Dave Willett recalled the consolidation of grades at rural Schoolhouse 8 in North Collins when he attended between 1939 and 1948, two years before it closed.
“There could be as many as eight different grade levels,” said Willett, 81, even with no more than 20 students in the one-room school.
“I don’t remember more than three students in the same grade level.”
The one-room building, painted a gleaming white, today sits quietly across from the public library in the Village of North Collins.
The former one-room schoolhouse opened in 1857, four years before the start of the Civil War, and is the only one left in North Collins out of 10 that docent Jean Avery said were once there.
It became the Schoolhouse 8 History Center & Museum in July 2005.
“It turned out to be a nice cultural jewel for North Collins,” Willett said.
The museum is open 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 16, and can be seen by special appointment by calling 337-3341. Admission is free.
The museum will be one of the attractions during “Celebrate North Collins Fest” from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Fricano Park on Route 62.
Inside the schoolhouse are rows of wooden desks with holes for ink wells.
There is a wood stove, a chalkboard for the teacher and a lower one for students.
Three cabinets contain hundreds of artifacts, including flash cards, books and chalk also compiled from the other one-room schoolhouses once in town.
Together, the furnishings and materials tell the schoolhouse’s story, even if very little is original to the school.
Photographs hang on the walls picturing students grouped around their teachers at many of the one-room schoolhouses, including one from Schoolhouse 8.
Out back is what Avery called “a deluxe model outhouse – a 3-holer,” with a Sears Roebuck catalog inside.
It took a village to save the schoolhouse.
The idea began with then-Councilman Richard Taczkowski in the late 1990s, when the building was located 5 miles away on Ketchum Road.
Taczkowski formed a not-for-profit corporation, obtained a $20,000 historic preservation grant from the state and gained ownership of the property.
In 2003, he passed the baton to Willett and his late brother William Willett.
The dilapidated building – with a hole in the roof and rotted beams – was moved to its present location at 2120 School Road to provide better security and capitalize on existing parking.
The Willetts were significant contributors toward raising an additional $30,000 for renovations, but over 500 people helped in all, whether through money or volunteering.
“It took a team of people to make that museum a reality,” Willett said.