Editor’s Note: This is the second article in a two-part series featuring the history of the Lisbon schools of the Freeport and Pocket areas.
With the 1909 opening of the Lower Lisbon School in the Pocket, the area’s students had a much improved learning environment than they had in the converted barn school building.
This new, larger, one-room school was a bona fide school structure, as it included such regular school building features as windows, individual desks and a wood stove.
The new school was constructed near the site of the old barn structure school building, but closer to Riverside Road.
On the exterior of the building, above the doorway, was a sign reading “Lisbon School.”
This sign still exists today and was for many years on display at the Sacramento History Museum in Old Sacramento.
Hundreds of children were educated in the school, because the greater number of children in the Pocket lived on farms in this area.
Among the teachers of the Lower Lisbon School were: Lilly Jones (1909-1912), Mrs. Lombardi (1916), Miss Marianna (1916), Hattie Williams (1918), Gladys Lynch (1919-1920), Mabel Wakefield (1921-about 1928), Emma James (1929), Mrs. Wilson and Mrs. Jorgensen.
Because moisture from the canal created a health and safety issue at the Lower Lisbon School, the school was condemned and closed in 1928. This structure was demolished in the early to mid-1940s.
Following the closure of the Lower Lisbon School, the school’s children were transferred to an existing Japanese school, which was located on the Frank and Jack Lewis ranch in the central Pocket area.
The school building belonged to the Japanese community and served as a Japanese language school.
This Lower Lisbon School site was rented on a monthly basis from the Japanese.
The two schools were able to coexist in this structure since the Japanese school was only in operation on Saturdays and Sundays.
The Lower Lisbon School held its classes in the Japanese school building until 1945, when it merged with the Sutter School District – later the Sutter Union School District.
Upper Lisbon School
As previously mentioned, the Lower Lisbon School was not the only Lisbon School in the Pocket area.
Two decades prior the construction of the Lower Lisbon School, the one-room Upper Lisbon School was constructed on the Nevis ranch, where Park Riviera Way joins Riverside Boulevard, just south of where Elks Lodge, No. 6 sits today.
The school was built due to the fact that there was no school between Pimentel’s Ingleside Café (presently The Trap bar) at today’s 43rd Avenue and Riverside Boulevard and the bend on Pocket Road, about a quarter of a mile past today’s Portuguese Hall.
Providing instruction at the Upper Lisbon School were its teachers: Mrs. Hoschner (1928), Emma James (1931-1934), Mildred Fernandez (1934-1940), Dorothy Sweeney, Inez Applegate, Julia McMahon, Brizady Giannoni, Mrs. Lombardi, Eleanor Harkness and Mrs. Seamore.
Dolores Greenslate, who serves as the Pocket historian of the Portuguese Historical and Cultural Society, remembers attending catechism classes at the Upper Lisbon School in 1929.
“I attended the catechism classes necessary for first communion in the Upper Lisbon School in the St. Mary Church (St. Maria Church), next to the Portuguese Hall,” Greenslate said. “My mother bought me a beautiful white dress and also a little crown for my first communion. I felt like a little bride. The doorway to the school was up what I though was steep stairs and I had never been in such a big schoolroom.”
Both the Upper and Lower Lisbon schools closed at the same time in 1945 to merge with the Sutter School District.
Shortly after its closure, the Upper Lisbon School building was purchased by the local Portuguese lodge and relocated behind the St. Mary Catholic Church, next to the Portuguese Hall, to be used as a clubhouse and meeting place for religious classes.
The old school building was demolished, along with the old Portuguese Hall, in 1967.
When the Portuguese Historical and Cultural Society was formed in 1979, one of its early efforts was to have the next elementary school built in the Pocket area be named Lisbon School, as a memorial to the area’s Portuguese pioneers.
On Oct. 28, 1989, the society’s wish was granted with the gala dedication ceremony of Lisbon Elementary School at 7555 South Land Park Drive.
With the decline of families with small children in the area, however, the school was forced to close last year and the school’s children were transferred to other elementary schools in the surrounding areas. Today, the facility serves children of the Hmong community as the Yav Pem Suab Academy, a public charter school.
Greenslate said that unfortunately for the legacy of Portuguese in the Pocket area, the probability of having another Lisbon School in the area does not seem promising.
“The Portuguese culture and presence is fading in this area, where Portuguese pioneers chose to make their homes (and livings) in farming and dairying,” Greenslate said. “It doesn’t seem like there will ever be another Lisbon School (in the Pocket area). The only solace we have is in observing street names and visiting our Portuguese community park and the present Portuguese Hall and St. Mary Church.”