Mrs. Florence Lamont Judd has lived in Lockport for 100 of her 100 years. She recalls an incredible number of changes throughout the growth of our town. Some of her most cherished memories are of the Gulf School where she began her education.
Florence was born on Jan. 31, 1919, the youngest of nine to Earl and Doris Lamont. Her siblings Elmer, Frederick, Robert, Margaret, Marion, Charles, Helen and Raymond all attended rural district schools in the town of Lockport —the youngest at the Gulf School. Florence began her studies there about 1924. Since she missed her older brother so much, her mother asked the teacher if Florence could attend with him. An improvised kindergarten ensued and Florence started her studies earlier than most.
The Gulf School was located on the southwest corner of Upper Mountain and Old Saunders Settlement roads. It received its name because of its proximity to the gulf surrounding Eighteen Mile Creek. The land was purchased for the District 17 School by Trustee John M. Wolfe in 1872. The district spent $250 (about $5,000 today) to acquire the three-quarter acre parcel from Elisha and Lucinda Taylor.
An 1875 map of the town illustrates 19 school districts. A school was located in virtually every hamlet or population center of the town. The Gulf School was originally designated as District 17. By 1922, it was the District 1 School.
The Gulf School house was built in a rural vernacular Gothic style with four-over-four windows and turned columns adorning the front entrance. It was clapboard, painted grayish white with dark colored trim. In the spring, daffodils would brighten the schoolyard. A belfry enclosed the school bell at the front of the building and a chimney at the rear of the structure vented the wood-burning stove. Multiple windows took advantage of natural daylight. Remember: electric lighting was not readily available until well into the 20th century. Inside there were oil lamps to further illuminate the space. Indoor plumbing was also a luxury at the time. The school boasted a well and two outhouses.
When the well would go dry, a couple schoolboys would walk over to a nearby tavern, the Gothic Hotel, to fill a pail of water. When the tavern patrons saw the boys walk in, they would immediately quiet down to be on their best behavior in front of the impressionable kids. (Note: this tavern was located on Upper Mountain Road and is distinct from the Gothic Hotel, which was located on what is now Gothic Hill Road. The Gothic Hill tavern burned down in 1881. The Upper Mountain tavern was founded in 1898; it later became known as Reggie’s.)
The school educated 18 to 22 pupils each year, about three or four in each grade. “How could eight grades be taught by one teacher?” you may ask. The teacher would announce a grade and subject, for instance “Grade 5, Arithmetic” and those students would head to the recitation benches at the front stage of the school. The teacher would lecture to those students. The rest of the children would remain at their desks and study for they would soon be called upon to sit at the recitation bench.
The school day was 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with an hour lunch plus a brief morning and afternoon recess. The teacher would ring the bell to signify the start of classes.
During lunch, the students would frolic in the gulf or play games. One such game was called “Andy Over,” which involved forming into two teams and throwing a ball over the fence to the other team until someone missed.
Florence recalls February 1934 being bitterly cold. In fact, it was a record-setting cold snap that even froze Lake Ontario. Many farmers lost significant areas of their orchards and vineyards. Classes proceeded as usual, though.
Subjects taught at the rural schools included: arithmetic, reading, writing, spelling, geography and history. Once a week, there was a drawing class. For geography lessons, students would memorize countries on a globe.
Spelling bees were a common exercise. Districts would often coordinate; the students at the Gulf School would travel down the road to the Pomeroy School. One such outing was on Feb. 15, 1922, when the Gulf School students emerged victorious from a spelling and arithmetic contest between the two schools.
Florence’s favorite subject was history. Her father subscribed to three Buffalo newspapers. On Sunday, he would review the “In Retrospect” column in the Buffalo Times with her and then offer a quiz. This may have sparked her love of history and remarkable memory.
Students who attended the Gulf School in the 1920s and1930s included John Depew, Agnes Ford, Martha Watts, brothers Jack and George Udell, sisters Anna and Helen Lubs, siblings Henry, Mary and Fred Bowers, siblings Donald, Douglas, William, Walter, Helen and Irene Kraatz, sisters Laverna, Lavanch and Loraine Laubacker, and Liberty Bond Olear, better known as Buddy Olear. (His parents clearly supported the war effort.)
Stay tuned for the next installment to learn more about the Gulf School, its teachers, and what happened to it after district consolidation.
Jean Linn is Lockport's town historian. Contact her at 438-2159 or firstname.lastname@example.org.