Way back in 1969, I stumbled across a dying coal town in Perry County, Ohio, that looked like something out of a Western movie set. Many of the buildings had wooden balconies overlooking Main Street.
Most unusual was an effigy hanging at the main intersection in town. I was told that some in town thought it was supposed to represent the mayor, but I couldn’t confirm that.
I needed ten more hours to graduate from Ohio University, so I convinced an architecture prof to let me earn six hours of credit for documenting the town. I spent about 20 hours and shot over 400 photos. I didn’t think I had exhausted all the possibilities the town had, so I took an incomplete to keep working. Riots, a job offer in another state and circumstances kept me from getting the hours and the degree.
I spent almost a month recently digitizing the negatives, improving their quality and repairing dust spots and scratches. The result will be a series of exhibits in concert with the Little Cities of Black Diamonds and the Southeast Ohio History Center. The first showing will be at the Second Saturday celebration in Shawnee on June 9, 2018.
The first will center on Shawnee High School. The only thing left of it today is the gymnasium.
Gallery of Shawnee High School in 1969
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Curator Jessica and I were exploring a huge abandoned brick school house on a hill overlooking Rendville, Ohio, when a couple said they knew of a building they thought was an old one-room schoolhouse. They’d show it to us if we didn’t mind them tagging along. (Click on the photos to make them larger.)
Definitely a school
Indeed, the nondescript building could have been just about anything from the outside, but once we looked inside, it was definitely a school. It had the chair rail around the walls that went below the blackboards. A long-gone central stove supplied heat, and there was the remains of an old piano against one wall.
Piano left behind
Time hasn’t been kind to the old piano.
Back before good roads and consolidation, the hills were full of small churches and schools because it was hard to get out of the hills and hollows of Southeast Ohio. On top of that, a lot of the towns were company towns where miners were paid in scrip which could only be redeemed at the company store. That discouraged workers from traveling.
Water came from cistern
Water came from a cistern that was located on the side of the school.
About 50 feet behind the school was a small building that was leaning at about a 45-degree angle.
Two two-holers behind school
Through the open door, we could see that it was a two-holer designed for urgent needs, no waiting. The hole on the right may have rotted away, or it may have been destroyed by wild animals who like the salt that soaks into the wood.
Figuring that unisex facilities probably weren’t common in the era when this school was operating, we looked around. Sure enough, about 50 or 75 feet away was another set of seats. The building was gone, but the seat remained.