Heart of Louisiana: 1-room schoolhouse in Ponchatoula

Heart of Louisiana: Ponchatoula Schoolhouse

PONCHATOULA, LA (WVUE) - Back in the 1800s, it was not unusual find one-room school houses, especially in rural communities. There's one that's been saved and turned into a museum in Ponchatoula.

When the Collinswood school one-room school house was built in 1883, it was likely one of thousands that existed across the country.

"And they were neighborhood schools because of the poor transportation system in those days," said Jim Perrin.

This school was built near Ponchatoula by the Collins family.

"And she wanted her son to go to school in a regular school environment, so she had her husband build this building and she invited the neighborhood kids to come to school," Perrin said.

Jim Perrin is a retired teacher and principal who has helped turn the old school into the town museum. The school stayed open for about 30 years.

"This is a mail crane, and the mail was put into these canvas bags, and as the train would come by, they would extend this hook from the mail car of the train and it would snag that bag," Perrin said.

The train is one of the main reasons Ponchatoula became a town in 1861. Another reason was the large forests of virgin cypress located south of town. This old engine was used to haul the cut timber.

"They started logging extensively in the 1890s, and we had two large lumber mills located in Ponchatoula," Perrin said.

By the 1950s, the trees were gone. Outside the museum, you find this memorial to the USS Ponchatoula, a WWII tanker that was named as a thank you to this town.

"So across the country they had scrap drives, but in Ponchatoula the school kids were organized in a competitive effort, and they raised a prodigious amount of scrap," Perrin said.

This city has preserved some of its old buildings which now house galleries and antique shops. C.J. Scandurro operates one of them.

"Eight antique stores right on Main Street," Scandurro said. "There's a lot of really old buildings in town, some nice big buildings, you know? That's what the antique city represents, you know? The old town."

Ponchatoula has always stayed in touch with its history. When the city celebrated its centennial in 1961, they buried this time capsule and dug it up 50 years later.

"They had an old newspaper, they had some photographs and several other items of memorabilia," Perrin said.

I discovered by own family time capsule, a box full of home movies shot by my grandfather who lived in Ponchatoula. He had filmed the 1961 centennial parade.

"History is from everybody, for everybody," Perrin said.

I even found a film of old movie engine number three with fresh paint and a familiar-looking 4-year-old boy having the time of his life exploring this piece of history.

The Collinswood School Museum in Ponchatoula is open on Friday and Saturday.

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