Yes, you can go back, but it’s not really the same

By Bev Pechan


Next week, about 90 people are expected to show up for Keystone’s all- school reunion. Some will be locals and others will be coming from other states to relive the days of being “Keystone Dynamiters.”

It’s different now. The school’s basement which hosted hard fought basketball games now has new museum exhibits there where the wooden court used to be. Visitors can learn about Keystone through the new mining exhibits and ore and mineral collections on display. One thing hasn’t changed, though. Keystone Historical Society members researched the original building records and found that in the past, the walls were painted yellow. They are yellow again.

During the times I have worked at the museum in the past  five years or so, some of those who attended school in Keystone and were on vacation in the area, stopped by to visit the school-turned-museum and were delighted to find albums full of class photos, teacher reports for various grades and years containing their names and so on. Most all had some anecdote or story to relate and they enjoyed sharing this part of their past with the rest of the family, along with the proof that they did, indeed, attend school in Keystone. Perhaps school memories remain the most vivid of all childhood experiences —crabby teachers or not.

This year, the group will spend time in Keystone with a potluck on Thursday evening after registration and a picnic on Saturday as a windup. Friday evening, after registration and a social hour, everyone heads to Mount Rushmore at about 4:30 p.m. for the banquet and special program highlighting former Mount Rushmore workers, many of whom were the heads of Keystone families and to recognize Mount Rushmore’s official 75th Anniversary.

Mount Rushmore Superintendent Cheryl Schreier will be the keynote speaker  and will be joined by 95-year-old Donald “Nick” Clifford, Keystone, the last living Mount Rushmore worker. Nick attended school in Keystone and  he and his wife, Carolyn, purchased and restored Nick’s childhood home located just below the school several years ago.

I recall that as a newcomer to Keystone in 1981, residents there were proud of their three-story “one room” schoolhouse, which was then only open to the lower grades and finally closed in 1988, when enrollment dropped to just seven students. Kids loved the cozy atmosphere and that their playmates were often in the same class.

At that time, we leased Halley’s Store and saw numbers of tourists who had visited there as youngsters and were now bringing their children and grandchildren to see what they had remembered seeing. Without exception, these adults and seniors expected the nostalgia and look of the old store to be unchanged and for the most part, it was. For some, it was a highlight of their pilgrimage to  take another look at the faces three miles up the hill.

With the world around us changing so fast, it is good to have  places we can remember.