The Founding of Alba School, The Little Red Schoolhouse of Ben Lomond
By Lucia MacLean
Around 2005 or so, I was given a set of keys to Alba School and declared its docent by a prominent member of the Alba School Community. It was with the idea that I would go through the archives to learn about the history of the school. Slowly, I proceeded through them. Shortly thereafter, I began giving “history tours” of the School at its annual 4th of July benefit.
In 2008-09 I took History 25A and then 25B with Sandy Lydon at Cabrillo College. It turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life! Sandy is a great teacher and I learned a lot about the history of Monterey Bay. A few years later, I participated in his and Gary Griggs’s History Walk of Monterey Bay, taking three consecutive Saturdays to walk 34 miles between Capitola and the wharf in Monterey. Professor Griggs is a geologist by training and Distinguished Professor of Earth & Planetary Sciences at UC Santa Cruz. This added to my knowledge of the history and geology of the area.
Around this time, I received a Dolkus Award, a $1000 grant from the Museum of Art and History (MAH) in Santa Cruz. This grant was to allow me and another History 25 student to acquire equipment in order to scan the Alba School archives. However, once we cobbled together a used computer and scanners, the school was broken into and the equipment stolen. I gave up on the idea of scanning the archives and instead wrote a paper on the history of Alba School, which I submitted to the MAH and area libraries.
One of the most exciting discoveries while doing research was a paper written by a 1972 UC Santa Cruz undergraduate. In order to satisfy a class he was taking at the time, James Doan conducted oral interviews of some of the older people who had attended Alba School, or who lived in the Alba community. The McHenry Library, UC Santa Cruz housed the paper in its Special Collections unit. Unfortunately, these archives were sent to an off-site storage facility while the library was undergoing a three-year renovation. I desperately needed this paper. I managed to track down Dr. James Doan, who went on to get a Ph.D. and was faculty at a college in Florida. He had a copy of the paper to send me. It turned out to be rich material. His entire work was reproduced in the original paper I wrote. These archives have been stored for the last decade at the San Lorenzo Valley Museum.
Then the 2020 CZU August Complex fire tragically burned down Alba School. Nothing was saved except for the badly burned school bell, and a plate. Soon thereafter, a movement within the Alba School Community began to rebuild the school. With the work of the Rebuild Alba School Committee, especially member Lyndsay Speth, approval was obtained from the SLV Unified School District to rebuild.
Now all we needed were the funds. This meant that I should dust off the paper and turn it into a book in order to raise money for the rebuild effort. With extensive editing help from Lisa Robinson, President of the San Lorenzo Valley Historical Society, The Founding of Alba School, The Little Red Schoolhouse of Ben Lomond was finished and printed. The book covers how a small, isolated community developed and includes a brief history of Ben Lomond as well. The book is available at the SLV Museum at 12547 Highway 9 in Boulder Creek, open Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday from 1:00 to 4:00 pm. Learn more about the effort to rebuild Alba Schoolhouse at rebuildalbaschoolhouse.org.
Lucia MacLean is a local historian, writer, and member of the Alba Schoolhouse Rebuild Committee.
Featured photo: Alba Schoolhouse, Ben Lomond, California