11th Annual Bell Ringing

A good time was had by all. A big thanks to all of those who came out to participate in the annual bell ringing. The weather was fantastic. Kids and adults both enjoyed the watermelon and rootbeer floats as well as ringing the bell enthusiastically for “Wildomar’s Independence.” (Photos taken by Joseph Morabito)

Bob Cashman, WHS President, recounted information gathered from “Old-timers”.

History of the Bell

Wildomar School District was one of the first 20 school districts in what was in San Diego County. There was one school, Wildomar public school, and you went there from kindergarten through eighth grade in the same classroom with the same teacher.

The bell had been brought on the railroad in 1886 and placed ultimately in tower built on top of the school. The bell is made of cast-iron and weighs as a unit 640 pounds.

One teacher is an intimately connected to the one room schoolhouse, Mrs. Iva Keegan. She was the teacher from 1928 – 1948 and had quite an influence on the area

Technically, it was a one room schoolhouse, but there also was a back room that was used.  Dorothy Davis, Jean Hayman’s sister, remembers the start of school and the ringing of the bell as it was in 1934.

“We always tried to get to school early so we could play in the schoolyard. School was started at 9 o’clock you always knew when that was. Every morning the bell rang. The children all lined up and saluted the flag. Then we marched together into class.”

Other old-timers mentioned lunchtime and recess as time that the bell was heard. It was a special honor when the teacher let a student ring the bell and one that they looked forward to. Sometimes, when the bell started swinging, it ran quite a few times before the last sound was heard

There was a small library in anteroom before he classroom. Inside the classroom, each student had his own desk, complete with inkwell and a place for his books. In the front of the classroom there was a chalk blackboard at the back there was a wood stove that was used when it got colder. The younger students at the back of the room and as you progressed through the grade you got to be closer to the teacher.

At lunchtime the students all sat on the porch with their teacher and ate the sandwiches they had brought from home.  Lunch was an hour long. So, there was enough time for some of the students to go across the street to the country store and buy a penny candy.  School let out sometime between 2:00 and 2:30, depending on what grade you were in.

Graduation from eighth grade was an important event. It meant that you had passed the proficiency test and were ready to go on to the high school. There was a ceremony on the small stage inside the school, and the bell was rung at this time.

When the school was torn down, the shrine was built for the bell. It sat just where does today for almost 50 years. Over time, the metal parts of the bell corroded and the wooden parts the bell, the wheel and the base deteriorated. The bell could no longer be rung.

It was still used as a landmark. “Meet you at the Bell” is what we used to say when we wanted to get together to work on some event or project. 

In 2006, the shrine was rebuilt and the bell could be rung again. 

The bell indicates that community ideals and spirit are still alive and well and that education, connection to our neighbors, and a respect for the past will sustain us into the future.

Bob Cashman
Talk on July 1, 2019