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Old school houses family of five
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The old San Joaquin School on South Austin Road is now a home. - photo by GLENN KAHL

The historic two-room San Joaquin School, built on South Austin Road in 1915, is now the home of the Brad and Tricia Hickman family.

That includes their three children Derrick, 17, Allison, 15 and Tanner, 6.

The laughter and games of tag, marbles and chases typical of campus play for some 50 years were quieted with the unification of the Ripon school district and the closure of both River School and San Joaquin sending their students to the new Ripona campus in Ripon. 

Tricia Hickman said their grandparents Jess and Mary Franklin, owners of the longtime Franklin Variety Store on Main Street in Ripon’s downtown, purchased the school and surrounding acreage when the school district put it up to bid. Their winning bid was approved by the board for $10,300 at a school board meeting after the facility had remained vacant for some two years.

She noted that it was a “sentimental” buy because so many in the family as well as friends had gone to school there to where two teachers – husband and wife. Mr. and Mrs. Miller taught through the eighth grade. She had the younger students and he taught the older ones. After Miller passed away he was replaced by a Marvin Miller – no relation.

Carol Bauman, now the manager at the office of a Ripon physician, said she attended school there in the seventh and eighth grades. 

“Ethics were pounded into us as well as adding numbers into our heads,” she recalled.

The teacher would verbally spell out addition problems to the students saying, “two plus three, plus nine, plus four, plus eight – asking, now what is it?,” referring to the sum total.

Brad and Tricia’s parents Mickey and Sharon Hickman were the first to occupy the school as their home. They lived there for 34 years, with the younger Hickmans calling it home for the last decade.

Tricia has chosen an Americana theme for the home with a focus on the school’s stage. At Christmas she placed a lighted Christmas tree in the center of the stage with two American Flags bordering both sides. She said the entire family from parents to siblings and cousins turn out for Christmas celebrations.

The idea for the Christmas fantasia on the stage came from a campus tour of Chico State University where mother and daughter visited the Bidwell House and were awed by the decorative setup for the yuletide.

“The whole house is unique – just living in a schoolhouse,” Tricia said.

The two room schoolhouse has been transformed into two separate living areas. One is dedicated to bedrooms and the second to a family play area. It could no longer be used for a school because it did not meet earthquake standards.

The senior Mom and Dad Hickman have since moved a manufactured home onto the property and sold the school and acreage to their son and daughter-in-law.

The American theme in the home reflects Grandpa Hickman’s service in Vietnam. His name can be seen on the Veterans’ Wall in downtown Ripon with his picture in the Veterans Memorial Building.

Tricia works as a cosmetologist at Friends’ Hair Salon. Brad is an electrical and mechanical technician at the Lawrence Livermore Lab.

The original San Joaquin School dates back to 1883 with some 21 students who attended the one-room wooden school that was also located on Austin Road.