Every once in awhile the newspaper is asked if we have any photographs of the old Rio Bonito School that was built in 1914. Unfortunately, we do not have many of the old time photos that were published in The Gridley Herald many years ago but we promised we would put the request out there.
The following story on the school ran on February 2, 1966 which included four photos taken at that time including one with a two young girls skipping rope out in front of the two-roomed schoolhouse with palm trees out in front among others.
"Rio Bonito School Since 1914
Dear to the hearts of many area residents is the Rio Bonito School in East Biggs. The school is unique in that it is one of the few remaining two room country schools in California. There is very little written record on the founding of the school, however, the first annual of the Biggs High School, The Rice Blade 1914, notes that the Rio Bonito School District voted six thousand dollars for the building of the two room school. Although a definite date of the completion of the school is unknown, the July 1915 issue of the Sunshine Valley News (now the Biggs News) notes that Mr. H.C. Larson presented the school with a piano in appreciation to his neighbors, who helped his family after their home was destroyed by fire.
Mr. Allen Owen, brother of Mrs. Leo Gwartney, planted two small palm trees in 1940, that were donated by Mr. Charlie Lattin. Only one of these trees remain, the small palm to the east of the school. Mr. B.H. Johnson who has resided in the Rio Bonito area since 1919 has many fond memories of the school, of which he was director for many years. A talk with Mr. Johnson gives you a vivid word picture of the community spirit that prevailed in the early days of the school. And now, 44 years later, Mr. Johnson still watches fondly as the children pass by his home on their way to and from school.
The Rio Bonito P.T.A. was organized in the spring of 1938. The first meeting was held in April. The P.T.A., was organized through the efforts of teachers, Mr. Phillip Fiedler and Josepha Miskella. The charter members are Mr. Phillip Fiedler, Josepha Miskella, Blanch Lattin, Nellie Fiedler, Sarah Hixon, Mary Lewis, Mrs. Fillmore, Mrs. Reynolds, Anna Cameron and Mrs Julia Sanders, who was elected as the first president of the group.
At the second meeting, in May 1938, it was decided that a kitchen was needed to serve the hot lunches Mrs. Sarah Hixon was on the school board of trustees and she asked Mrs. Sanders to represent the P.T.A. in applying for the needed funds. Mr. Jay Partridge said that there was no funds for such purposes but finally said that it could be taken out of miscellaneous funds. Mr. Charlie Lattin and Mr. Philip Fiedler drew up the plans for the kitchen after some discussion as to how it could be accomplished. The trustees bought part of the kitchen utensils and the children were asked to bring their own dishes. The kitchen was built during the summer of 1938 and at the November meeting a kitchen shower was held. The first stove was a two burner electric plate, donated by Mrs. Kiskella. The first year, the cooks were parents that took turns cooking, two at a time. One hot dish was served and cocoa. The milk was donated by different parents and sometimes the cooks had to go around and collect it. Parents were asked to give fifty cents per child a week and those that couldn't afford it, donated food or milk.
The second year no set amount was put on the lunches. A Harvest Festival was held and parents donated food, beans, rice, canned tomatoes, canned fruit and other staple goods. This was in the fall of 1939 and at this time the W.P.A. cook was supplied by the government and did so for at least four years. Lunch consisted of one hot dish bread and butter and cocoa. During the time the milk was bought from a local dairy in five gallon cans.
After the W.P.A. no longer supplied the cook the cooks wages were earned by quilt raffles, cake auctions, food sales, card parties and any other means the members could think of. The first cook received about one dollar a day and the children took turns helping with the dishes. Parents were still donating food, though government supplies were received. During this time the children were again asked to bring fifty cents a week.
After 1950 Grade A lunches were served and were a balanced diet and had to meet government standards for such.
Today the same kitchen is still in use, with modern equipment in use for the preparation of the hot meals, in conjunction with the National School Lunch Program.
The P.T.A. has always sponsored an end of the year school picnic for the children. At first, the parents made home made ice cream and brought it along. The first picnics were held at One Mile Dam at Chico, but for many years now the picnic has been held at the Durham Park.
The picnics are well attended by parents of the children and the annual baseball game between the parents and Mr. Hicks the principal, and the children is one of the highlights of the day.
For many years grades one through eight were taught but at the present only first through fourth, Mrs. Beatrice McPheeters teaches first and second, and Mrs. Estelle Hearn teaches third and fourth.
Although some parents believe the school has become outdated in appearance, one look at the happy faces of the children at play, shows that they too, love their "country school."
If anyone has photos they would like to contribute to a collection that the students are working on, please send to The Gridley Herald, PO Box 68, Gridley, Ca 95948 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.