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old school moore

by Rob Morris for Moore Monthly

The Old School Building next to City Hall is one of the most familiar buildings in Moore. Originally built in 1899 and then rebuilt after it was destroyed by fire in 1928, the building has been home to various businesses and a restaurant for the past 24 years. In November, the Moore Public Schools Board of Education voted to approve the purchase of the two-story building from Charles Cotton for $965,000. Moore Superintendent Robert Romines says MPS leaders have been discussing possibly buying the building for a couple of years.

“We started looking at the needs of our students across the district, and with the new railroad overpass going in, we knew that at some point we’d need to get the kids at our Vista program into a newer building,” said Romines.

It didn’t take long for the conversation to turn to Moore’s original school building. While the building will need substantial rehabilitation, Romines says bringing the Old School building back under the MPS umbrella is tremendously exciting.

“We believe it’s going to be a beacon on the hill right there in Old Town Moore,” said Romines, “I think the community is going to share our excitement once they hear about what we’re doing and the programs that we’re going to be placing in that building.”

Romines says he understands why some in the community might scratch their heads when he describes the move to a “new building.” He believes everyone will embrace it as new once the plans are finalized and restoration work begins.

“When I say ‘new’ building, I really do mean that we’ll be bringing the building back to its old glory,” said Romines. “This building is so iconic and has so much history that it will be a treasure once it’s restored and in use.”

The sale of the building should close in early 2024. Once that happens, Romines says the MPS team will do a walk-through of the building, then start the process of planning and determining the best way to adapt it for programs like the VISTA High School, the district’s alternative education school.

This is going to be a labor of love for us. - Dr. Romines

“There’s a lot of work to be done inside the school,” said Romines. “My hope is that we can get architects involved this spring and get an idea of the kind of work that needs to be done. From that point, we think it will take anywhere from a year to 18 months to get the work done.”

Regarding financing the restoration project, Romines believes that the recent bond election can cover most of the cost, with money earmarked for classroom construction and growth.

“This is going to be a labor of love for us,” said Romines. “Charlie Cotton and Joe Alexander have done a great job maintaining the property. It’s up to us to take it back to an original schoolhouse feel. That means much of what’s currently inside the building will be kept intact. That includes the auditorium and stage with the district’s original basketball court.”

The rich history embedded in the Old School Building’s bricks, mortar, and wood also excites Hart Brown, the principal of the VISTA Alternative School.

“For our program, we feel like it’s truly an honor to be selected to move into such a historic location,” said Brown. “I feel like being downtown and in the middle of everything will add to the sense of belonging to our vibrant and diverse community. That’s especially true as I think about the evident roots and connections this building has to Moore’s past.”

Brown, a history major at the University of Oklahoma, says he and his staff are acutely aware of the significance of the building. He looks forward to helping maintain the building as a symbol of Moore’s past and the importance of moving into a building that genuinely feels like a school.

“It’s important to us that after being in our current location for something like 25-to-30 years, next to the district warehouse, we are going to be moving into a building that looks like a school building,” said Brown. “We’ll have space for classes, conferences, and an auditorium with space for guest speakers.”

For Brown, Romines, and many in the Moore community, the excitement of having the Old School Building back in the Moore Public School family is rooted in celebrating the history and memories that have been made by students, teachers, administrators, and coaches who used the building in the past.

The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was used by the district until 1983. That was the last year MPS conducted elementary school classes in the building. It served students from first to 12th grade after it was rebuilt in 1928 through 1958. Former students and teachers who passed through those doors during those years have shared their memories through “If These Walls Could Talk,” a 2015 documentary by Trifecta Communications, the parent company of the Moore Monthly magazine.


The first school bond election was held in 1889, and the price for constructing a new school building was $1500. The bond passed unanimously, and a year later, the building opened. After a fire destroyed the building in 1928, it was rebuilt.

“All we had was a volunteer fire department,” said Moore alumnus Bernita Thornhill Dreesen. “So they got the bucket brigade and tried putting the fire out. The school was a total loss, so they had to start from scratch and build a new school.”

The building you see today at 201 North Broadway is the school that was finished and opened in 1929. Moore was a small, close-knit community, and that feeling of family flowed through the halls of the new building.

“We were just one big happy family,” said Virginia Kelly Shroyer. “Half of the kids we went to school with, our parents had gone to school with their parents.”

Alumnus Betty January Hall adds that a lot of the students were related, “We would just run into each other in the hall and say, ‘Hi Cousin!’”

By the 1940’s, the building included first through 12th grades. That meant some kids spent all 12 years of their educational careers in the same building. First through sixth grades met on the first floor, while seventh through 12th grades were on the second floor. Every student looked forward to the day they could join the older students on the second floor.

“Sitting downstairs, we heard all the noise upstairs as the kids changed classes, and we couldn’t wait to get upstairs,” said Bobbie Musgrave Mayeaux.

Jack Dreesen adds, “When you finally got to go upstairs, there was the big library and the study hall, which you wanted to avoid. Go out for sports, go out for Glee Club. Do something to stay out of that sixth-period study hall.”

Former students also vividly remember the Old School Building serving as a community center, hosting carnivals, music shows, school musicals and plays, and weddings.

“I took part in two weddings in the auditorium,” said Wilma Norton Dicherry. “They had a lot of different events here because it was the one place that was large enough to handle a good-sized crowd.”

The auditorium was a multi-purpose room, even in the athletic sense. The original Moore High School basketball court was located on the stage.

“All the stripes are still up there right now,” said Andy Janko. “When I’d go to the goal down on that end, you could hardly see them if you’re sitting over on the auditorium’s side.”

L. Dee Williams said, “A few players even ran off the stage and out into the footlights.”

The former students all have fond memories of their teachers during those days.

“We were all scared of them,” said Jenny January, “But they loved us and wanted us to succeed. They wanted us to be educated and to have the better things in life.”

One of those cherished teachers was Mrs. Bennett, the typing teacher. Truda Foutch remembers how Bennett motivated her high school boyfriend, who became her husband.

“She told him that if he didn’t start doing that typing and get some better grades, you’re not playing football,” said Foutch. “He ended up being one of the best typists that she had.”

Of course, no school history is complete without legendary pranks. Past students remember the Class of 1955 as particularly ornery in this area one Halloween.

“Tom Neal lost some of his dairy cattle,” said Charles Thompson. “Somehow, they made it upstairs. We don’t know if they just wandered up there or how they got there.”

Wes Rigsby adds, “You can get a cow to go up steps, but you’ll find they don’t go down steps very good.”

The school janitor wasn’t happy about the prank. After dealing with the cleanup students, remember he was sitting at the school door on Halloween the following year, holding a shotgun.

Amazingly, the blame for this prank was never laid at the feet of any student. To this day, the perpetrators remain a mystery.

Sort of.

“My lawyer will tell you I’m innocent,” said Rigsby. “I mean, as long as I’ve got money to pay him, he’ll tell you I’m innocent.”

Joe Platt said, “I hope they quit looking. If I had known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of everything.”

“I’m kind of like Joe, man,” said Thompson. “I don’t know much about any of that, and I think they’re through looking.”