DEETER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
by Ann Angel Eberhardt
During the 1950s and 1960s, Sharpsville, like other towns across the United States, was experiencing an increase in the number of school-age children due to the post-World War II baby boom. Consequently, the Emma Robison School wasn’t the only elementary school in Sharpsville at that time.
This story covers Deeter Elementary School, but later we’ll also revisit Pebly and 13th Street elementary schools. If you attended any of these or others in the area as a child, please consider sharing your recollections and any photos you may have.
From the Class History in the 1958 Devil’s Log, the Sharpsville (PA) High School yearbook (page 94):
Way back in the year 1946 about 200 eager, aspiring little toddlers left their Mommie’s arms and ventured forth into a strange and curious world…
Some of these fearless little ones ventured into the inner and sinister recesses of the Deeter Building. Others roamed boldly into the unknown at the 13th Street School…. [T]he Robison Building at 7th Street was greedily gobbling up the young innocents who wandered trustingly into the big doors. Still, in other sections, Clark and South Pymatuning to be specific, future and then unknown friends of ours were suffering fates at equally strange and unknown establishments.
Deeter Elementary School
All I knew about Deeter Elementary School was this: If you were of elementary school age in the 1950s, you either went to Deeter School or Robison School. (Beginning in seventh grade, students from all the elementary schools attended Sharpsville Junior-Senior High School.)
Deeter Elementary School: Miss Emma Deeter
According to the March 2014 issue of Sharpsville Area Historical Society newsletter, Deeter School was named for Miss Emma Deeter, who was a student during the early 1880s and later became a teacher.
Emma C. Deeter was born around 1861 and, according to the 1880 United States Census, lived with her family on Main Street. At age 19, she was working as an instrumental music teacher. Her father, Simon Deeter, age 61, was a “laborer” and her mother, Kate (Thomas) Deeter, age 58), kept house. Emma Deeter had one sister, Mary Deeter (age 17) and a brother, James L.M. (age 28) who was a blast furnace clerk. Kate’s sister, Margrett Thomas (single, age 39), was also living with the family.
Emma Deeter began as a teacher in the Sharpsville School District in 1882, having received her degree from the Northwest State Normal School, later known as the Edinboro (PA) State Teacher’s College and is currently the Edinboro University.
As of the 1910 United States Census, Miss Emma Deeter was a teacher of English and the head of a household which she shared with her widowed sister, Mary (Deeter) Jones, Mary’s daughter, Kathryne Florence (Jones) Beck, age 22, and her husband, Daniel H. Beck, age 32, who was a druggist.
In 1924, an article on page 7 of the Sharpsville Golden Jubilee Supplement to The Sharon (PA) Telegraph pays homage to her many years as a teacher.
MISS EMMA DEETER HAS LIVED LIFE OF REAL SERVICE
Miss Emma Deeter, loved by all, is one of Sharpsville’s oldest residents.
Miss Deeter’s father ran a boat on the canal and moved his family here in 1862 by boat. At that time there were no railroads, no postoffice and only about 14 homes in Sharpsville. Miss Deeter declares Clarksville was like the metropolis of Mercer Co. at that time.
Miss Deeter has taught constantly in the Sharpsville school since 1882 with the exception of one year. She has endeared herself to all. Many of the children taught by her can say they have the same teacher their mothers and fathers had when they went to school. Besides teaching school she also instructs a private class in piano at home.
Four years after this article was published, the school, previously known as the “Second Ward School” was named the Emma Deeter Elementary School in her honor.
Deeter Elementary School: The Building
The first part of the brick building, located on the corner of East Main and Mercer Avenue, was built sometime after 1870 and before 1876, according to the Sharpsville Area Historical Society’s walking tour of the town (or constructed in 1869 according to other sources):
[In] 1870, General Pierce swapped [a frame building used as the first schoolhouse in Sharpsville] for a parcel uptown as well as donation of $2,000 toward a new school building. The new building (upon the site now occupied by the Mertz Towers at 52 S. Mercer Ave.),…expanded twice in 1876 and 1883, was later named the Deeter Building.
A photo taken in the 1930s of Sharpsville from the top of the Shenango Furnace Company’s #1 Furnace, includes a distant view of Deeter School “with its belfry.” This photo can be seen in the March 2013 issue of Sharpsville Area Historical Society Newsletter.
I don’t know if the school that we attended was based on geographical boundaries or not. My older brother and I attended Robison, across town on Seventh Street, in the early 1950s. Later (1955-1956), although we still lived on Second Street, my younger brother went to Deeter, which was closer to our home. According to my 1955 diary, Pat’s first-grade teacher at Deeter was Mrs. Kenton. Here are his recollections:
I went to Deeter in the first grade and then to Pebly elementary school for the second (1956-57) to sixth grade (1960-61). I was 6 years old when I started Deeter in September 1955 but soon turned 7 years old in October 1955….. There was a flight of stairs and halfway up the stairs, there was a reproduction of a painting of boys in a field flying kites on a windy day. There was a pretty big playground and during the summer there was a program that engaged children in arts and crafts activities to keep them out of trouble during the idle summer months I suppose. My chosen craft was casting plaster of paris figurines and painting them.
I remember the ‘canteen‘ – an outbuilding on the school grounds where there was a weekly (Saturday night?) ‘dance’ or ‘record hop’. That’s where I first heard the pop song, ‘Rock around the Clock.’
I also remember all of the children in the entire school being marched single file from the school down the hill (Walnut Street?) to Dr. [James A.] Biggins office where we all got polio shots. That would have been in the 1955-56 school year… Those of us who received the polio shot in our left arms back then earned a little round scar which remains visible on my arm to this day. My children didn’t get a polio shot but rather an oral dose, so the scar dates the children of the 1950s and 60s.
Click on image to enlarge.
An excellent photo of the Deeter Building accompanies the following article, published in the May 2015 Newsletter for the Sharpsville Area Historical Society and written by Ralph C. Mehler, SAHS board member and 1980 graduate of SHS:
This view of the Mercer Avenue school dates from about 1907. Of course, those who remember it know it as the Deeter Building so named in 1949 in honor of long-time teacher Emma Deeter.
The structure was built in three stages. The first in 1869, with a matching section alongside in 1876. The rear section with the bell tower and a connection between the two wings was erected in 1883. Sidney W. Foulk of Greenville and New Castle (who also designed the First Universalist Church here) was the architect of that third addition.
The building was closed in 1964 and demolished in 1973. The Mertz Towers now occupy this lot, with School Street the only reminder of what once stood here.
Most of those elementary schools are no longer around, but our memories do live on. The Class History in the 1958 Devil’s Log goes on to say:
[We] survived the beginning stages of adjusting to a brand new life…with the kindness and consideration of our grade school teachers to help us over the rough spots, we soon passed over those carefree, wonderful days of skipping rope, playing marbles, dusting erasers, washing boards, playing kick-the-can, prisoners base, [and] mumblety peg….
Junior High School
Pebly & 13 Street Schools
Robison School I
Robison School Class of 1960 Part I
Robison School Class of 1960 Part II
Senior High School Traditions
SHS Class of 1958 Celebrates Its 60th!
— Ann Angel Eberhardt (SHS 1958), Goodyear, AZ
— Pat Angel (SHS 1968), London, KY
— Ralph Mehler (SHS 1980), Sharpsville, PA