Visitors step into the past in Plymouth Schoolhouse

STORY BY CORIE LYNN
PHOTOS BY LARAMIE MOYER

On the FHSU campus, across the street from Sheridan Hall, sits Plymouth Schoolhouse.

The one-room schoolhouse is not regularly open to the public, but, on December 3, Plymouth found itself decorated for Christmas and filled with visitors.

“We’ve made this a tradition,” said Dr. Paul Adams, “to have [Plymouth] open for Christmas. We’ve been doing it for probably well over a decade.”

Dr. Adams, who is the sponsor of the schoolhouse, continued by explaining the reason for this tradition.

“One, it’s a beautiful facility to have on campus. It’s very unique as it was constructed out near Wilson, KS, brought over here in 1979, but the building is from 1874,” he said, “Part of the idea of a schoolhouse is a community center so we want to open it up to the campus and the greater Hays community to come in and see it.”

The schoolhouse that visitors saw that day was one that came straight from the past.

Desks, ranging from child- to adult-sized, take up much of the room. Several feet from the door is a large furnace that was used in the film Paper Moon. In front of the desks is a chalkboard with pictures of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington hanging above it, and bookshelves along the walls. Throughout the room, the hosts of the open house placed Christmas decorations.

This type of schoolroom is foreign to modern students, but Gary Andrews, 81, said Plymouth reminded him of the school he attended as a child.

During the open house, Andrews reminisced about his time at the school. He said that he attended a one-room schoolhouse in Rawlins County, Kansas from 1943 to 1953 before moving to Colby, Kansas in 1954.

According to Andrews, he walked miles as child to get to school, carrying his lunch in a syrup can like many other children. He also said that, like Plymouth, the school he grew up in had portraits of Washington and Lincoln hanging in the front of the room, and that he and his classmates used inkwells that were in the desks and played games in the schoolyard.

While Andrews was able to tell visitors about life in a one-room schoolhouse, Dr. Adams shared more of the history of Plymouth itself.

“[Plymouth] was moved here brick by brick by the Phi Delta Kappa group,” Dr. Adams said, “They decided to make a special project of recognizing the history of Fort Hays.”

He went on to explain that this included FHSU’s history as a normal school and preserving the records of former students of the one-room schoolhouse. They have even had visitors to Plymouth who have recognized family members in a picture of the school that hangs in the building.

Dr. Adams also pointed out other historic aspects of the building. One of which was an American flag that guests were surprised to find only had thirty-seven stars.

Apart from learning the history of Plymouth, visitors also enjoyed refreshments and entertainment. This included iced cookies and hot chocolate and apple cider. Following Dr. Adams introduction to the schoolhouse, a group of carolers that included FHSU staff and students sang a number of Christmas songs.

This holiday tradition is one that comes only once a year. However, whether through Dr. Adams, Gary Andrews, or the recreation of a classroom of the past, Plymouth will continue to teach its guests the history of Kansas.

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