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"School's Out, School's Out, Someone Locked the Teacher Out"

This Building Identiified as The First School In Johannesburg circa 1900 Appears To Ee the Same as The Building Shown in the 1920 Photo. -- K.C.M.

Over the years Johannesburg has had three school buildings.  Although most of the earliest photos are of the interior of the school house the one on the right is an exterior view and is identified as circa 1900.  This school was located on east end of Piute Ave. between St. Elmo and  Pico.   In the Township Photo of 1900 it appears to be located way out of town.  The location now days, on St. Elmo, while still on the eastern edge of town is now more centrally located.

August 20, 1900: “THE ELECTION ON TUESDAY for a tax to buy a new school house in Johannesburg resulted in every vote being cast in favor of the proposition, and the trustees have bought the building formerly occupied as a storeroom by Huston.  Fitted up a little it will make a very comfortable room.  They have engaged a teacher, a Miss Winifred King, and an eight month’s term of school will begin September 1st.  The district has been allotted $700 and a library fund of $40, and they start off in good shape.”  Bakersfield Californian

September 11, 1908:  “Soledad School Ma’am Wins First Round With County Board—The County Board of Education did not hear charges of unprofessional conduct against Miss Katherine F. Coughlin, formerly teacher of the Soledad school, with a view to revoking her certificate, for the very good reason that it was served with a writ of prohibition this morning by Undersheriff Baker, issues out of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County by Judge W. F. James.

E. L. Wegman, a trustee of the Soledad school district, is in town today and might have been a witness in the case, but the hearing was called off when the writ was served.  The board is directed to show cause on September 25 why it should not be permanently restrained from interfering with Miss Coughlin’s certificate.

It is the contention of Judge Trask, who represents the lady, that the local board has no jurisdiction over the certificate issued for the reason that it was granted on a State Normal school diploma and that the law makes it mandatory on the board to issue a county certificate on such credential, and that it cannot subsequently revoke a certificate so granted.

Some of the members of the board are inclined to the opinion that the point raised is well taken, but the matter has been referred to the district attorney, and the school board will be guided by his advice.

Miss Coughlin has been employed as a teacher by the Johannesburg trustees and the school is to open next Monday.  The trustees were unaware of the trouble in the Soledad school and have addressed a communication to Superintendent Stockton on the subject.

This afternoon the school the school men appeared in a body before the Board of Supervisors to discuss the subject as to what action had best be taken.  No formal decision was made, but it is said that District Attorney Laird will file a demurrer to the petition.

In the meanwhile the school mistress expects to open the Johannesburg school on Monday next, and as one of the school board says, “There does not seem to be any way to prevent it.”  – Bakersfield Californian

Fighting Kate Copeland, and her students, at the Beginning of the 1908 School Year in Johannesburg -- RDM

In the 1908 / 1909 time frame a teacher at the Johannesburg grade school gained notoriety by suspending all but three of her two dozen students in the first two months of school. Ed Teagle, one of the town fathers who had been on an extended trip to Tonopah, Nevada, upon his return, boarded up the schoolhouse to lock the teacher out. Later through the office of the Kern County Attorney she was committed to an insane asylum.

April 5, 1909: NAIL UP THE SCHOOL HOUSE BUT TEACHER WON’T QUIT—Miss Katherine F. Coughlin, teacher of the Johannesburg school whose troubles once attracted statewide attention, is finding that the guiding of the  young minds at the desert town is not an  unalloyed pleasure.  A few days since the trustees nailed up the school house, and advised Miss Coughlin that her services were no longer needed in connection with the shooting(schooling) of the young mind.  But the lady declined to have it so, and securing quarters in a nearby building, she continued in the work of instruction.

That Johannesburg is not a unit in the sentiment that Miss Coughlin is persona non grata is evidenced from a petition that has been circulated and signed, and addressed to Superintendent of Schools Stockton.  The petition is signed by ten heads of families at Johannesburg, declares that the lady’s dismissal was unjustifiable, and demands that she be reinstated.  The petition, which is a strong statement from the side of the school mistress, is as follows:

Johannesburg, Cal., April 1, 1909.  To the Hon. R. L. Stockton, Supt. Schools, Kern Co. Calif.

Your petitioners, the undersigned patrons of the school at Johannesburg, Calif., would most respectfully represent that for causes unknown to petitioners and believed to be unjustifiable and against the interests of the parents and children of this district, the Board of Trustees of this school have closed the school and locked the school house, and are preventing the teacher from continuing the same to the neglect of the education of the children of the district; and we further represent that said trustees and the parties who are urging such action have no children in the  school and have  not to send to school and are not interested in the welfare of said school, and that we believe that the move is made for other ulterior motives and not in the interests of the school, and that we most respectfully ask that the present teacher, Miss Katherine Coughlin, be reinstated and the act of the Board of Trustees be reversed, believing that every charge of misconduct or incompetency on the part of said teacher is wrong and  willfully malicious, and further, that she is perfectly satisfactory to your petitioners and to the parents of three-fourths of the children of the district.

O. E. Cheesebrough

Mrs. O. E. Cheesebrough

J. W. Witt

Mrs. J. W. Witt

Mrs. Florence Heimick

Geo. C. Baker

Mrs. G. C. Baker

H. H. Asbachten

D. C. Corbin

Mrs. O. Albachten

A letter to the Californian further explains Miss Coughlin’s side of the case, and is as follows”

Johannesburg, April 2, 1909

Editor, Californian

In opposition to the wishes of all the people here Mr. Stockton appointed C. J. Teagle to fill the vacancy left by Mr. MaComber’s resignation.  Mr. MaComber went to Los Angeles to live.  He recommended another man here and Mr.  Mann, clerk, recommended the same man.

Teagle immediately nailed up the school house doors.  The people opened a school in another building and I am still teaching.


The trustee’s side has not yet been heard.  Mr. Teagle, to whom reference is made in Miss Coughlin’s letter, was recently appointed trustee by Superintendent Stockton.  He is a leading citizen of the desert, and a well-known Johannesburg Merchant.  The cause for Miss Coughlin’s discharge has not been made public by the trustees, but whatever it may have been, it is quite certain that the lady does not expect to tamely submit.

October 1, 1909:  “MISS KATHERINE COUGHLIN WON’T TEACH THE SCHOOL –Miss Katherine Coughlin, who taught at Soledad and Johannesburg and whose troubles with the trustees of those districts were somewhat sensational, has declined the Granite Station School, to which she had been elected.  The trustees have called upon Superintendent Stockton for a teacher.”– Bakersfield Californian

November 5, 1917:  “TEACHERS OF KERN COUNTY NOW ATTENDING INSTITUTE: Johannesburg School Mrs. Sarah O. Fahey.” –Bakersfield Californian

January 24, 1918: “Charles E. Fahey, trustee of the Johannesburg school district has resigned, having removed from that district.” – Bakersfield Californian

At current time they only let the students attend Kindergarten through third grade and then bus them to Ridgecrest in hopes of civilizing them before it is to late..

Johannesburg School winter of 1920. Gordon and Ben Nosser, Layanna Atkinson, Dwight Myers, Eddie Atkinson, Dog Touser. -- Petersen

Photos from the early 1920’s show a building with a flag pole and a fence around it.  No playground equipment.  Play was up to the students who could draw a circle in the ground for marbles or a hopscotch design.  Mumbly peg was another favorite pass time for the boys.  On those rare occasions that it would snow they would make snowmen out of big snowballs, or sholud we say mudballs as the snow was seldom deep enough to keep from picking up a coat of dirt along with the snow as the big balls were rolled.

School Year 1919. Dwight Myers, Ed Atkinson, Jones, Layana Atkinson, Teacher and Others Uknown. -- Petersen

In the early 1940’s the school was located on the east end of Piute Ave.  With the coming of the Naval Ordnance Test Station, at China Lake (Ridgecrest), there was an influx of people to Johannesburg and the surrounding towns as Ridgecrest hardly existed and the Naval Base had yet to finish the near 1000 units of family housing that they were constructing.  The resulting influx of families put a large strain on the local schools.  To meet the increased demand for education the School Board acquired property on                   st.,  and moved the old school house to that property and added on additional rooms including a bathroom with running water and flushing toilet.  Charles Schultz who was born and raised in the area recalls that Morris Edsall moved the school house on the back of ton and half truck and got stuck in the sand.  They had to get a piece of heavy equipment to pull him out.   This building still exists and is currently used as the office and workshop for the Rand Water District.

Circa 1921. Dog Touser, Ben Nosser, Gordon Nosser, Ed Atkinson, Layana Atkinson, Dwight Myers, and Buster Hackman. These were “The Good Old Days” when a boy could take his dog to school with him.Betty Hackman (Hadley), Layana Atkinson, Eddie Atkinson, Buster Hackman, Kneeling- Gordon Nosser and Ben Nosser Circa 1923. –Hadley

January 24, 1918: “Charles E. Fahey, trustee of the Johannesburg school district has resigned, having removed from that district.” – Bakersfield Californian

May 29, 1923: “PLAYING “HOOKEY” BECOMES PASSE—Playing hookey and being late to school is becoming passé with small boys if one can judge by the three records uncovered in the office of L. E. Chenoweth, county superintendent of schools.

The third youngster who has a clean record for the past year is Gleason Hackman, 12-year old pupil in seventh grade at Johannesburg.  All the youths are said to rate high in scholarship.” – Bakersfield Californian

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