By Joanna Bastian
“Many people stop by here. They usually sit in the car for a while before knocking on the door and I can tell exactly what they want to talk to about,” Carolee Spaulding nodded her head and chuckled. “If they are over 80, they tell stories about going to school and playing in the yard. The younger ones, age 40 to 50, want to talk about Mom’s rocks.”
Stationed at the corner of Old Carlton Road and The Meadows Road, the home still resembles the red brick schoolhouse with the bell tower that was once the center of a bustling Carlton. Even the bubbler remains in the front yard, the perfect height for little humans.
By 1965, students had moved on to larger schools in Twisp and Pateros, and the schoolhouse was for sale. Carolee’s parents, Thelma and Al Roos (pronounced “rohz”), purchased the building and moved in on April 1, 1966. Al, a man of many trades, remodeled the inside into a cozy home.
Al and Thelma are gone now. And it is Carolee who receives visitors and shares memories with former students.
Built in 1921, the spacious schoolhouse had two rooms: one for primary grades, the other for upper grades. The two front entryways were cloakrooms and libraries. The front of Carolee’s home still feels like a library, with books neatly occupying shelves that wrap along the walls. Globes, fossils and glass-encased butterflies echo the curiosity and discovery found in a classroom.
Glass-topped hollow tables throughout the home display Thelma’s vast rock collection. “You didn’t dare leave a space open, mom would fill it with rocks,” Carolee recalled. The dining room table is especially impressive.
Carolee’s father, Al, had propped the top of the table against the wall while he repaired a broken pedestal. Thelma noted the deep underside of the table and convinced her husband to remount it upside down. The family dining table was then topped with glass and used as a display case for nearly a hundred crystals, all different colors of the rainbow. It is the most captivating dining table I have ever seen.
School teachers arranged field trips for students to visit Thelma Roos, and learn about rocks. If a student showed a keen interest, and returned with more questions, Thelma would provide them with a starter kit of a dozen specimens, all labeled.
Thelma, nicknamed “Happy” by her family, used crushed rock to recreate pictures. Using tracing paper, she would transfer the image to Masonite. Propping the picture in front of her, she would then crush rock into powder and select different colors to “paint” the picture. There was a bit of science involved, as she had to know the different types of rock, and how they would oxidize after being crushed.
Carolee has these stone treasures framed along her walls. Thelma created portraits of herself and her husband, captured vacation memories of buttes and peaks, and froze in stone the expressions of horses and wildlife. Carolee’s favorite crushed rock creation is one of a ship with many sails.
A former forest ranger, Carolee inherited her mother’s love of geology. Thelma’s collection of minerals is now joined by petrified fossils that Carolee has gathered over the years. The Carlton schoolhouse, now a residence, is still filled with educational specimens of the natural world, captured in stone.