil J. Boyle, Pres.; Dennis J. Boyle, Secy.; Paul Cavanaugh, Treas.; Edward Cavanaugh, and John Boyle.
The Middle Ward school on Ruddle and High Streets (sic) was completed in 1908. There were eight teachers when it opened. Later another teacher was appointed.
In 1915, a two-room school was completed in Seek. There were two teachers in this building until 1933. In that year, the old four-room structure was razed because it was condemned by the authorities and considered unsafe for school purposes. Because of the crowded conditions in these two rooms it became necessary to appoint four teachers.
The High School
A high school course was first given in the East Ward building in 1900. It was a two-year course. The first graduating class was in 1902. The graduates were Dora Davis (now Mrs. Paul Kirchner), Samuel Boyle, Jr., (cashier of the Lansford Dime Bank), and Frank Jones, (drug salesman).
In 1908, when the Middle Ward school was completed, two rooms were used as the high school. In 1909, however, the high school was again in the East Ward building. Nine persons graduated from the high school in the Middle Ward.
Another teacher was added to the high school’s faculty in 1909. This made a total of three teachers.
The last year that a high school course was given in the East Ward building, 1922, there were 25 graduates.
The number of high school students kept increasing and a new high school was needed for them. The matter was voted upon.
The vote showed the majority was in favor of a school. The School Board made a loan and issued bonds. The building of the school was soon under way.
John T. Simpson was the architect and engineer. His assistant was Brown Ralston. The School Board at that time was made up of Chas. Watkins, Pres.; Wm. J. Clements, V. Pres.; Thos. J. Evans, Treas.; Burk Harvey, Secy.; Jacob Berger, Thos. J. West, and David Yemm. Bernard Duffy was the solicitor. John E. Gildea was the supervising principal. The cost of the building, with equipment, was $225,000. The building was completed in 1923.
The last graduating class in the East Ward building was in 1922. They completed their three year course. The next year they came back to the new high school building and were the first to complete a four year course in Coaldale. There were 23 in this class.
Ten teachers were appointed in 1923 to teach in the new building. Now there are 20. The first principal of the high school was R.B. Morgan. He was succeeded by Samuel W. Miller. A.C. Moser succeeded Miller in 1929. John E. Gildea is the supervising principal.
In the senior high school, in 1923, there were 123 pupils. In the 7th and 8th grades there were 151. A total of 276 pupils came to the new school. In 1933, the enrollment was 567.
At present there are four school buildings in Coaldale. There are 50 teachers, 30 in the grades and 20 in the high school.
This term (1933-34) 1,454 students are enrolled in public achools first opened in Rahn Township.
In 1932, the total amount budgeted $181,964.91. The total expended was $160,286.47. The cost of keeping each pupil in school was $96.40.
Vocal music was introduced into the Coaldale High School in December, 1916. The first music teacher was Miss Burke. She received a salary of $40 a month, teaching three days a week. She was succeeded by Miss Mame Richards. Miss Griffiths was the next music teacher. Miss Ada Meredith succeeded her. In 1932 Miss McLean, the present music supervisor, was appointed. In 1928, Oscar S. Keebler organized an orchestra in the high school. The orchestra had 22 members.
Although the high school had an orchestra it was not until 1930 that instrumental music was introduced into the high school curriculum. A.C. Moser was responsible for it being added.
John J. Horn was appointed instructor of instrumental music. Coaldale is known for its band which Mr. Horn has organized.
The first year, 1930, the band had 145 members. Now there is a junior band, with 133 members, and senior band with 102 members. The present orchestra has 31 members.