Sibling Assignment # 51: The Heart and Soul of Silver King School

The roof callapsed from heavy snow on January 11th at Silver King School in Kellogg, Idaho. This was the place my mother taught school for many years, I attended first grade, we spend hours outside of school with Mom as she worked in her classroom. After high school I continued to revisit this school on the summer crew that helped paint and clean schools, substitute teaching , and practiced basketball for a town league team.

The school was located under the shadow of the smoke stack at the Bunker Hill Smelter and was bordered by Lead Creek which ran down the hill from the Zinc Plant. We thought nothing of the polluted soil, water, and air that surrounded us. When enrollment went down after Bunker Hill closed the school was used for the bus garage and storage.

Silver Valley Girl gave us the sibling assignment this week. “In light of the collapse of Silver King School , let’s share a story involving Silver King School. “ You will find RP’s here and SVG’s is here. I shared another story entitled The Stock Room about Silver King School that you can find here.

There are images you remember as a child that may blend together into a story that you believe more in your mind. One memory of Silver King School were the bottles in the windows at the end of long elementary hall. There was a two story wall of windows with sills that held bottles filled with different colors of water. This picture was the closest I could find as to how it really looked. When the sun shone through these windows instead of seeing the barren hills killed by the smelter smoke you saw prisms of light dancing along the hallway. I can remember looking way up at those bottles wondering how someone got them up there so high. I think it was a job held by B. Gulman. Another image that has remained with me was the fire escape upstairs in the lunch room. We climbed upstairs and ate lunch in this attic type room. As an impressionable first grader I saw the fire escape that hung on the side of the building each day as Mom parked our car in the back of the building. I don’t know if I just feared going down that fire escape during a drill or if we really did it. I just know those black ironworks stairs and my fear of heights still remain in my memory over forty years later.Entering an older school building as an adult we often remember the smells of wax , wood varnish, wet boots, borax hand powder, and hot lunch and it takes us back to where we started school. Silver King School had these smells. The older building I work in now has the same smells. The green chalkboard is gone, diminishing the chalk smell. We use more environmentally safe cleaners and don’t get that strong hit of disinfectant. Remembering Silver King School my mind recalls the mix of shiny floors, heat registers, cloak rooms, polished desks, and chalkboards. I remember big windows that brought sunlight in after the smelter smoke lifted. Bulletin boards reminded us of spring flowers, Thanksgiving pilgrims, and Washington’s cherry tree. Cooks dished up Witches Brew, homemade rolls, and sloppy joes. The lyrics of “Here Comes Santa Claus” brought Santa in after the Christmas program with brown bags of goodies for all. Long ago Mrs. Germo put away the empty pencil box she filled with hard candy that we could earn as a treat. Dick, Jane, Sally, Spot, and Puff were all put away in boxes. The old typewriter we used to compose writing has long since been packed away. I don’t even know what was still left in the building. Last spring we drove by Silver King School and were dismayed to see the windows boarded up and things in disarray. The sight was even harder on my mom. Looking at the pictures of the collapse of the roof brought deep sadness. The bricks, iron works, glass and wood that formed the foundation of this beautiful building for many years are crumbling . The words we write will keep the heart and soul of this building alive for those of us that keep on remembering.


  1. Wow...pretty much sums this post up. I don't know how you were able to so concisely identify and address so many issues, emotional, and otherwise. Great post.

  2. Thanks Starr... it is amazing how clear these memories are still.

  3. This post was so touching...so many memories are tied up in our school days. You've taken us on quite a journey with this post, beautifully written.

    My old elementary school is now a senior citizens center, so it's kept in good repair. I'm glad :)

  4. Great post. I had forgotten the colored water bottles which was the trademark of that school. I received a good education in that building. I was subjected to art and music as well as readin', writin', and rithmatic. I can still recite several poems that I learned there. I can remember fishing those big rubber balls out of the lead creek. But I can't remember what I had for lunch. Dementia sucks. Your mom influenced a lot of lives.

  5. That one picture reminded me of my grade school. The clanking of the steam in the radiators was part of the learning rhythm.

  6. The colored bottles were so cool. That school was quite a large part of our family history.

  7. I was devistated when I saw the collapsed building in the Kellogg paper (days later). I remembered an earlier post I did that included a lot of my memories from there.

    Additionally, I remember square dancing in the gymn in the evenings, special dinners (school fund raisers?) years later, and thanks for the reminder that as women - those who were on the city basketball teams practiced there. I had forgotten that - but then I only played one year - 1979.

  8. Anonymous29.7.10

    does any one know when Silver King School was built. I went their in 1st and 2nd grades. I loved it. I hated when we moved away from there. In an odd way it was part of my home. thanks for the stories and pictures.


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