In 1926, Helyn Fielder and Evelyn Harris began first grade in the one-room Everett School. Their teacher, Gladys Snyder, taught all eight grades and boarded with Helyn’s family for $7 per week. The students took turns hauling buckets of drinking water to school. With no custodian, they worked together to keep the building clean, tend the furnace, and assist Miss Snyder.
In her memoir, Helyn wrote, “I feel blessed to have had the special closeness we felt for each other… We helped each other learn.”
Both girls graduated from high school in nearby Peninsula and, along with fellow classmates, remained lifelong friends.
The historic village of Everett is now part of Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Helyn’s family farm has become Hunt House, a popular stop on the Towpath Trail north of Beaver Marsh. New outdoor exhibits bring childhood memories to life through oral histories, a photo flipbook, and play statues of Helyn’s farm animals.
If you visit, drive down Everett Road. Evelyn’s father worked for the railroad. Her family lived beside the tracks and later moved to Peninsula. Their home was a social hub for the local African American community. The former school is atop the hill beside Church in the Valley. Both buildings are now staff housing.
What relationships have anchored your life? What have they taught you?
Arrye Rosser is an interpretive and education specialist at Cuyahoga Valley National Park and co-curator of Crooked River Contrasts, a photo series on the past and present of the Cuyahoga River.
Photo: The entire fourth grade class of the Everett School, 1930. Evelyn Harris and Helyn Fielder are second and third from the left. This image has inspired years of valley history research by the author. Credit: NPS Collection.