Terlingua School House 1973
The Old Terlingua one room school house sat on Fulcher property. The Fulchers were an old ranching family that owned thousands of acres. Mr. Walter Fulcher had donated the use of the land and built the school house from the remains of old mining buildings.
The school house was basically a wooden shack with a bad electrical systems, a leaking roof, old wooden windows that allowed the wind to blow through and dirty outdoor toilets that were in need of repairs. Water was piped in, gravity fed from a spring one mile away in old black plastic pipe that was simply laid out on top of the ground. The water pipes, I learned later were a continuous problem breaking on a regular basis leaving us many days without water.
When I drove up to the school house for the first time I was taken aback by how quiet it was and how lonely the little building looked sitting out in the open, barren, desert field all by itself. I knew in that moment that something outside of myself had brought me here to this little school. The building was unlocked; no keys were ever needed to get into the school. The inside was full of old dilapidated furniture and worn looking books and supplies. Cob webs hung from the corners of the room and it appeared that a good cleaning would be the first order of business. There seemed to be a spirit here that welcomed me. It was like a quiet whisper in the air, “I have been waiting for you, welcome.” I noticed, under the flag pole, a bronze plaque with the name of “Walter Fulcher” the late rancher that had donated the building and the use of the land for the school. Alone, I went over to the plaque and sat down rubbing my hand over the words and dates displayed there. “I do not know who you were,” I said to the plaque “but here I am and I am really scared. If you are watching please help me out.”
That little white, detached building was the his and her bathrooms. They were continually out of order. So the students had a his and her hill to wonder off too when nature called. The trailer behind the pick up truck was what I used to haul water to my house. I would put a hose into the tank upon arriving at school in the morning and, because of low water pressure it would take 5 to 6 hours to fill the tank. I would then attach it to my truck and haul the water home.
Somehow, I knew in that moment that the universe had conspired to bring me here for a reason. That reason would later be revealed to me in our battles to save the school from being consolidated into the Alpine school system. In that moment I did not know it, but eventually I would learn, that it was no accident that I was here in this very time and place to save this little school from extinction.
I would soon discover that, with all of its imperfections, this basic, run down building was actually perfect. It was not the traditional, concrete, sterile box that most Texas schools were. It was one of a kind. The last one room school house in Texas. Its simplicity, being old and open to the desert around us, would continually enhance the learning process. Here, my students and I were part of the wild, wide open spaces and as close to this sacred land as we could get. Along with reading, writing and arithmetic mother nature would nourish learning in many other ways.
In 1973 a gallon of gas cost around .42 and gallon of milk $1.30. The average price of a car at this time was around $3600 and the average annual salary was $7500.00. My starting salary for 1973 was $6300.00.
Nixon was President in 1973 and the Vietnam war had just come to an end. Nixon, on national TV, accepts responsibility, but not blame, for Watergate; accepts resignations of H. R. Haldeman and John D. Ehrlichman, fires John W. Dean III as counsel (April 30).Spiro T. Agnew resigns as Vice President and then pleads no contest to charges of evasion of income taxes while Governor of Maryland (Oct. 10).In the "Saturday Night Massacre," Nixon fires special Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox and Deputy Attorney General William D. Ruckelshaus; Attorney General Elliot L. Richardson resigns (Oct. 20).
The closest food market was 90 miles away in Alpine. Usually we made a trip to town once a month to buy groceries and supplies.
Computers, the internet and cell phones were not even a part of our vocabulary.
When we arrived in Terlingua there was no TV or Radio reception. For news we would get a copy of an old news paper that someone had left at the gas station, local cafe or post office. We had a telephone at the school but it was a 10 party line. So there were many times you had to wait your turn to make a phone call. And, when using the phone you never knew who might be listening on another shared line. Whenever the wind blew hard or we had a huge rain storm we would loose our telephone and electrical services for days on end.
And so began what would be some of the most exciting, difficult, challenging and rewarding adventures of my life.
What I learned from my Terlingua experience would serve me well and bring me much success and happiness in my life and in others.
I dedicate this website to my two daughters, my beloved wife Olga and my four grandchildren. I also dedicate the memories of the last one room school house in Texas to my amazing students.
With the help of Google I was able to find this historical image of the dedication of the Walter Fulcher plaque at the Terlingua School in 1951. To the bottom right 1973 morning flag raising at Terlingua School with teacher Trent Jones and students. To this day this plaque is still at the Terlingua School in front of the flag pole.
In 1928 Walter Fulters was elected to the school board for the Terlingua School District. He served as a board member / trustee for 25 years. The school district went through may challedging times during his 25 years of service to the community and school. It was through his efforts that the one room school house, that I began teaching at in 1973 was survived.
The little giril in the picture, Emery Fulcher, niece of Walter Fulcher is seen here in 1951 unveiling plaque dedicated to the memory of Arl Walter Fulcher, by Terlingua school children at Terlingua, Texas. Also pictured are (L-R) Jack McNamara, Pat Kenzie, Jr., David Kokernot, Bruce Sutton, Rev. Austin Holingsworth, and Supt. Peyton Cain.
That moment is gone forever,
Like lightning that flashed and died,
Like a snowflake upon the river,
Like a sunbeam upon the tide,
Which the dark shadows hide.
Percy Bysshe Shelley