Centennial anniversary of ‘Breeze School’ cornerstone ceremony approaches
Residents recall days spent at the old school between School and Breeze streets
June 10, 2016
Craig — The notice reads "Corner Stone," and it announces the construction of the first brick school building in the city of Craig.
"The laying of the Corner Stone of Craig's new school house will occur at 10 a.m. Thursday, June 15," the notice reads, referring to a date back in 1916. And so, the centennial anniversary of a crucial point in the school's construction that once was on 675 Breeze St. will take place on Wednesday. With that occasion in mind, the Museum of Northwest Colorado is preparing material from the cornerstone’s "time capsule" for public viewing — along with the stone itself.
The building began as a school that included elementary and high school levels. Soon, though, in 1921, the current Administration Building on Yampa Avenue was constructed and housed the elementary school grades, said Dan Davidson, director of the Museum of Northwest Colorado.
Davidson said the Breeze School, as it’s often called, had three stories, including a basement, with large windows allowing the light to stream into every room. It served as a the junior high and high school until 1949, when a high school building was constructed on the site of the current Craig Middle School. Davidson said the building slipped into different roles as the city grew through the years.
"Gradually, as Craig increased in population, this building just took on multiple uses over the years," he said.
The building was expanded in 1936, benefiting from the Works Progress Administration of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Administration.
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"It was a WPA project, and this great big gym and all these other classes were added to it," Davidson said. "From '36 on, it had more space."
As for the cornerstone, it contains what was often referred to as a "time capsule," a collection of small items that mark the period. Back when the cornerstone was about to be placed, the notice read, "Business men are invited to be present with business card or letter head to be placed in the box."
A look at some of those items included cards from the city's earliest professionals, including a druggist, dentist, land broker, a minister and others. Davidson noted a card from Rosetta Webb, "one of Craig's best-known early business women." The card advertised the Webb Hotel.
Davidson also displayed some letterhead that had been inserted into the time capsule, included a sheet with employee signatures from J.W. Hugus & Company.
"Hugus was the big mercantile company in the town at the time," Davidson said.
Davidson himself attended the school in sixth grade.
"I had never been in a building with an old system that had steam heat," he said. "You'd hear those radiators cracking. That's something I remember about that old place."
Jim Hasler attended the school from 1951 to 1955, from fifth through eighth grade. He recalled a fire escape — a chute attached to the side of the building.
"We would climb up inside that thing and slide down," he said in a telephone interview. "We used to play on that a lot, even though it had been condemned."
Hasler recalled other details, as well, such as a Kiwanis Club play on the stage in the gymnasium, eating hot lunch in the gymnasium, and playing games outside.
"We'd get snow there in the first part of the winter, and we'd play fox and geese," he said. In the warm weather, the boys would play marbles and the girls would play hopscotch on the sidewalk.
Al Shepherd attended the school from 1944 to 1948, from seventh grade through the first part of high school. He, too, recalled the fire escape.
“This tube was 3 foot in diameter which was a slide about 40 feet long,” he wrote in an email. “When school was closed the kids would climb up the slide and slide down it. The top of the tube had two panic bolt doors and you had to run at the slide, hit the doors and then slide down.”
Shepherd described the reaction among students when the old Craig Theater caught fire in the 1940s.
“In 1947, there was a fire where the old Craig Theater was,” he wrote. “When that fire broke out the library was full of kids and the kids used the slide to get out of school to go see the fire.
Shepherd also remembered the layout of the building in meticulous detail, naming classroom locations and their subject matter. He also recalled what it was like to have junior high and high school students studying in the same building.
"I think the high school kids kind of protected the junior high school kids," he said in a telephone interview.
The building was razed in 1981. Today, people passing by can see a playground, possibly with children reminiscent of the ones who used to play hopscotch, marbles and other games on school grounds decades ago.
And a long-ago vision of the corner stone, now sitting in the Museum of Northwest Colorado, has etched a spot in Hasler's memory.
"As a kid I remember looking at that cornerstone at that building," he said. "I thought it was so funny that our mother (in her 30s) was three years older than that school. At the time, she seemed old."