EVER WONDER HOW former Boulder County Sheriff George Epp first became interested in law enforcement? Whittier Elementary School students doing oral histories discovered that,very early on, it was the allure of the uniform and the badge:
“One of the really cool things to do at Whittier was to be on the safety patrol if you were a sixth grader. They gave you this white belt that went around your waist and across your chest. And you had a silver badge! You got to be a crossing guard and come in late to class. It was very prestigious to be on the safety patrol.”
Just goes to show the influence that educational opportunities can have!
The students’ interview with George Epp (OH 1714) is archived as part of our oral history collection at the Carnegie Library and online. Watch for a more in-depth interview with Sheriff Epp this spring, recorded by oral historian Caitlin McKenna, about his involvement with fighting wildfires in Boulder County.
John Sand III, President of the Gold Hill Club, was interviewed about Gold Hill history by Caitlin McKenna not long before the recent Fourmile Fire.
THIS JUST OUT: our fall newsletter with descriptions of 18 new interviews that have been added to our online archive. You can read the newsletter online. To hear the new interviews, including one with John Sand III who tells about the history of Gold Hill, its community spirit and ongoing efforts at preservation, visit the archive.
The new recordings include a series of interviews conducted by the fourth-grade members of the Whittier Student Historians Club, in which they interviewed people who attended Whittier Elementary School long ago.
Also included are interviews with people from the group Boulder Action for Soviet Jewry (BASJ), which formed twenty years ago to obtain the release of “refuseniks,” Jewish people who had been refused permission to emigrate from the former Soviet Union and suffered severe discrimination as a consequence of both their religion and their desire to leave the country. The interviews record the experiences of BASJ organizers; those who helped with resettlement; and those who immigrated, becoming “New Americans.” This project is an ongoing one, undertaken in conjunction with former BASJ members and the University of Colorado’s Jewish Studies program. Look for additional interviews in our winter and spring newsletters.
In addition, this edition of our newsletter contains descriptions of interviews about the history of and life in Gold Hill, and interviews with a member of the Boulder Potters Guild, a long-time Boulder attorney, and a former Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant administrator who describes working to change the culture of safety at the now-defunct plant.
South Boulder Schoolhouse, Eldorado Springs, Colorado; 1880s. Photo by J.B. Sturtevant. Carnegie Branch Library for Local History, Boulder Historical Society Collection.
The first schoolhouse in Boulder, Colorado, was built in 1860. During the next hundred years, the people of Boulder County established sixty-six school districts. A district was established only after proof was provided that there were at least 10 children between the ages of five and twenty-one years of age living in the proposed area. The family with the most children often donated the land for the schoolhouse and took the teacher into its home to provide her or him a place to live.
In 1961, the remaining school districts were consolidated into the two we know today, the St. Vrain and Boulder Valley school districts. This move was not one that was embraced by everyone. In an oral history interview, Isabella Mayhoffer, a former county superintendent, commented that the two reorganized districts now spent more but accomplished no more with their special projects than the rural districts ever did. She remembered the rural school districts this way:
“The rural districts were a home-like situation where the teachers were extremely sincere and most of them very capable. They had a “tutor” attitude toward their children. It was a love affair. [The children] loved the school and the teacher loved them, and the community was back of them…sort of a family affair.”
The above information is taken from the beginning of Anne Dyni’s book, Back to the Basics: The Frontier Schools of Boulder County, Colorado, 1860-1960. As part of her research for that book Anne Dyni conducted dozens of oral history interviews for the Maria Rogers Oral History Program. Those interviews and more have now been collected into the “Pioneer Schools of Boulder County Special Collection.” The collection is a work in progress, but you can hear our recently posted podcast in which teachers from one-room schoolhouses talk about their living situations and jobs, and you can listen to many of the interviews in their entirety by going to the special collection on our digital archive (click on the yellow “Special Collections” button and then on “Pioneer Schools of Boulder County” in the blue box.)
Back to the Basics: The Frontier Schools of Boulder County is full of fascinating facts and wonderful old photographs. It is available at all Boulder Library branches and can be purchased used from Amazon.com.
ONE OF THE MOST ENDEARING collaborations that our oral history program has undertaken has been our partnership with Polly McDonald’s Fourth Grade Historians Club.
Whittier Historians meet with oral history manager Susan Becker
Polly has sponsored the club at Whittier Elementary School in central Boulder since 1992. The historians meet once a week during their lunch hour to investigate the history of the school, the surrounding community, and the city of Boulder. Polly teaches them how to do historical research. The Boulder Heritage Roundtable honored the Whittier Elementary School Historian’s Club this month with a Special Project Award.
This school year, the group decided to conduct oral histories with people who had gone to their school long ago: nine students Continue reading