A century ago, the small town of Austin rivaled Delta as the county seat, and there were enough kids there to merit a school. From 1904 to 1966 students attended grades one through eight in Austin’s five-room Fairview School before going on to Delta High.
For the past 27 years, generations of former Fairview students have met for an annual reunion. This year's reunion took place on Saturday, with a breakfast get-together at Pleasure Park.
Fairview had only four rooms for eight grades, plus a music room. With classes ranging from single digits to a dozen or so, the school was an intimate community. Ray Drysdale, one of 13 in the class of 1942, is the chief organizer of the reunions and he relishes the feelings evoked by these events.
"Well I think it's a unique vehicle in which you can revisit the past, and you've got a good past to visit. I had a childhood of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn."
Dean Weaver, who graduated from Fairview in 1937, will be 90 this year. When Ray invited people to stroll down memory lane, Dean told the story of a local one-armed ice cream man by the name of Watts.
"He just had one arm, but he could take that ice cream cone and hold it under his arm and then fill it, and boy was that good ice cream!"
This year the featured group was the Dixon Family. Charles and Ruth Dixon arrived in Austin in the early 1900s. Charles helped found Orchard City, and served as a charter member of the town's council. The fruit orchards he established were passed on to his son Hover, and fruit growers in the area later built a cooperative packing shed in Austin. Charles' younger brother Guy, and his wife Lilian, helped establish the town's first potable water supplies.
Larry Dixon attended Fairview from 1953 to 1961. His father graduated from the school in 1921, his mother taught there, and he was the fourth of his siblings to attend the school. Dixon recounted memories of baseball played year-round, as well as the "big bell" rang by the school's principal, Mr. Pottorff.
"He did have a paddle, and he did use that. I don't remember that I was a receiver of that, but I do remember seeing it. It was displayed properly behind his desk."
Greta Hanstrom’s book Slates, Chalk and Inkwells features Austin’s Fairview as one of 70 schools in the area that once offered a rural elementary education. Hanstrom says some of the original Fairview buildings still remain, most of them being used as dwellings.
After the quilt raffle had been won, after all the bouquets and displays had been given out and the stories were still being told, Ray Drysdale summed up the past and present, saying the school and its students were much like a family.