Maplewood History: Incident at Deer Creek


The soon-to-be, if not all ready legendary Bill Jones is back with a recollection from his childhood.  We can’t thank you enough, Bill.  We try to imagine what life was like in our community from the old photos I post.  You were there. I’d encourage others with memories they’d like to share to send them along. Bill’s remembrance follows.  DH

5 Generations Saved from Deer Creek  – 1933

Valley School, 2nd Grade, spring 1933 happened.  I was new in school and had new friends.  It took three of them to get me into the fire escape tube that swirled down to the street.  That was the big adventure at Valley School.  I loved it once I understood it.

My buddies said, “Warm day, let’s skinny dip.”  I had no idea what they were talking about and too timid to ask.  We raced down to Deer Creek and it looked adventurous!  Suddenly everyone was shedding their clothes and all the boys jumped in.  I couldn’t resist and joined them.  Great fun until my foot got entangled in an old orange crate and I couldn’t get free.  I was small but my buddy “Benny” saw my hand waving frantically and dove down to release my foot.  Dick Andrews said, “You almost drowned kiddo.”  After we got dressed in our damp clothes, I gave Benny my nickel allowance and told him it was his reward.  He said, “Popsicles for us both.”  We were friends for life.

Two weeks ago, I celebrated my 90th birthday with five generations.  My great-great-grandson is 15 months old and my pride and joy.  I fathered five daughters and three sons–scores of wonderful, brilliant grandchildren.  Each time we drive by Deer Creek, I give thanks both to my Lord and little Benny for the most wonderful family that might have ended eight decades ago.  Bill Jones

Valley School 1904.  This was a bit before Bill got there.  The location of this building was directly across Manchester from our current city hall.  This photograph is from the 1904 Suburban Journal which devoted an entire issue to Maplewood. Notice the frame building just behind the brick one. An explanation follows. Courtesy of Maplewood Public Library.
So the name Valley school came from Bartold Valley.  The frame building in this photo is the one that was built in 1891.  This excerpt is from a history of our school district which follows.
This history is courtesy of the Maplewood Public Library.  I hope you are able to read this on whatever device you’re using.  If you can’t let me know and I’ll email you a copy.
Apparently there was more than these two pages but unfortunately they’re all I have.
By the time this photo was taken the school had increased in size dramatically. The fire escape that Bill refers to can be seen between the two gables.  This is the west side of the school, the Oakland Avenue side. The stone wall survives today and now surrounds an apartment complex.  This image was sent by Millie Durban’s son. Forgive me, Sir, I’ve misplaced your first name.
In this photo from 1955, it appears that the original brick building facing Manchester still exists but the much larger three-gabled addition has been added behind it. This photograph was likely taken from the roof of the new Valley School that was being constructed across  Oakland on land that was once the athletic field. Courtesy of Maplewood Public Library.
Another view provided by Millie’s son.
This is a photo of some members of the Robyn (pronounced row bine) family, one of the oldest in Maplewood. These happy folks are either going on or returning from a fishing expedition at Deer Creek. Bill’s story reminds us that Deer Creek was once suitable for recreation such as fishing, swimming, rock skipping, I imagine. We’ve lost something there. Too bad it has been relegated to drainage ditch status. Much thanks to Marshall Robyn and Linda Koziacki for this photo.  And thanks to Bill Jones for his story.  Happy 90th, Bill!


    • Tom, you are correct. The Early Childhood Center is now located in what was the former Valley School building that was built on the athletic field of the original about 1955.

  1. Great story and photos! Fun and inspiring— I suppose, Doug, that you may be thinking of “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”–a book I found so disturbing that, though I turned all the pages and forced my eyes to look at the words, I flunked the test on it. My mind would simply not take it in. (Early sign of ADD.)

    • You got it, Phyllis! Your memory is better than mine. What I was thinking of was an episode of the Twilight Zone. I just googled it to check and you are exactly right about the title. I didn’t know it was also a book. It had nothing to do with Bill Jones story. The title just came to mind while I was putting together that post. Of course my memory was at fault but that’s not new.

    • Hey Gary, the original Valley School was just east of the Steak’N’Shake across Oakland ave. The Glynn family owned a couple of properties (houses) at the S’N’S location. I did a post on them. I just looked through all of the 148 posts I’ve done on 40 South News and didn’t find it. If I had I would have linked you to it. It must have been on the old Maplewood Patch website. Sorry.

  2. I’m curious if anyone has figured out the inspiration for the title of this post, Incident at Deer Creek? You’d probably have to be close in age (67) to me to know it. If no one can guess, I’ll post it in a day or so.

  3. This is all very interesting, especially the contributions from someone who lived there. Life changes so much that sometimes it’s hard to imagine how things were back then.

    • Gary, I couldn’t agree more. We’re lucky to have someone like Bill who can send his stories in. Most of them disappear with their owners. Recording these stories is a worthwhile project for students of many different ages. The mistake is to record them is some way and not transcribe them. If they are sent to our library in recorded form (cassette tapes come to mind), few, if any, people will ever hear them again. If they are transcribed, pages can be scanned visually in seconds. Listening to recordings unfortunately takes more time than most of us have. Thanks for your comment.

  4. …Or: your caption to the 1904 photo says “the location of this building was directly across Manchester from our current city hall,” while in the blue-tinted photo featuring the silver silo, Bill’s handwritten comment states that “the location of this building was directly across Manchester from our current city hall.” But it seems these two buildings aren’t the same, right? I have a feeling I’m not seeing something that’s probably obvious…

    At any rate, again, thanks for your work. Wow, that old school sure would have been great to restore and convert into condos or apartments. The current apartment buildings on the side are a bit of an eyesore. The old wall is the most beautiful thing about them!

    • The 1904 building faced Manchester. The blue tinted photo is not from Bill Jones but from another man whose mother’s name I remember but I have unfortunately forgotten his. In this photo the front of the original school is not visible. Only the last two gables of the addition running alongside Oakland Ave. are visible. His handwritten comment states that the 5th and 6th grade children played at the rear (on the right) while the younger grades played at the front area facing Manchester Road, It’s just information that he wanted to include. Hope that helps. I always appreciate your comments. Hope to meet you someday.

  5. Thanks Doug, great work as usual. You mention in your caption under the 1955 photo that “it appears that the original brick building facing Manchester still exists but the much larger three-gabled addition has been added behind it. ” If you look at the 1904 photo though, that original brick building was different in a couple of ways. The sides are simply the ends of the hip roof; in the 1955 photo the sides are gabled. In the 1904 photo the formal central entry element rises to a steeple; in the 1955 photo that entry element is gabled at the top. If it is the same building, it’s been altered — perhaps to conform to the gabled design of the addition represented in the 1955 photo.

    • Yojimbo, take a close look at the first photo taken in 1904. It has a “steeple” though I’m sure you’d agree that term isn’t accurate. Let’s call it a pointed roof on the entry tower. How’s that sound? You are correct that that feature is gone in the 1955 photo. Look carefully at the western side of the brick building in the 1904 photo. It has a hipped roof and windows that appear to be four panes over four. The direction the photographer was facing in 1904 is southeast. In the 1955 photo the photographer is facing the northeast. He took the photo from the other side of Oakland Ave. The 1904 photographer was practically standing in Manchester. That same side of the 1904 building is visible in both photos. It has the same hipped roof and 4 over 4 windows in the 1955 photo that it had in 1904. Does this eliminate your confusion?

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