Oral Histories

Blankenagel, Norma P.



This influx of people caused the tiny two-room school house at La Sal to groan. While the new edition was being completed in the fall of 1956, three classes of children were taught in a makeshift CCC building which belonged to the LDS Church. And that CCC building was our first decent church. It was given to us by the government, because they figured that if it was being used as a church building we shouldn’t have to pay for it. It was on Charley Redd’s land, so he gave us the land to put it on. When we built a better church, we let that go back to Charley, so he owned that CCC building. But the next church we had was there at the Wilcox corner. It was a Cord Company bunkhouse. I can remember how thrilled we were to get a kitchen stove from San Miguel Power. They serviced us in La Sal at that time. They said: “For the church, it’s yours.” It was one of the finest stoves I had ever seen. It was so nice to have a stove that we could have pot luck dinners, and luncheons, and cook rolls and anything we wanted. So it was really a kind gesture to the people of La Sal.

Going back to the CCC building that belonged to the LDS Church, we asked if we couldn’t use the building for a school. There has been kind of a reciprocal thing in La Sal, that school was held in the old La Sal Church, on the town site, for many years. So the Church was glad to let us use the Church during the week for a school building. I taught one of these classes, and the interesting part is how the children would seat themselves, then push their desks together, touching, then another group would sit down all around them and push their desks in, and so on, until the whole room would be filled with desks and nobody could move but the outside ones, and they were right up against the walls or the curtain. While the addition was being put on at La Sal, we had two curtains dividing one big room into three school rooms. I taught 42 students, of three grades, in that room in that situation. That is fifth, sixth, and seventh, and you can’t find rowdier children than junior high, and it was my first year teaching. It was fun and a challenge. There was no bathroom in that building, no water or any sort for drinking. If a student in the middle had to go to the bathroom, every student in the classroom had to move his desk, which would be very disturbing for the other two classes across the curtains. Then we would all have to move back, when the kid got back from the school house bathroom. It was interesting, but the children were just crushed so close together that no one could even move. This went on until January the following year. That would be 1957, when the beautiful new facility of three new rooms was completed. Actually it was one large assembly room, divided in one end by a movable wall, which would close off the eighth grade (and eventually he took my fifth grade). Part of the reason I had such a hard time, is that I had many students in the sixth and seventh grades that could not read or write. The reason is that the miners would move so often, sometimes three and four times in a year, and the children would miss school and never get the fundamentals of reading and writing. It was quite a challenge to try to teach these children. In fact, one young man, a seventh grader, his name was Richard, signed everything with an RIC. I realized that he couldn’t read or write, but he could do math. Anything else was just kind of scribbled on. I offered to teach him. He lived in our Rattlesnake Trailer Court. But he said “No, my dad is a miner and he gets well paid. I’ll just be a miner, then I won’t have to read.” I said to him, “How are your going to get a driver’s license when you turn sixteen?” He was fifteen then. He said “Oh, I’ll figure it out some way.” They moved a short time after that. I saw him later in Santaquin, a great big husky fellow. I asked him “Did you ever get your driver’s license?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “Well what did you have to do?” “I had to sit in third grade for half a year, so I could learn to read.” So he was wishing he had let me teach him when he was younger. He said it was pretty hard to be picked out and put in a third grade room with such little kids, and not be able to do as well as they did. It was really a challenge to him. I wanted to retain him another year but, at that time, it was mandatory that all children be passed to the next grade. It was called a “social pass.” He wasn’t anywhere near ready for eighth grade, much less high school.

This big room was divided at one end by a movable wall and the other by stage curtains. I put my desk up on the stage. We didn’t have to use that. I just used that whole section and the eighth grade, which was much smaller, used the walled off section. Some of the children were really naughty, because some of them didn’t go to school that much and didn’t like school and were poor students and made a lot of trouble. They loved playing tricks on the teacher. One boy once put a lizard on my shoulder and said, “Oh, look what I brought for you teacher.” I am not a country girl and don’t enjoy lizards. I just looked up and said, “Oh, isn’t that cute. Now take it off.” If I had made a fuss, they would have had things in my drawer every morning. But it was a lot of fun.

Read the other Oral Histories