Schoolhouse celebrates 100th year Nov. 10

Family fun is what the Nov. 10 Cortez Rural Graded Schoolhouse centennial celebration is all about, according to Florida Maritime Museum director Karen Riley-Love.

“It is a one-day event, free to the public and to celebrate 100 years of the building and its impact on the community,” said Riley-Love. “We will be having an old-fashioned, family-fun event complete with music, food and craft vendors, and reading, writing, ’rithmatic and recess stations.”

The building has undergone a few transitions over the past century, but spent 49 years as a community schoolhouse. It now houses the museum, a fitting tribute to a building that has educated generations of Cortez residents, as well as sheltered them during an early 20th century hurricane.

With more than half of its life being dedicated to education, Riley-Love said much of the celebration’s emphasis will focus on that part of its history, with former students providing written and oral histories of their experience at the school.

John McDonald started attending the Cortez Rural Graded Schoolhouse in 1939, but was already playing on school grounds the year before, much to the dismay of his future principal.

“I was living directly across the road from the schoolhouse, so before any of us started school, my friends and I used to go over and play on the swings and teeter-totters when no one was around,” said McDonald, who noted he also would meet up with his friends during their recess periods.

He recalls his principal at the time, J. Hartley Blackburn, as being someone who could “strike fear the hearts of many little kids … he’d come out and chase me off the school lawn.”

McDonald said one day he “armed” himself with a garden rake and chased Blackburn around.

“Needless to say, I started school the next year on pretty shaky ground,” he said.

McDonald’s story is one of many to enjoy during the celebration. Riley-Love said the “recess station” will include hula-hoops and games, and Tyler’s Ice Cream will hold an ice cream-eating contest.

Food vendors include Village Idiot Pizza, Tyler’s Ice Cream and Cortez smoked mullet. The media sponsor for the celebration is The Islander.

Riley-Love said former students will be awarded a commemorative pin and a one-day commemorative postal cancellation stamp has been prepared for the event. She said kids can write a letter at a writing station and use the special stamp.

The Florida Maritime Museum grounds, 4415 119th St. W., Cortez is the host of the celebration, which runs 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10.


Then and now… the 1912 Cortez Rural Graded Schoolhouse and the Florida Maritime Museum.

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