A Good Life in Syracuse

Bruce and Mary (Williams) Schofield met at Syracuse Elementary over 85 years ago. At one point, they rigged a cable across the street so that they could talk to one another at any time. Think slightly more complicated than two tin cans strung across the road. They couldn’t call anywhere else but they could talk to each other. With smartphones and instant communication to anywhere in the world today, it is hard to imagine. Bruce and Mary have lived in Syracuse their entire lives. They used to know every person who lived here. There is no way to know everyone now, there are too many new people who have moved in. The growth has been tremendous.

The first school which neither of them attended was built by the Bodily’s across the street from the Schofield’s current house. Though the school wasn’t in existence when they were growing up, they heard stories about it from their parents. There were railroad tracks that led to a local resort nearby. Those tracks and the resort are now covered by houses and a golf course.

Marys Childhood home

Mary lived in a cute house on Main Street and was born in one of the rooms upstairs to Lionel and Golda (Walker) Williams. The house is still there. When she was old enough, her chores started early each morning, moving cattle down to the pasture past where Black Island Farms are now and just below RC Willey’s and then rounding them back up at the end of the day. They rode their horses and worked together as a family. She remembered one day getting bucked off her horse and hitting a barbed wire fence and cutting herself.

Bruce’s childhood home

Mary loved growing up in Syracuse. She had kids in the neighborhood that were her age and remembers having so much fun. When Mary was a teenager she moved into a house across the street from Bruce. They became really good friends and did everything together. Mary’s Dad did many things for work—carpentry and farming were his main occupations, but in those days it was important to know a little about everything, and he did. The little white house that is next to the museum with trees around it belonged to Mary’s grandmother and was one of many houses her dad built. Her dad even helped build the house the Schofield’s live in now. It was a very small space until after all their children were born. Mary’s dad came and helped add on so there would be plenty of room for their big family to grow up in. Mary’s family owned most of the land that surrounds their current home.

She remembers sleeping over at her grandma’s house and waking up to the news that the church (where the CVS is today) had burned down that night. She had slept through all the excitement. The only telephone line in town came from Hooper to a store in Syracuse. Mary’s mother and her sister (when they were children) hand carried the messages that came from that telephone to people in Syracuse.

Bruce, son of Donald and Cynthia May (Stoddard) Schofield, remembers their school principal was called “Cotton” Anderson or, “yard stick” because he would swot them with a yard stick when they were misbehaving. Bruce’s bus driver was his neighbor and when it would rain, the fields would become a muddy mess. All the boys including his brother Lee, would go help the bus driver push the bus out of the field onto the gravel road. He recalls on several occasions pushing it too far, and off the road into the mess on the other side so they wouldn’t have to go to school—it usually worked. Bruce also remembers that all the children would carry their lunches in brown paper bags. Every once in a while they would play tricks on kids and put their lunches under the bus’s wheels to get smashed.

Bruce’s dad was a farmer and Bruce remembers how much work it took to clear a field. They would use an old D CAT tractor with a scraper on the back. Bruce remembers towing a sleigh around with a horse on a cold day and parking it next to an old store that wasn’t in operation. They had a stove in the sleigh to help them keep warm and the sleigh caught fire and burnt to the ground. Oh to have a video of that, I am sure it would go viral today!

Bruce’s grandmother was a post mistress in the early 1900’s. His grandmother’s picture is still in the post office today. He likes to go in from time to time and check on her.

Bruce was a mechanic most of his life. He worked on tractors and was the first man to work on an automatic transmission from this area.

Other Fun Memories

They loved the old Jim and Ruby Rampton Store and “the penny candy store” that was located near the new CVS and the elementary school. Though the stores are no longer there, the memories are still strong for Bruce and Mary. It had an old wooden screen door that would smack into you when you went through. They loved walking there with siblings and friends for a treat. There was also a dance hall that was just down from there as well. It was torn down when Bruce was a young boy. He also remembers when Eugene Tollman owned the black smith shop before the Kanos bought it and turned it into a mechanic shop. He remembers hearing Eugene working on horse shoes with his hammer. A loud noise would echo throughout the neighborhood.

Bruce loved fishing, so they also spent lots of time at the lake. They would drive their cars, a couple of Model A’s, a Cabriolet and Bruce’s coup. They liked to go park them on a mound of dirt that was piled up for the ducks to sit on. 

When they were 16, Bruce and Mary went to a dance celebrating Bruce’s cousin’s wedding. This was one of their first dates. They did everything together as teenagers. Their best friends were Effie Thursgood and Stanley Barnes, who eventually married as well.

After Bruce and Mary’s wedding, they went to Yellowstone for their honeymoon. They got a note from the government after they got home questioning their means for enough gas to get them to Yellowstone because of the rationing. Luckily Bruce worked on the farm and was able to tell them that they mixed their gas to make it go longer. Bruce said that it was quite the process to get gas in those days during WWII. A relief truck would come and give you a ration of gas for the week. If you didn’t come get your ration on that day you were out of luck until the following week. Those in town would walk everywhere.

Bruce and Mary were married June 13, 1944, and will celebrate 74 years this June. After their marriage, they moved away from Syracuse for a short time with the Army and then returned home to start their life together. Their first seven years of marriage they could not get pregnant and have children, but that all changed and in the next 11 years they had seven children: Kent, Connie, Frank, Sue, Gary, Marilyn and Don. They loved having a big family.

They initially lived in a trailer until they built the first section of the home they are in now. It was a 20 X 24 sq foot home, with a basement where kids slept. It is hard to believe this, but Bruce and his father bought an old latrine from 2nd street with no floor in it. Bruce and his dad moved it out to where they live now. They bought it for next to nothing, cleaned it up, built a basement and put the latrine on top and that became their home. Their home was built on their Grandpa Williams land, which went all the way up to 3000. Their neighbors consisted of Uncle Jim and his family, next to him was Grandma and Grandpa Williams and next to them Aunt Poleen and her family. They lived on Cousin Street. They loved playing and exploring the fields around them. Such a fun place to grow up for the Scofield kids. After Grandpa Williams died, the cousins took turns spending nights at Grandma Williams house so she wouldn’t be alone. The Schofields and their families have lived a good life in Syracuse.

By Melissa Spelts

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