Ettrick Elementary, in the southern most portion of Chesterfield County, has been celebrating its 90th birthday this year. The birthday celebration event has come and gone, but folks in the community are still reminiscing about the school.
There probably aren’t many families who can brag about several generations attending the same school, along with serving the population of Ettrick Village; the school also serves a section of rural southern Chesterfield where many families stay close to home. There is one family in this rural community who is talking about Ettrick Elementary and amazed that they now have four generations who have or are attending Ettrick Elementary - the Wilson family - Rowlett Road residents.
Albert and Cora Wilson, the patriarch and matriarch, haven’t moved far from where they were born nor have the succeeding generations. They had two daughters, Pat Nesgoda and Carolyn Wilson Allard. Pat had a son, Marshall, and three daughters, Hanna, Renee, and Leah. Carolyn had a son Kaleb and a daughter Keesha . Marshall and Tanya Nesgoda, have added a fourth generation that also attends Ettrick, a son Justice and a daughter Zoe. They all have fond memories of their elementary school days at Ettrick, only in different decades.
Albert and Cora Wilson are celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary this week.
Albert attended Ettrick in 1933 and 1934 and Cora, who was a Rowlett, attended her first and second grades there, before moving to Matoaca Elementary when it opened in 1937. Albert said he had to walk two miles to catch the bus and Cora said she had to walk a mile.
“I used to go across the street and watch the blacksmith make stuff, and any time I get a penny I would go over next door where they had oranges at a penny a piece. At the service station over here, if I got a nickel, I would go up there and get a cup of Mickey Mouse ice cream.”
“No heat or air-conditioning and the ruts in the road swung you back and forth on the bus,” said Cora Wilson. “Girls sat on one side of the bus and boys on the other.”
“On the bus, if you started to fight, you get off and walked,” said Albert. “Seven miles” he said, was the distance from his home to the school. It was up to them to bring their own lunches and Albert said he brought it when they had it. Cora said, “Biscuit and fried ham, ooh, it was so good.” It was 1946 before they got electric [on Rowlett Road],” said Albert. “No tar roads either,” said Cora. “Hickory Road was ruts and nothing but dust.”
By the time their children, Pat and Carolyn, had entered school, the old building was still there. There were six grades in the building. The sisters were three years apart in grades, so by the time Carolyn entered the first, Pat was in the fourth. It was the mid 60s. The most vivid memory for Carolyn was on her first day of school she was separated from her big sister and couldn’t understand why. “I remember the steps going into school, they were like ‘Gone with the Wind’ stairs,” Pat said. “Long and steep.”
They both said they took their lunch to school, but at times bought lunch in the cafeteria for 40 cents “and a nickel for an extra milk,” said Pat. Carolyn said, “Everything made from scratch. They made hot peanut butter sandwiches and big ol’ bowls of vegetable soup.
By the time the oldest of the third generation started school; the population had grown to where children were attending what was known as the annex on Dupuy Road. Grades K-2 attended the annex until it closed when an addition on the main school was completed in 1985.
The family now had six attending Ettrick and they all met at their grandparents where their Nanny had prepared breakfast and catch the bus, which was a few steps from the front door.
“There were no bus politics,” said Marshall, who at 37 and the oldest of the grandchildren. He said the area was known for a bunch of hicks, but they felt they got a good education, and “we had a diverse group,” said Marshall. There was a paddle that hung in the assistant principal’s office and the ruler on the hand was still used.
It has been several years since the first of the fourth generation entered Ettrick. Justice is now a junior at Matoaca High School. His sister Zoe is in kindergarten.
“I remember being in the nurse’s office almost every day,” Justice said. “I just liked being there.” When Justice was in the third grade, he had 15 classmates. Zoe’s kindergarten class has over 20 students. The lunch room now has more healthy choices like salads and fruit cups. Zoe just recently received the Rudy’s Kid award from the Rudy Johnson Foundation, the NFL player who contributes to the school.
Justice plans to attend college, VCU and study IT. Zoe wants to work at Toys R Us.
The close-knit family feels very fortunate to have been a part of Ettrick and most likely will have a fifth generation to attend Ettrick Elementary, but not for several years.