Ask Me

Sanger restaurant serves up schoolhouse history

School House Restaurant & Tavern, located at the intersection of South Frankwood Avenue and East Kings Canyon Avenue. The restaurant occupies the former Frankwood School and includes features of the old school building.
School House Restaurant & Tavern, located at the intersection of South Frankwood Avenue and East Kings Canyon Avenue. The restaurant occupies the former Frankwood School and includes features of the old school building. ezamora@fresnobee.com

Q: I’ve always wondered about the schoolhouse in Sanger that is now a restaurant. How long was it open for classes?

Jan Dolan, Squaw Valley

A: The original wood-frame Frankwood School on Frankwood Avenue near Kings Canyon Road was built in 1890. It was replaced by the current brick building in the 1920s.

Rancher M.M. Jack, concerned that there wasn’t a school for local children, helped organize the Frankwood School District in February 1890. Jack solicited donations of land and money from local businessmen, the Frankenau brothers – Max, Samuel and Sig – and R.M. Woods. Land for the school was purchased in October 1890.

“In appreciation for their contributions, the school and district were named after these men – Frankwood,” according to “Public Schools of Fresno County.”

The one-room schoolhouse had wood siding and a wraparound veranda. The school opened with 12 students in grades 1 through 8. Their teacher was Caddie Boynton.

As the population of nearby Minkler increased, the little school’s enrollment grew to 61 in 1920 and a bigger building was needed. Three of the district’s trustees – Will Minkler, P.A. Erickson and Frank Short – spearheaded the drive to build a new school.

Fresno architect Ernest J. Kump Sr. designed the brick schoolhouse built in 1921. He also designed other Valley schools, but the Frankwood School is one of his few schools still standing, according to his biography on the Guide to Historic Architecture in Fresno website.

More land was purchased for the new school, which provided room for tennis and basketball courts. A bell tower over the entrance was the focal point of the L-shaped red brick building. One wing contained classrooms, restrooms and an office. The kitchen, library and auditorium were housed in the other wing.

The classrooms were heated by coal-burning pot-bellied stoves in the winter. In the spring honeysuckle vines climbed up the columns of the covered walkway.

Voters in the Frankwood district approved joining the Centerville Union School District in 1958 by a vote of 125 to 35. The elementary school closed and students were bused to Centerville schools.

Roy and Ethel Phillips bought the school building in 1960. Members of their families had attended the Frankwood School for more than 20 years, and Roy Phillips served as a district trustee. They sold the building to the Fresno County Land Co. in 1968. The building changed owners several times until 1972, when new owners remodeled it.

Old fixtures, including original drinking fountains and a school library card stand, adorn the restaurant located in a historic Sanger school.

The former schoolhouse operated as the Sherwood Inn restaurant for more than 30 years. According to the current owners, the restaurant closed around 2000 and sat vacant for almost 10 years.

In 2010 Kelly Brooks and his wife, Connie, bought the building that now houses the School House Restaurant & Tavern. Ryan Jackson, executive chef, and his wife, Michelle, marketing and events sales manager, operate the restaurant.

The owners “couldn’t bear the idea that someone would potentially buy it and demolish it, so they bought it,” Michelle Jackson said.

“We still have many class pictures hanging on the wall in the lobby, dating back to the late 1800s before our building was built. Over the years many guests have ‘tagged’ people in the pictures by writing in their names,” she said.

Other former schoolhouse fixtures include original drinking fountains, a school library card stand and the original auditorium stage.

Editor’s note: Due to incorrect information in the AAUW’s book “Public Schools of Fresno County,” M.M. Jack’s last name was incorrectly spelled as Jacks in an earlier version of the column.

Q: Years ago I spent many summer nights with my mother and sister at a community canning facility. We brought crates of peaches, tomatoes and other fruits to be canned. I don’t remember where it was and would appreciate any history about this.

Linda Broten, Fresno

A: There were at least two commercial canning operations in Fresno during and after World War II. One operated at the former Fresno State College campus – where Fresno City College is today – and the other was at Roosevelt High School.

According to a December 1944 Fresno Bee story, the two canning centers had just ended the canning season. A survey of both operations showed that more than 1,500 Fresno families used the facilities and “will have few worries about rations points this winter.” During the war, Americans were encouraged to can as much surplus produce from their home gardens as possible.

More than 68,000 cans of “various commodities” were canned during the 1944 season. “Peaches were the most popular commodity with the private canners at both centers,” the story said. Home canners also processed tomatoes, green and wax beans, peas, beets, apricots, pears, salmon, chicken and chicken broth.

In addition to produce from home victory gardens, “canners at the high school processed more than 150 cans of cookies, candy, cake and fruits to be sent to soldiers overseas.”

The commercial canning season began in the spring. An April 1945 Bee story was headlined “Asparagus Is First On List For Canning Center.”

Winston C. Strong, supervisor of the college center’s “food production war training,” said some foods, like the asparagus, were purchased in bulk for home canners to buy. The cost to process either bulk commodities or garden produce was 7 cents per can for fruits and vegetables. The cost was higher for meats, which required longer cooking times. The money paid for the cans and processing.

Canning sessions were held in the mornings and evenings. The first session of 1945 at Fresno State was “open to all persons who canned in either the FSC or Roosevelt High School last year or who attended instructional sessions last week at the college.”

One food item rationed during the war was sugar, but there appears to have been a separate allotment for sugar used for canning. The 1945 “canning sugar” allotment was expected to be 20 pounds per person, 5 pounds less than the previous year, but was expected to be sufficient, the Bee story said.

In 1956 some 1,500 people used the college canning facility to put up 200,000 cans of food, a college official said. The building that housed the college’s canning program would be torn down and the land used for the school’s agriculture program.

A 1957 Bee story said the Fresno State College Foundation sold its canning machinery. Its canning center was located at Hammer Field, a military air field.

More about: After an answer about the A&M Lumber company was published June 12, Arthur Theodore Mathews Jr. called to correct part of it.

The name of the company was taken from the first and last name of his father, Arthur Theodore Mathews Sr., Ted Mathews said. His father also liked the name because it put the company up front in the telephone book. The June 12 column incorrectly reported the name of the owner of A&M Lumber as William Matthews. The owner was Arthur Theodore Mathews. The column also incorrectly reported that Walter H. Aufderheide was Mathews’ partner. He was an employee.

Ted Mathews said his father was born into the business, like he was. His grandfather designed and built sawmills.

Mathews’ father came to the Fresno area in the early 1920s. He cut timber above Fish Camp in the 1940s and moved to the Jose Basin area in the late 1940s. Today there is still a sign marking the location of Mathews’ Mill, although all the old lumber mill buildings are gone, he said.

Mathews’ father cut lumber in the Auberry area in the early 1950s. The move to the lower elevation allowed the operation to run year-round.

His father’s lumber yard in Fresno closed in about 1972. Arthur T. Mathews Sr. died in 1975, at age 73.

Ask Me publishes on the second and fourth Sundays of each month. Paula Lloyd is a freelance writer. Send questions to askpaulalloyd@yahoo.com or by mail to Paula Lloyd, c/o The Fresno Bee Newsroom, 1626 E St., Fresno CA 93786. Please include your name, city of residence and a phone number.

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