Rural Road

Rural Road is the center and heart of the city of Tempe. Everyone has heard of Mill Avenue, best known for it’s bars, restaurants, and shops, that run up and down the street. Even though Mill is the focal point of Tempe, Rural is much more important to the vitality of the cities of Tempe and Chandler.

Rural Road received it’s name from the school that once stood on the northeast corner of Southern and Rural. For those of you who travel through the area today, it was on the corner where Fry’s store now sits. The road was not always known as Rural, however. It was originally called Canal Drive. A zoning map dated 1948 shows the first transition from Canal to Rural. This zoning map led Jon Akers, curator of Tempe Historical Museum, to believe the road was renamed in the mid to late 1930’s.

The Rural School was probably opened during the late 1800’s. More precisely around 1897. In a 1991 article titled “Echoes of the Past,” Karl Bland wrote that children would walk to Rural School barefoot. The school was then surrounded by nothing except cottonwoods and tall grass. One of the high points of the school was when Mr. Valdez, owner of a pool hall nearby, began transporting children to school by automobile for the first time. He made sure the children of Guadalupe made it to school safely by putting benches and slats in the back of his Ford pickup to protect the children. Later he bought a school bus which was the first in the area. Even though things seemed to be running well for the Rural School District # 13, in 1952 the district petitioned to be incorporated into Tempe District # 3. While efforts failed the first time in 1953 the push was successful and the Rural School District was no more.

The Tempe Historical Museum owns a chart which explains the structure of the Rural School under the new administration of the Tempe district. The school offered fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grades for the children from Guadalupe. For the fifth grade students there were two rooms for sixty-two children, sixth grade had 1.5 rooms for forty-six children, seventh had 1.5 rooms for 36 children and eighth had only one room for 38 children. The staff included one teacher/principal, six teachers, one full time and one part time custodian, and two cafeteria employees. That is eleven adults for one hundred and eighty-two students. Today that sounds like a very tough and enduring day job. With more students than they could handle the Rural School needed more space. On July 18, 1958, E. W. Hudson Jr. signed a deed giving more land to the school. The school was demolished in 1961 and a brand new school quickly replaced it by 1962.

In 1982 the Rural School was officially closed to students, due to lack of enrollment. The only physical reminder that the school once existed is the administration building at the end of a strip mall. It seems sad to realize that our economy has basically swallowed up what was once very important to the families across the towns of Guadalupe and Tempe. Peggy Bryant, the Tempe Elementary School District’s Communications Director, remember how she used come to the corner on which the school is located where she would play and dangle her feet in the canal. Now the 9.4 acre lot is full of commercial and residential buildings. It’s a hard to see something’s so powerful and political be torn down and brushed away like a ragged shirt you get tired of and throw away like trash.

Rural school is the history of Rural Road and a major part of the history of Tempe. Without educating our youth we would not have been able to accommodate these commercial buildings or have the money to put toward libraries and museums. Even though the school is not visible anymore, it is still in the memories of the children who learned from those eleven staff members. Without that school opening we would have probably been driving down a road called Canal Drive which has no background or meaning behind it. Now we know that Rural Road is known for educating the youth and helping teach the up and coming leaders of today.

By Ryan Kedzierski & Matthew McCormick