Schoolhouse project, films highlight DCHA year

Erin Jerome | The Daily StarArthur Pierson accepts a merit award for his work creating documentary films for the Delaware County Historical Association at the group’s annual meeting in Delhi on Sunday.

Kudos to meritorious members and a review of the year were the orders of business at the annual meeting of the Delaware County Historical Association on Sunday.

Awardees were Judy and Hal Pockriss and Arthur Pierson.

According to the presentation, Judy and Hal Pockriss fell in love with Bovina’s lone surviving one-room schoolhouse, the District One School, several years ago and contributed money for a restorative coat of paint and repairs this year.

Bovina town historian Ray LaFever accepted the award on the couple’s behalf. He said town board councilperson Marni Greenberg helped secure matching grant funding for the contribution, and the repairs have allowed the Pockrisses to provide more tours of the building. The schoolhouse was used between 1847 and 1959, and still has its original desks, which Judy found inkwells to complete.

The space is also used for a week each summer by a student camp. Students dress in clothing from the 1900s and are taught traditional lessons.

“You would be surprised- the kids absolutely love it,” LaFever said.

Pierson has filmed and edited two documentary films for DCHA, and is working on a third with collaborator Samantha Misa, a Binghamton University graduate student.

“The Coulter Code” shares the sometimes scandalous diary of a Bovina farmer. The short World War I film, “A Long Long Trail: A Short, Short Story,” tells soldier Robert Cooper’s experience in the war. Both films have been shown several times in film festivals and around Delaware County. A new documentary, about Delhi photographer Bob Wyer, should be finished this spring.

Misa said she was inspired to create the documentaries when volunteering for DCHA. She scanned and indexed thousands of Wyer’s photos, she said.

Wyer was active in the county between 1938 and 1978, working for The Daily Star, The Reporter of Walton and The Delaware Express before opening his own studio to shoot portraits, weddings and school pictures at Delaware Academy.

“People seem to have enjoyed them,” said Pierson, who was a commercial photographer in Washington, D.C. and had never made a film before working with Misa. “It’s the kind of thing where you gravitate toward people working on these projects. Of course the main purpose of this is to make people aware of DCHA.”

Pierson said he has met descendants of Cooper and Coulter after making the films; the pair are still interviewing people who knew Wyer, to appear in the new documentary.

The 100th anniversary of Armistice Day is Sunday, and the Cooper flick will be shown at noon Saturday at the Walton library. DCHA loaned Pierson real uniforms from the war for actors to wear, and Cooper is portrayed by a Delaware Academy student. Part of the film was shot in and around the historical buildings on the DCHA grounds.

Director Tim Duerden said the association was inundated with donations this year, including a tin horn from the Anti-Rent War of 1839-1845, a handmade wedding dress from the 1940s and a hand-cranked butter churn. DCHA will consider an addition to its main building to house more historical items as it approaches its 75th anniversary in 2020, he said.

Erin Jerome, staff writer, may be reached at ejerome@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7221. Follow her at @DS_ErinJ on Twitter.