A History of the Nome, Alaska Public Schools:1899 to 1958 From the Gold Rush To Statehood
A Thesis by John Poling
The school we now occupy, heated with steam, lighted by electricity marked contrast to the first school in Nome, started in 1900 by the government.
Now books and every convenience for school work are provided by the school board. At first we used what books we brought with us from the "outside" school, and coming from different places, we had as many different kinds of text books and classes as we had as many different kinds of text books and classes as we had pupils, making it very difficult for the two teachers. Now, we have a principal, a special teacher, and six class teachers, and the classes are graded.
The first Nome school was held in the old Congregational church on Second Avenue West. We had no modern school furniture in those days. We sat on benches, chairs, and the tardy ones, finding even the sills occupied, had to go to the shed for boxes. It was a case of first come first served in those days and our comfort was not considered.
We had no steam heat in those days. We took our turns or fought for places near the stove to get warm or dry as the season called for.
Think of it! Twenty children crowded in one small room. I was a beginner in those days. I remember I was greatly interested in everyone’s books and lessons but my own. I could listen all day to the teachers hearing the other scholars. I could see so many amusing things that the teachers couldn’t see. I tell you I enjoyed myself in those days, but when it came my turn to recite, that was different.
Then we had to move and had a hilarious, exciting time moving to Brown’s hall. The room was much larger, but, Oh! so cold.
Then came the incorporation of the city of Nome. And the joy of it to us boys!
Why, they even made "sandwich" men of the Eskimos, and we packed banners and distributed cards and hung them on the teams decorated with the names of our favorites; and the hot arguments on the streets and the fights we watched, think we were referees. There will never be an election in my memory to come up to the one in the spring of 1901. I can’t remember all I did, but I was very busy.
After the city was incorporated, we had a school board, and our present building was planned and built. While waiting for the completion of our building, the grammar grades went back to their old stand, the Congregational building, now used as a library since the building of their new church. The primary grades were taken to the Bridge school on the Spit. From there we moved to a room over the old Lobby saloon, and it was not until October 1901, we got into our own school house on Third Avenue, which far surpasses anything which people expect when they come here.
It seems a long time since I wore short pants and attended the first American school north of "53".