Granite antique shop owners excavate memories of 19th-century schoolhouse Building's proprietors seek alumni for reunion

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The proprietors of a Granite antique shop are hoping to bring back the days of pigtails and inkwells with a reunion for students of the western Baltimore County enclave's old school -- a stone building that now houses their store.

"Many of the historical buildings we have here are still being used, either as homes or for what they were originally built as," said Brenda Hamilton, a community resident who, with her husband, Don Hamilton, has run Schoolhouse Antiques since November. "Not much has changed."

Built as a one-room schoolhouse in 1879, during the heyday of the local quarry industry, the building was expanded with an annex in 1893, Mrs. Hamilton said.

The school was closed about 1941, and five years later purchased by Dr. Eugene Torrey and his wife, the former Helen Gosnell, who converted it into a private residence, said Mrs. Hamilton, whose store is set up to maintain the atmosphere of the couple's home.

But memories linger of the schoolhouse days.

"During our annual Christmas in Granite program, we had former students here, and people had wonderful stories to tell," Mrs. Hamilton said. "They all had their memories of going to school here."

The Hamiltons and the Granite Historical Society are hoping that many of the surviving students will attend the reunion planned for May 18. Society members plan to record the students' accounts, Mrs. Hamilton said.

Many of rural Granite's residents are members of families that have lived there for generations, which has eased the task of tracking students. Beverly Griffith, the historical society's president, said about 75 already have been contacted.

"It wasn't a very large school, but we have been able to reach some of them," Griffith said. "A lot of people here know and remember former students."

Griffith said the school had three rooms and housed kindergarten through seventh grade. Another schoolhouse had been built in 1860, but could not accommodate the growing number of youngsters as mining workers settled in the area.

Among the former students is Gladys Brooks, who said she began "low first grade" -- kindergarten -- there at age 6.

"We used to have assembly every morning," the former Gladys Bloom, now 88, remembers. "We would open with a Bible reading, prayer and singing."

During recess, Brooks said, boys played on one side of the school and girls on the other. Little girls with long hair were apt to have their braids dipped in the inkwell by playful little boys eager to play tricks, she said.

"Those days we had sashes on our dresses and if you didn't think to tie it in front of you, the boys would tie it to the chair," Brooks said.

Mrs. Hamilton said she had events such as the reunion in mind when she opened Schoolhouse Antiques, which contains many items from life in Granite -- including a class picture from the late 19th century. "I wanted to have it be like a little museum," she said.

Pub Date: 5/08/96

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