When looking back at one’s life, the recollection of memories, whether good or bad, ultimately define an individual’s experience in their lifetime and the decisions they chose to make.
Long before Hicks Orchard was built and operated at 18 Hicks Road in Slyboro, the nearby Slyboro Schoolhouse served as a learning center in the early-to-mid 20th century for students just outside the reach of Middle Granville and Granville.
The structure was turned into a meeting center for Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) until a tree collapsed on top of the building in the 1970s.
Fast-forward to the year 2021.
Hicks Orchard business development manager David Garvoille feels compelled to renovate the deteriorated structure on the corner of Hicks Road and Slyboro Road and bring purpose back to the building that educated, informed and assisted numerous individuals throughout the years.
“I’m getting a lot of goodwill to get that building renovated,” Garvoille said. “We could have it cleaned up and used for meetings.”
The kids from Slyboro
Mary Ann Scribner, 81, was a student from 1946 to 1950 at the Slyboro Schoolhouse, where she lived in a tenant house just a few hundred feet away on Hicks Road.
Stepping inside the battered down wooden establishment for the first time in decades was a whirlwind of emotions, as Scribner let out an “oh, wow!” upon entry into the single-room schoolhouse.
“The few people that can remember (what the school was like) are gone,” Scribner said. “When I go by it, my son lives up the road, and when I go by it I look at it and go, ‘oh god, I wish someone would do something for that building,’ because I have a lot of happy memories.”
Scribner recalled loving the times of playing kickball and running around with classmates near the teeter-totter that was in the place of the withered down trees at the forefront of the orchard. Her adulation for going to school was accentuated by the fact that her aunt was a teacher at the Slyboro Schoolhouse who, to her recollection, taught children grades one through six.
“I loved going to school,” Scribner said. “My aunt was a school teacher, so before I was supposed to go to school, I used to sneak away and come down and my aunt would let me come in with the other kids. So I went to school early in my life, but I loved it.”
After aging out from the Slyboro Schoolhouse, Scribner said she and her fellow neighbors transferred to Middle Granville, where they were referred to in a negative connotation as “the kids from Slyboro.”
Scribner added that despite being looked down upon by the better-off kids from Middle Granville and Granville, she always appreciated everything she had and did not take one thing for granted.
“Not only were we from Middle (Granville), we were from SLYBORO!” Scribner said in disgust, mimicking the disapproval and teasing she endured. “I always felt okay with myself. We never had much, I never had much as a child, but I never felt that I had lost anything. I have so much more today than I thought I ever would have.”
Scribner said the repurposing of her old school into a meeting center for covenant groups would make her heart warm.
“It would be wonderful. To think that what you knew as a child is still doing good for somebody,” Scribner said. “I’ve always said, I hope I can control it before it controls me.”
Forty-two years of living a path where he looks to right his wrongs.
Forty-two years of confronting an issue that conflicted him for a long period of his life.
Forty-two years of helping others overcome their personal adversity.
Now attending meetings every Tuesday night in Granville at the United Methodist Church and additionally in Glens Falls and Poultney, Vermont, Henry Vladyka, 72, had the opportunity to stand with Garvoille and Scribner to view the building where he began his journey to sobriety under the sponsorship of Don Wilson on Friday nights.
“We had a circle, we had Telescope chairs, and there could be as many as 20 of us in here,” Vladyka said. “There would be Don (Wilson) and his wife and some of us alcoholics and we would bring our wives, and we go through the 12 and 12, 12 steps and 12 traditions in a different form.”
The 12 steps and 12 traditions are a basic guideline created in the form of a book in 1953 by co-founder of AA Bill W. (William Griffith Wilson). These allow an individual to understand that it is acceptable to acknowledge they have a fault in their life and to help them work towards filling the void left by alcoholism,
“It’s basically the same thing that Alcoholics Anonymous is based on, is the 12 steps. And it works! For millions, the millions around the world,” Vladyka said.
More than 100,000 groups have been formed with more than two million members aligned to the cause of living a life of sobriety according to AA.
For those who may be considering attending AA meetings, Vladyka took his personal stance of finding assistance from “the man upstairs” into account while glancing at the broken-down, red structure.
“All I know is that this is where it started for me,” Vladyka said. “The spirit is here. For some people, some real alcoholics, the answer is spiritual in nature for some people. We believe we cross a line that there is no help, no help on this earth that can help us until we reach out for help from God, and that’s what Bill W. found.”
A meaningful eye for the future
Garvoille reached out to Ruth Lande Shuman, the founder of Publicolor, a non-for-profit stay-in-school youth group out of New York City that he was employed by for five years. Unfortunately for Garvoille, Shuman was unable to complete his request of being a fiscal sponsor for the project.
“If you want to start a non-profit, but you haven’t gone through the process of applying, you have to incorporate with the state of New York and you have to then, once you incorporate, which means you have to find a board of three people, then you have your bylaws and you vote on them. And then, you apply for your incorporation status with the state of New York, then you apply with the IRS, with the federal, to get tax-exempt status so you can accept gifts,” Garvoille said. “So, there’s a little bit of time involved, it’s not so bad, it’s not that hard… it just takes some time and I’d like to get started on this sooner rather than later.”
School group tours, summer services and covenant meetings are three key events Garvoille can envision happening at the rejuvenated schoolhouse. But before that, tons of renovation need to occur to ensure the safety and security of the structure.
“The building looks worse than it is, but we’re not in bad shape,” Garvoille said. “This may take a few years to get it done. But, stabilize the building, get a mural and generate public interest, get the AA crowd in here, get a school group committee.”
The mural Garvoille mentioned would be portrayed on the side closest to the orchard highlighting either Granville, Hicks Orchard, or even both.
“What I want to do is have a mural on this side that celebrates Granville in some way, so people take their pictures in front of it and people can Instagram, social media and Facebook or whatever. It’s not in that bad of shape!” Garvoille said.
While he aims and awaits to receive guidance from town authorities and county substance abuse counselors for specifics and means in going about his mission, Garvoille credits a personal stem to the origination of his desire to repair the schoolhouse physically and meaningfully.
“Well for me personally, my mother was an alcoholic,” he said. “Like any child, the one thing you always wish your mother would do, when you have an alcoholic parent is that they would sober up, and she didn’t. Part of the reason the Wilsons moved here was for Don, so that Don and his brother George could be at AA meetings, they could be in a place where they could get sober. “I believe we all have to have our ministry. To minister is to heal, we all need our ministry. I’ve just known about the history of the orchard from the Wilsons’ perspective and then I got to meet Henry and I’ve always known that they’ve had AA meetings in here, it just seems like this has always been a great place for it and home for it. I just hate seeing it go to seed, I think there is future use for this building.”
Here is the link to the GoFundMe page to help contribute to the revitalization of the Slyboro schoolhouse: https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-revitalize-the-slyboro-schoolhouse?sharetype=teams&member=9830016&pc=fb_tco_campmgmtbnr_m&rcid=r01-161774225519-7bdb6b3d097340c5&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=p_lico%2Bbanner&fbclid=IwAR3PEpHlhpXfGGoaLJjabYM_hPDEj5nOsh8BOwZok-mjCaGJB9eQDtgoNfY