Seek’s Four Schools
(by Michael Havrischak, The Valley Gazette, December 1973)
Recently, I talked to Andy Sopko of Seek and he recalled the four schools that little community had during its past history. I pieced his information and some I had about these schools for the following article.
The first school was built in the 1870’s in the Gearytown section in the vicinity of where the present day sewage plant is located. In later years, railroad tracks of a siding which went to the No. 11 Rahn Colliery were in this area. This one-room school house was whitewashed and appropriately nicknamed “the white house school.” Its first teacher was Samuel Motzer, who received a $30-a-month salary. After a few years this school was razed and replaced.
The replacement school still remains today and is the St. Patrick’s Chapel (it became a church in 1886, after the school was abandoned). In its heyday it had two men teachers, the principal, Dr. M.C. Ryan, a doctor and dentist also and Joe Scott. The one-room classroom was then divided in half so the pupils sat back-to-back. On each end of the large room were blackboards, in addition to two pot-belly stoves for keeping the school warm. The teachers naturally tended the fires. The late “Foag” Gallagher, once police chief of Coaldale, attended school there as a little boy, so you can imagine how long ago that was.
In 1915, the third wooden school was built and had two stories with four rooms. The school was located on the corner of the property lot now occupied by Jane Ann Fashions. There was also a shanty for coal and wood. Teachers in the first room were Mary Boyle and Mary Herron; in the second room, Mary Berger; in the third room, Martha Primm; and, the fourth room was occupied by the principal, John R. Boyle, who had one arm. Later, he was replaced by Harry Blaney, a bank cashier.
Other teachers were Olive Bonner and Sam Boyle, later cashier in the Dime Bank, who had lost the sight in one eye through an accident. This wooden school building was finally razed after it was condemned in 1933. The old wooden building was bought and dismantled by the late Pete Shubeck, who used some of the well-preserved wood for a cabin at the Promised Land and for building homes in Coaldale.
The fourth school was made of cement block and is the right-hand side of the building presently occupied by Jane Ann Fashions. The left side of this building was added in later years to accommodate the large number of pupils.
More on Coaldale’s schools later. Remember: incredible, little Seek had four schools!