BUFORD I The White River Community Association (WRCA), which has preserved and now maintains the rural Buford School upriver, is putting on its dancing shoes and graciously inviting the community to be a part of recreating history and supporting another rural school.
Of course, this is nothing new. The pioneers of the White River Valley had music, dancing, box socials and a tradition of helping each other in their blood from the very beginning.
As for dancing, that tradition started early.
Mary Goff, the very first school teacher in this county, wrote about their early life in a poem written in 1883. In part it reads:
“When the Soldiers marched from Meeker, in the fall of eighty three,
Behind, the old fort almost empty, stood, as quiet as could be
But not all alone deserted, for a nervy little band
Stayed and held the fort at Meeker, gayest, bravest in the land.
Yes, in families, we were seven, and off the empty barracks ran
With our music of our laughter and the happy songs we sang.
Each weekend from eight till eleven, the old hall echoed with our din,
As we danced to the stirring music of Harry Gilmore’s violin.”
By the turn of the century, the historic Buford School not only taught many children “reading and writing and arithmetic,” but was also the venue for numerous dances and box socials. As was the Coal Creek School, which is the rural school now ready to receive funds for historic preservation.
Nominated for the National Register of Historic Places in Washington, D.C., and the oldest rural school in our county, the Rio Blanco County Historical Society is excited about bringing another rural school back to life, beginning with the launch of a capital campaign.
At a recent presentation by the historical society titled “Music in Rio Blanco County,” Dave Main reminisced about attending dances in many of the rural schools with his parents. He recounted long hours of dancing and himself sleeping under a bench — as did many of the children who attended with their families.
Others shared memories of the box socials:
Rusty Lugenbeel Robertson said, “Loved going as a young child and pre-teen. My love of music and dancing was deeply ingrained from the music there and then. My family was full of music. Daddy sang and whistled and did a soft shoe shuffle … Momma was always singing or humming and she and Daddy danced together in the kitchen. They moved like one. My brother, Mike, had a beautiful tenor voice that helped school recitals and musicals come to life. Then of course, our family had Sam and Jeannie. Our own country and Western stars!”
Beverly White added her recollection: “The outside design of your box had to look good, too, as that’s what got the guys’ attention to bid on it. I remember Mom (Marg Fulton) helping Judy and I design our boxes. One was a hen sitting on a nest …very cute.”
Judy Fleming added, “Bev and I learned to dance standing on Dad’s feet while he danced with us. I just loved those dances…”
In regards to helping each other, that was just the neighborly thing to do. In the White River Review, these notices were posted:
Oct. 30, 1915: “A box supper will be given at the Petrolite school house for the benefit of the new school house, which is being constructed.”
Nov. 20, 1915: “Petrolite box social had small attendance due to bad weather, but was still quite a success. Boxes brought in $22.25. Cakes for prettiest lady, most popular man and ugliest man brought the total for boxes and cakes to $38.60.”
Oct. 21, 1916: “A dance will be given at Rooney’s hall for the benefit of the Lime Kiln school house. The residents of that section have put up a new school house and the dance will be for the purpose of raising funds to assist in furnishing this building.”
In 1917, there was a rural schools report on fund-raising dances for school funds and improvements such as organs, pianos, stoves, flag poles and flags. Lower Powell Park and Strawberry schools held fund-raising events for schools at Upper Powell Park, which was more accessible and therefore easier to gather a crowd. The Angora and Yellow Creek schools hosted fund-raising dances together in early years, when travel to those schools was so difficult.
At least 20 different schools were noted and invitations were made to all so everyone could join in the fun and help with the funds.
The current members of the WRCA have the same vision.
“We have one of the wonderful historic rural schools restored and take pride in maintaining it and developing friendship in our community,” said Jeanne Horne, president of the WRCA. “To carry on the traditions of the White River Valley Pioneers of dancing, box socials and helping each other, we are inviting everyone to a Dessert Box Social and Dance at the Buford School on Saturday, Aug. 30 from 5 to 9 p.m.”
The dessert auction will go toward the historic preservation of the Coal Creek School.
Entertainment will be provided by Dave Main and band along with Dan Seely to call the square dancing and Bryce Purkey to auction the donated desserts. The three have enthusiastically volunteered their musical talent and skills to make this benefit a success.
Hamburgers and hot dogs will be served free of charge with donations accepted to defray costs and to help maintain the Buford School.
“Anyone is welcome to bring their best dessert for auction and bid on a dessert,” Horne said, “But, most of all, be prepared to have some great fun.”