From PTA to PCA

From a typewritten excerpt from a booklet created by an original PCA member...

This is an attempt to answer a question which is asked many times by people who come to our Schoolhouse on the Hill:  "How did it all come about?"

When it became evident that Passer School would not be retained as a unit in the Palisades area, there was a general feeling of disappointment because to the people of the community, it meant more than losing a local school unit.  It meant that the community was losing something which for many years had been a means of unity among the people of the neighborhood (as well as) a place for community meetings and activities.  The PTA that had worked so effectively throughout the years to make things better for the children attending Passer School no longer had a future.  However, community spirit and enthusiasm had not diminished.

So, a new idea was born.  Why not continue PTA as a Passer Community Association?  As long as the building was owned by the school board, perhaps it could be rented and used by the new organization for the continued community functions.  The deed to the three-acre playground was held by the PTA with the two teachers, Mrs. Carrie Horne and Mrs. Mae Haney, as trustees.  Considerable money had been spent for the automatic water system and for athletic equipment, and the people of the community who had worked so hard to earn the funds used for these facilities, felt they should be able to continue to enjoy the use of them.

At the final PTA meeting before the school was closed, twelve people were chosen to serve as an Executive Committee, together with the PTA officers and the two teachers.  This group was given the power to decide what was to be done with the money and property belonging to the association.  After several meetings in one of the member's homes, and with much thoughtful and earnest discussion, it was decided to incorporate the Passer Community Association as a non-profit corporation.  When this corporation was completed, all the assets of the PTA were to be turned over to the new PCA.

To supplement the usefulness and the activities planned for the playground, the school board was approached with a request to rent the building until they decided to sell it.  An agreement was reached to rent the building on a month-to-month basis at $2 per month.

The organization now applied for incorporation as a non-profit organization with Mr. Claire Biehn acting as their attorney.  The purpose of the PCA, as stated in this application, was "to establish and maintain a community center with the express purpose of providing:  1) Safe and adequate play area for adults and children of the community, 2) A meeting place for all community affairs, 3) A place where wholesome, clean entertainment could be sponsored for and by the people of the community, 4) A nucleus which could make provision for further needs and demands of a growing rural community, 5) A means of preserving some of the history and traditions of the little red school house."

At the same time, a committee was chosen to draw up a long-range policy for the PCA which would be in compliance with the rules governing non-profit organizations.  This policy was to serve as a guide to be followed by all who made use of the PCA facilities.  Incorporation completed, a program of events was planned including square dances, picnics, game nights, card parties, and covered dish suppers.  Boy Scout Troop #81, sponsored by the Lion's Club, rented the building as a meeting place for a nominal fee.

When it became evident that the building would be sold, a questionnaire was formulated and circulated throughout the community.  It was hoped by means of this questionnaire to get the consensus of the community's opinion concerning: 1) need for a community center, 2) purchase of the building, 3) types of activities favored, 4) suggestions as to means of supporting a community center.  Results, in part, follow:  Of the 100 questionnaires sent out, 90 replies were returned.  85 favored the PCA with 75 persons favoring the purchase of the building.  Eighty persons are willing to pay $1 yearly dues with 79 willing to support activities.  Favored activities were picnics, square dancing, baseball (hard and soft), public suppers, card parties, our own Welcome Wagon, covered dish suppers, discussion groups, hobby and dramatic clubs.

Activities to make money now became important (as well as making) arrangement(s) to secure mortgage money since it was unlikely that the association could acquire enough funds by the time the building was to be sold.  A tentative plan for a short-term loan to be repaid in one year and a long-term loan with only interest required for at least one year was agreed upon.

Finally, the school board notified PCA that the sale of the building would take place on September 25, 1954, at 10:00 a.m.  On that day, a group of PCA members gathered in the dimly-lit schoolroom together with a number of other persons.  PCA had a designated bidder, and when finally the auctioneer called, "Going --- going --- gone --- for the sum of $4,000," the members realized it was their bid, and there was an audible sigh of relief.  The group was elated, of course, but also a bit frightened because they had taken on a big project, one which they sincerely hoped would not fail.  Additional purchases were the bid stove for $7.50 and the old school bell for $25.  Not many days passed before the donations covered the cost of the school bell.

At the first meeting of the PCA following the purchase of the building, plans were made to have some type of activity every two weeks.  Committees were appointed for building maintenance and financial affairs.  A policy was adopted concerning the rental of the building.  An opportunity to purchase some used kitchen furnishings, dishes, cutlery, and cooking utensils became the basis of the kitchen in the "little room".  Stoves, a refrigerator, and a sink were donated to really make it a kitchen.  We tried a covered dish supper followed by a square dance and found it quite popular.

One of the first money-making ventures was a Merchandise Club, which was run for several years.  There were many other money-making ventures, too, such as soup sales and soup suppers, strawberry and peach festivals, square dances, bazaars, and auctions.  In 1958, we had a week-long carnival with rides and feature attractions, including Sally Starr and Willis Myers and his group.  Extremely cold weather for June the entire week kept down the attendance and also the profits.

Throughout the years, the building was renter for numerous events such as parties, wedding receptions, and anniversaries.  Dog Club meetings and training sessions, ballet lessons, Boy Scout meetings, scout camp-outs, and many others.  The first Homecoming was held on October 24, 1954, and has been an annual event ever since.

Numerous repairs and improvements to the building were made throughout the years.  In 1955, when a new ceiling was put in the "big room', the vestibule was removed - a decided improvement, especially for square dancing.  The roof was repaired by cementing around the slates.  All of this work, including painting, was done by volunteers.  In 1956, swings were purchased and placed in the wooded area.  In 1957, because of the fact that the bricks in the old walls were deteriorating, it was decided to have the outside of the building plastered and white-coated; hence, the little red school house became the little white school house.  In 1958, the old chimney and, consequently, the big coal-fired stove became nonfunctional, so a gas space heater was installed and proved a much simpler and more effective way of heating the building.

As so often happens in any organization, interest began to lag, and it became evident in 1962 that some action must be taken to save PCA.  Mrs. Rutledge, associated with the Bucks County United Funds, was asked to come to look over our facilities and confer with a group of PCA members.  She suggested that we reorganize and prepare a definite program of activities for the children of the community, then ask United Funds for money to help us carry out the program to get us started again.  We followed her advice, and in September, received a check for $300 from United Funds.  With a new set of officers, a revised Board of Directors, and money to help us meet necessary expenses, we were revitalized.

In the Fall of 1962, PCA and Silver Creek Athletic Association organized a Recreation Committee to sponsor recreation programs to be financed jointly by United Funds, Springfield Township Board of Supervisors, and Palisades School Board (using a special state fund).  After considerable delay, this program got under way in July, 1963, both at Passer and at Silver Creek, with a United Funds contribution of $500 to each.  Two half-day sessions per week and one evening family night were held for a period of six weeks.  In 1964, with the help of additional funds from United Funds, this program was extended to include Pleasant Valley and Zion Hill.  Our PCA "sponsored" these two additions, often furnishing equipment and other materials needed.

Then in 1969, United Funds suddenly withdrew support.  The reason given was that we did not have a regular winter program, something which would be almost impossible because of our facilities and also because of conflict with school functions.  An attempt was made to continue some type of summer program under the guidance of groups of parents.  However, there were not enough volunteers to carry on this type of program, so the plan was abandoned.

Since then the Easter egg hunt, the Halloween party, and the Christmas party have been the only regular affairs for children.  However, Girl Scouts and the 4H Club find it an ideal overnight camping spot with indoor facilities in case of rain.  In fact, Girl Scouts found a camp IN almost as much fun as a camp OUT.

On November 19 and 20, 1971, PCA launched its first Christmas bazaar, largely through the efforts of Mrs. Kennard Broglie.  It was a huge success and has become an annual event; it is also our biggest money-raising affair.  On May 10, 1975, we tried a Plant and Bake sale, also successful enough to become an annual affair.

When Pennsylvania Power and Light Company chose to run its high-tension line over PCA property, it was a bit of luck for the organization.  The amount paid for the right-of-way across the property finally helped to pay off the mortgage.  Credit for carrying this mortgage so long needs to be given to Mr. and Mrs. Albert Ebert.  Many times the interest payments were late, but the Eberts continued to work with the group to keep things going all those years.  PCA owes them much for their patience and helpfulness.

Several memorial donations made it possible to create a Memorial Fund to be used for the beautification of the grounds, hopefully in time for, or as part of, our centennial celebration in 1977.

In 1976, partly through the generosity of William Frable, we found it financially possible to put in a sewage disposal system.  Then we decided to add a small cinder block addition to house lavatories.  Again, there were dedicated volunteers:  Mr. Russell Scheetz drew plans, laid the blocks with the assistance of Mr. J. L. Meyer, Mr & Mrs. Holschwander, Mrs. Pritulsky, and Mr. Albright, and got the addition under roof before winter.  A clever idea, selling blocks at 50 cents each, and a poster with a huge thermometer which marked the amounts collected in this way, brought a good amount of money to be used for the building materials for the lavatories.  Of course, the collection box (a replica of the little "out-back house" we hoped to replace) helped the collection.  Thanks to Laverne Pritulsky and Doris Holschwander for this.  Also, we cannot forget Mr. John Berezny, who paid quite a few of the bills for materials.  

There are many things that need to be done to make a truly useful, active community center out of the old school house.  There should be many more pleasurable activities and services for young and old.  The rich heritage acquired during a span of more than a hundred years should be preserved for the future.  I can't think of a better way than by making Passer Community Center a vital, active organization with a group of dedicated people of ALL ages working together.  This type of dedicatory work can be fun and very rewarding.  Join us and find out!