I currently have columns running in 3 newspapers;
- Tri-Valley Herald : Looking Back
- Valley Times : Do You Remember?
- The Independent : Do You Remember?
The Articles appear in the Herald and Independent on Thursdays,
and the Times on Sundays.
They will also be found on this page each week as well.
If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates to catch up.
Midway country school alums share memories
By Barry Schrader.................................March
After last weeks column revealing the existence of a one-room
country schoolhouse that had been thought gone for 60 years, several people
came forward to report they attended the school in the 1930s and 40s, up
to the time it was closed down due to lack of enrollment in 1946.
As reported last week, the 22x35 foot building still exists today in
the Altamont hills on the Mulqueeney Ranch. It took on a personality after
several alumni shared their schooldays memories from more than 60
Among those alive today who attended Midway are Lois (Mulqueeney) Walker,
Lori (Mulqueeney) Cornwell, Bill Brockman, Manuel Costa, Mary Monser, Yssa
Coronado, Elizabeth Liz (Derby) Costa and her brothers Earl
and Edward Derby.
This rural school near the corner of Patterson Pass and Midway roads
was founded in 1873 when the ranchers in the area petitioned the County
Board of Education to establish new boundaries for an elementary school
district in that far eastern sector of Alameda County. Two other school
districts in that area, Highland and Mountain House, adjoined it. In their
petition the original trustees John Mulqueeney plus Franz and Reinhold Haera
stated that there had been a private school operating at Midway but with
the influx of children from the section gangs on the Southern Pacific Railroad
there was now need for a public school. The ranchers and other residents
of that area voted a tax on their properties totaling $1,000 for the purpose
of building a schoolhouse and covering other educational expenses.
According to an 1883 plat map, kept in the archives of Alameda County
Superintendent Sheila Jordans office, a plot of land (about two acres)
belonging to Franz Haera was acquired on which to build the school. The
young teachers who were assigned there, just out of college, faced a sparse
life in the hills around Midway. Several of them roomed with local ranchers,
such as the Brockmans and Mulqueeneys.
Manuel Costa remembers being kicked by a horse that broke his leg, but
was fortunate to have his teacher Mrs. Helen (Root) Forney tutor him for
several weeks at home. He said the size of the student body ranged from
27 down to five over the years. His young twin sisters could only speak
Portuguese but were enrolled early to bring the student count up to five
so the school would not close at that time.
Bill Brockman, now a retired rancher living at Kimberly, Idaho, attended
Midway until it closed in 1946 when he was in the sixth grade. So he and
two other classmates were moved to Mountain House School through the 8th
grade. Then Bill was sent to live with the McGlinchey family in Livermore
so he could attend high school until he graduated in 1952.
Mary Monser only attended Midway for a few months in the fall of 1943
when she was an 8th grader but remembers the school well. Her parents had
moved to Midway where her father became foreman of the railroad crew, but
then got transferred into Livermore where the railroad put two boxcars together
at 28 South P Street for their living quarters. Now that lot is occupied
by Atom Appliance. She graduated from Livermore High in 1948 and went on
to work for the VA Hospital, then at Sandia Lab for a number of years.
Yssa Coronado went to Midway until it closed, then it was decided he
would go to Summit School at Altamont to finish his elementary grades. He
has memories of his Midway teacher Miss Ann Freisman (later Mrs. Ann Schofield)
taking her pupils on nature walks into the fields around the school, pointing
out the safe mushrooms and other edible wild things, then bringing
back a pan full of mushrooms to put on the pot belly stove where they were
cooked and shared by all. He and others remembered Pop Windelers
store nearby in Midway where the kids could go for a soda pop or jaw
breakers after school. It was operated by the grandfather of the Mulqueeney
Lori Cornwell went to Midway her first three years, then the family
moved into Livermore where she finished grade school at St. Michaels. She
recalls the country school had a set of rings in the school yard where they
could swing around the pole at recess. She wore bib overalls
to school every day as did many of the others. They carried their lunches
in a lard pail and their noontime fare usually consisted of a cold sandwich,
fruit and a thermos of milk.
Her older sister Lois Walker was at the rural school for seven grades
until they moved to town. Most of the time there were only five in her class.
For part of the time she had a pony and cart which she occasionally rode
to school. Others who had horses also tethered them in the school yard.
But most of the kids had to walk through the hills or along the dirt roads
to get there each day.
Liz Costa (no relation to Manuels family) spent an afternoon sharing
her remembrances of Midway. She also called on the memories of her two brothers
to provide some history. Beside Miss Freisman she remembers teachers named
Fern Ford and Max Hess. Two of the schools trustees, Kathleen Brockman
and Hilda Costa, drove to Oakland to pick up library books and school supplies
for the classes. The students only got one pencil and one box of crayons
plus a writing tablet at the beginning of each year and had to make them
last a long time, she recalls.
During World War II the government provided packages of vegetable seeds
and the classes planted a Victory Garden around the flagpole
near the water pump. One of the extra-curricular activities
the teacher encouraged was students walking a short distance to a little
cemetery west of the school grounds to pull weeds. Now, Liz indicated, the
fence and grave markers are all gone and the graveyard is just part of an
open field across the road from the PG&E substation on Patterson Pass
More than one alum remembered standing along the tracks waving to the
soldiers aboard the troop trains. Could be they were carrying young men
to and from Dublins Camp Parks and Camp Shoemaker. They also remember
Mr. Brockman was the local Civil Defense official and came to the school
to remind them that blackout curtains needed to be installed on all windows
in case enemy bombers were looking for lights to guide their attacks. It
likely wasnt necessary since the school and nearby ranches had no
electricity and the schools kerosene lamps were seldom if ever used
due to the large windows on two sides of the classroom.
An exciting development occurred just as this column was being written.
The son of Ann Freisman Schofield contacted me to say his 87-year-old mother,
who taught for years at Midway, is still alive and spending the winter in
Scottsdale, Arizona. So if I reach her this column may continue on the same
topic for yet another week.
The columnist can be reached via email at :
or by snailmail at:
PO Box 446
Livermore, CA. 94551