Eighty-three-year-old Bill Muir is still in school.
He’s not listening to lectures or writing papers or taking spelling tests, but he spends most of his waking hours — and all his sleeping ones — in the same building he attended school in for seven years when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president.
Muir went to Red Oak School in rural Jessamine County, just 1 mile down Union Mill Road from the site of the new elementary school that will open next year and could bear the same name.
The Muir family has owned the property since 1852. A fire destroyed the first Red Oak School, which had been in existence since at least 1900, and a new one-room schoolhouse was built just up the hill in 1917, with a second room added four years later.
Bill said his family lent the building to the school for free for as long as it would have students.
“We just let them use it; they never did own it,” he said. “They built it, but we didn’t charge anything.”
Bill attended Red Oak through the seventh grade. He still smiles as he looks down and remembers going under the floor to shoot marbles or have dust fights. He can point to where the outhouses were, where the place to hook up the horses was, and to the two red oaks that sit on either side of the school.
After the seventh grade, Bill went to the university high school in Lexington and then graduated from the University of Kentucky. Red Oak closed in 1952.
“When they converged and made all these schools, they did away with this one — they did away with a lot of them,” Bill said.
Bill and his wife, Adeline, moved into the old Red Oak School when they married in 1959. The school was being used as hay storage before they moved in.
The Muirs had a few surreal moments in their first few years living in a former school, including when Adeline answered a knock on the door on election day in the early 1960s.
“They wanted to know if there was still voting here, and I said, ‘You haven’t voted in a while,’” Adeline said.
With a lowered ceiling, the Muirs added an upstairs to the original 1917 room. Adeline said she has had many visitors come to reminisce in the old school through the years, including some from as far as Texas and California, though some visitors with dishonest motives a few months ago have dissuaded her from letting strangers in her home.
The coal house/woodshed is still standing, though the two stoves that heated the two rooms are gone. The chimneys are still on the property, though they don’t filter smoke anymore.
“I took the chimneys and cleaned the bricks off,” Adeline said, “and that patio out there, which is all wavy — I built it out of the chimney.”
Asked what he thought about a new school being named after his nearly 100-year-old home, Bill chuckled with an indifferent response:
“It’s fine with us; we don’t care.”