Class of 1933, 8th Grade
Betty Bustamante & classmates, 1974
Lola Lucero, Betty Bustamante, Clifford Madrid
Rose Bustamante, Charlie Padilla
Betty, Rose, Charlie
A SAD DAY AT THE OLD RIBERA SCHOOLHOUSE
by Rose Leyba Valdez
I can still remember the day of the fire at the schoolhouse as if it had just happened yesterday. It was Ash Wednesday and all the students had met at the San Miguel Church to attend Mass and receive the ashes on the first day of Lent. After mass, everyone walked to the school and we went back to our normal schedule. I was 6 years old and in the First Grade. This was around 1925. I was practicing how to write my numbers when suddenly one of the older students opened our classroom door, shouting “FIRE!” The sister had us all line up quickly and we went out of the building. We were later to find out that a cooking class had left a fire unattended in the upstairs auditorium, causing the fire.
From outside we could see the flames shooting out of the windows on the upper floor. Some of the older boys were trying to save the desks and other furniture by pushing them out through the windows. I remember just standing there crying. There was nothing anyone could do because the only water to save the school was from the river, and the only way to get it was with a bucket.
That night we could see the flames and sparks all the way from El Coruco where I lived with my family. The fire finally burned itself out, and we had no place to go to school until some of the families in the area let us use one or more of the rooms in their homes so that we could continue with our studies. We had to go on this way until the school was rebuilt. I was in Third Grade by the time we returned.
We were very happy to be in our new classrooms. The desks we were using were some that had been saved from the fire, so sometimes when we were writing, our pencil point would go through the sheet and into a burned spot in the desk caused by the hot embers from the fire.This left a hole in our paper, a sad reminder of what had happened on that Ash Wednesday way back when I was in First Grade.