Janet Henry Foote ’50 has submitted an interesting article:
Reminiscence of the Chagrin Falls Schools’ sugar bush hikes in the 1919-1920’s
“When I was a little girl my dad, Edward Henry, who was graduated from Chagrin High in 1919, used to tell me about the annual Sugar Bush Hike when he went to school in Chagrin. As he told the story, every year on a late winter morning in February or March, the superintendent would announce that that was the day the whole school was going to the sugar bush. Teachers and students would go to the cloakroom to get the coats and galoshes they had just taken off and bundle up again. Then the entire school would trudge together through the mud and snow out Bell Road to a sugar bush. They’d spend the whole day watching the farmers make maple syrup. The men would gather the sap from the tapped maple trees. Big buckets of sap would be hauled back to the sugar bush on sleds drawn by workhorses. At the sugar bush, the sap would be boiled for hours in long evaporating pans. It was a never-ending job to saw wood to keep the fires going. The process of making maple syrup went on for days at a time, but the students and teachers would wander back to town by the end of the school day. In my dad’s 1919 Annual, there is mention of a Sugar Stir being held by the teachers as well as a picture of a group of students in front of the sugar bush where steam is billowing out of the log building.
My dad’s younger sister, Hilda Henry Fosdick, who graduated in 1927, remembers some of the details a little differently. She remembers knowing in advance what day they were going to the sugar bush and she thinks it was only the high school that went. In elementary school she remembers Margaret Leach bringing in molded pieces of maple sugar from the Leach’s sugar bush for everyone in the class. As a high schooler, she remembers going to the sugar bush on the Snow Farm out Bainbridge Road. In my Uncle Russ Fosdick’s 1925 Zenith, there is a page of snapshots from the Sugar Bush Hike.
By the time I went to Chagrin Falls’ schools in the 1930’s and 40’s, the Sugar Bush Hike was a tradition of the past even though there were still many sugar bushes operating in Geauga County. We did make maple sugar in class, stirring for what seemed an eternity before the hot syrup turned to creamy sugar. Every winter my grandmother would buy several gallons of maple syrup for the family. When the metal gallon can was opened, we would heat the syrup and can it in quart jars. I still remember the year that maple syrup went up to $6.00 a gallon and Grandma refused to buy any more.
It has been many years since I’ve seen a sugar bush, but every spring when the weather has started to warm and then we get a mild snow, I think “Sugar Snow” and picture happy schoolchildren with a day of freedom heading out of Chagrin.”