April 17, 2013

Photo of schoolchildren could be family treasure


---- — I’ve had a natural curiosity since I was young. I was an explorer, wandering into the haymow, walking the fields and country roads. I still love adventures.

As a reporter and writer, I have to ask “who, what, why, when and how” in order to form a well-rounded informational news story or column. Research turned up the accompanying picture.

In November, I interviewed Charles and Eva Drown of Mooers. The Drowns were soon to celebrate their 72nd wedding anniversary. A mutual friend informed me of the event, and I made an appointment for an interview.

After the first 10 minutes, I felt like we had known each other forever. After a few minutes at Eva’s kitchen table, I felt right at home, especially with a cup of tea and homemade date-roll cookies. Toby and Charles had an instant friendship, chatting about guy stuff, driving truck and farming.

Charles told me about attending the Gibson one-room schoolhouse near Cannon Corners in Ellenburg. While writing the story, I wanted to confirm location, so I searched online and was amazed when a 1925 photo of the Gibson schoolhouse popped up.

I downloaded the picture and forgot about it until after Christmas when I came across it again and printed the image, intending to take it to the Drowns to see if Charles was in the picture.

The flu bug hit me, then my husband; my days got busy; and I forgot about it again. My birthday (March 7) came and went. I picked up the paper a few days later and read that Charles had passed away on March 6. I could not believe it. I hate it when life happens when I’m not paying attention.

We went to Charles’s memorial service in Mooers, and the little Wesleyan Church was overflowing with people who were there to honor him. Seems this big strapping man with a gentle spirit had made a multitude of friends in his 92, almost 93, years. We didn’t stay because it was standing room only. I dropped Eva a card and told her I’d be around to see her in a few weeks.

We got together last week. When I showed her the picture of the Gibson School, she was amazed. She wondered, like me, if Charles was in the picture. His mother passed away when he was young, and as far as Eva knows, there are no pictures of a youthful Charles. She said Charles wouldn’t have been able to see the picture because of his eyesight, but he would have been thrilled to know there’s a picture.

So I am reaching out to our readers. Perhaps somebody has this same picture and can name the children. I have searched the Internet and cannot find it again. The saved JPG info says “gibsonschoollaclairboys.jpg,” but I have no clue how I found it.

Charles was born March 17, 1920, so he would have been 5 or 6 when he attended the Gibson School. It would be a wonderful gift to Eva and her family if we could identify Charles or any of his relatives in this picture. Perhaps there is a list of names for the Gibson School that year.

I am a lover of local history, and I deem this picture a treasure. I am confident — because there are caring people living in our North Country — that if there is an answer to this mystery, we will know soon. I can hardly wait!

One last thought, as always, please be kind to each other. The world needs more kindness.

Susan Tobias lives in Plattsburgh with her husband, Toby. She has been a Press-Republican newsroom employee since 1977. The Tobiases have six children, 18 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. They enjoy traveling to Maine and Colorado, and in her spare time, Susan loves to research local history and genealogy. Reach her by email at