We debated on whether or not to send out a holiday missive. Organizational "greetings" often seem perfunctory, and I have always believed that the period between winter solstice and the New Year should be a time for rest, reflection and peacefulness. In other words, who are we to intrude? But when I received the following from Fox, Arkansas' Renee Carr, I was immediately struck by its appropriateness. Renee is our board chair, Rural Community Alliance chief financial officer and a tireless advocate for rural places. So here is our Christmas Day wish for you and yours: Embrace your home. Celebrate your heritage. And look with a keen eye to the future.
Gary Funk, director
The Past Informs the Future, by Renee Carr
The Turkey Creek School (Stone County, Arkansas) was built in 1925 and educated first through eighth grade students in the Ozark Mountain community between Fox and Mountain View until 1947. Since then it was used for voting, community gatherings, singing schools, church meetings and revivals. The historic structure was owned by the Rural Special School District whose superintendent (and my father) Phillip Rodney Rushing worked through the necessary applications to have it listed on the National Historic Register in 1985.
In 2004, after the Rural Special School District was required by legislative Act 60 to consolidate with a larger district, the Mountain View School District became the legal owner. In 2013 Rural Community Alliance initiated a bill, which was enacted by the Arkansas legislature requiring school districts to donate or sell school facilities that were not being utilized for school purposes to a nonprofit, city, community, or community college. The bill was intended to help communities whose school campuses (sometimes just a few years old) had been abandoned due to recent consolidation. An added bonus of the bill was that it gave school districts authority to dispose of historical one-room schools such as Turkey Creek, so they could be restored and better maintained. Rural Educational Heritage Inc., a nonprofit organization which had been formed to support Rural Special School and the surrounding community, requested and was granted the deed to the old Turkey Creek School.
Contributions totaling $3,000 were received by Rural Educational Heritage Inc. from children of three former students of Turkey Creek who were siblings: Retha Morris Hastings, Elsie Morris Compton, and Ruby Morris Berry. Mrs. Compton also taught at Turkey Creek and as a 100 year-old provided an interview about teaching in one-room schools, which can be viewed at https://youtu.be/ful0-Ub2fhM.
The exterior renovations including new roof, paint, and signage were all done with volunteer labor provided by descendants and spouses of former students of the school.
There are no utilities at the Turkey Creek School so my husband, Philip, designed a system using a solar panel to power a night light that illuminates the front entry after dark. Period-style lighting will be added inside the structure using the same energy source. Those who drive by are noticing the bright and pretty exterior, now visible at night thanks to the solar-powered night light that has no operational cost.
An open house was scheduled on December 10 as a surprise for my mother, Angalee Rushing, on her 78th birthday. At the open house she shared stories about attending school at Turkey Creek as a first and second grader. Her good start at the little one-room school would fuel her passion for learning that developed into a 29-year career, teaching first and sixth grades at Mountain View and Rural Special Schools. On that very cold December day we built a fire in the old cast iron stove, heated hot chocolate in pots atop the stove, shared stories, and listened to "recitations" from youngsters. About 50 people attended and enjoyed seeing the little one-room school alive again with happy voices.
Angalee Rushing shares stories with visitors at the Turkey Creek School. A solar panel powers an exterior light that can be seen from the nearby road.
December 10, 2020
Thanks to you we are giving voice to rural teachers!