The Santa Clarita Valley's oldest school district, Sulphur Springs, was founded in 1872. While it might have been more accurate to celebrate its quasquicentennial (125th anniversary) in 1997,
the event was held later in the 1997-1998 school year, on April 25, 1998. Photos by Leon Worden; official program courtesy of Lee Souleles.
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Sulphur Springs Marks 125th Anniversary.
The Signal | Sunday, April 26, 1998.
It is the change in physical landscape Barbara Weitzel remembers most.
"They have grass," Weitzel said of the current crop of Sulphur Springs Elementary School students. "We had rocks."
The Canyon Country resident also had architecture on the mind. "They have newer buildings and an auditorium," she said. "We didn't have anything like that."
Weitzel returned to Sulphur Springs Elementary Saturday to help celebrate the school's 125th anniversary. Known as Barbara Cash when she attended the first through sixth grades at the campus, 1947-53, she learned about the picnic from her 80-year-old mother Ann, a past Sulphur Springs PTA president who now lives in Carson City, Nevada.
Though she has lived in the Santa Clarita Valley all her life, the trip back to Sulphur Springs Elementary was Weitzel's first foray back onto the playground of her childhood since she left it as a student.
"I have come up on the road and looked at the outside," Weitzel said, "but this is the first time (I've been here) in all these years."
Weitzel was not the only piece of living history present at the picnic. Gilbert Spaethe, who now lives in Canoga Park, came to the school as a first-grader in 1938.
"It's the first time I've been back since I left in, when was it, 1946," Spaethe said.
Spaethe was educated in a one-room schoolhouse; his teacher was Florence Mitchell, daughter-in-law of Col. T.F. Mitchell, who started Sulphur Springs Elementary in the kitchen of his house 125 years ago.
And Spaethe personally knew Leona Cox, for whom another school in the seven-campus Sulphur Springs Union School District is named. "She was the librarian," he said.
The history of the second oldest school in Los Angeles County is rich. By 1886, Mitchell donated the school's present site and a one-room adobe schoolhouse was erected.
A bell which now stands in the courtyard of the school was presented by Mitchell in 1920. The one-room schoolhouse in which Spaethe and countless other students were educated was built in 1940. An additional classroom was added four years later.
Though the students and their surroundings are modernized, picnic organizers strove to recreate the authenticity of the period. For sale were lemonade and root beer — no modem soft drinks allowed — and other home-made goodies such as cakes and cookies.
There was a good, old-fashioned bake-off, replete with red ribbons for the winners. Children and adults alike strode around the expansive backyard wearing replicas of authentic 1800s clothing. Visitors could sit on bales of hay and partake in horse-drawn covered wagon rides. Children panned for "gold" in a big washtub.
Underneath the shade of oak trees, many of which undoubtedly took root around the same time as the school, wooden boards displayed toys, kitchen utensils and shaving equipment of the era.
Carly Jennings, a sixth-grader at Sulphur Springs Elementary, enjoyed lathering up at the latter, hut also tried her hand at games of past generations.
And the 11-year-old found children 125 years ago were not so different than her and her classmates.
"It's kind of neat to learn about this string game they used to play that we still play today," Jennings said. Indeed. Cat's Cradle has been a childhood staple for years.
Chelsea Fowler, 11, demonstrated cooking knowledge with die help of some old-fashioned equipment. "You just keep grinding and sifting," she said, "and it'll make flour."
Further reading: Story of Sulphur Springs School.
LW9801: Download original images here
. Printed program donated by Lee Souleles.