History of Collister Elementary
Collister School owes its existence to Dr. George Collister. Dr. Collister was born in Willoughby, Ohio, in 1856, the youngest in a family of eight. He received his medical degree from Herron Medical College in 1880.
In the summer of 1881, Dr. Collister moved west to the frontier town of Boise to begin a long medical career. He was mainly a baby specialist, but also served as city, county, and state penitentiary physician for several years. The highlight of his medical career came when he performed a delicate cancer operation at the Mayo Clinic and saved a young woman’s life. Dr. Collister was always concerned with the welfare of others and frequently provided services without pay.
Dr. Collister invested his money in property around the Boise area until he acquired over 5,000 acres of land. He built the Collister Flats in the 300 block of 7th Street where the Post Office now stands. In 1897, Dr. Collister married, and on one piece of land northwest of Boise, built a beautiful home. Along this land ran the interurban railroad which furnished transportation to people going to Caldwell and Nampa and returning to Boise. This railway ran along the future Valley Road, or Highway 44 – State Street as it is known today. The Collister home served as one of the stations, and Dr. Collister insisted that the fare be just 5 cents.
Dr. Collister’s home contained 156 acres of land on which were orchards of peaches, prunes and pears. Extensive flower gardens and a floral house beautified his property. The Collisters also supported their own florist shop on the ground floor of the Hotel Boise until about 1940. Dr. Collister slowly worked his way into the cattle business. His feeding lots and holding pens were located on the site of the Collister Shopping Center. The old fruit packing house was located behind the Collister Church on the land Dr. Collister gave to the community for a place of central worship.
When Collister District was first organized in 1910, Collister was designated Ada County School #46. The first school term opened in the fall of 1911 in a one-room frame building on a one-acre lot on the west side of Collister directly across from Catalpa Street. Blanche H. Lovelace taught 56 students. In 1912, a brick-with-stone-trim four-room schoolhouse was built amidst a prune orchard on land donated by Dr. Collister at its present site. Cast iron Waterbury coal heaters heated each room ready for two teachers, the Seburn sisters, and 40 students of all ages.
In 1922, Collister became a part of the Boise School System, with Dr. J. Ellis Black as principal, three teachers, including Miss Relea Ward and Mrs. Edna Marky Schmarcher and 121 students.
Dr. and Mrs. Collister had no children of their own, but they adopted a baby girl who became Mrs. Pat (Edna) Scovell of McMinnville, Oregon. They also had three granddaughters and a grandson. The oldest, Mary Elizabeth, named for her grandmother, passed away at age 39. The others are Mrs. Pat Byers of Meridian, Mrs. Joanne Newson of Vancouver, Washington, and Mr. George Scovell of Salem, Oregon.
After his death in 1936, Dr. Collister’s home was sold to the Elks who used it as a crippled children’s hospital to fight polio during the 1940’s. It was later turned into a rehabilitation center for war veterans and eventually became the Sunset Nursing Home. It was in 1967 that the original Collister home was torn down and replaced by the modern hospital.
The Collister farms and the Whitehead farms were both purchased by Mrs. Hershael Davidson in 1944. On this land Mr. Davidson and the Idaho Power Company grew crops needed for the war, such as annis, caraway seeds, sunflower seeds and sage. In 1944 Mr. Davidson subdivided the farms into 350 lots suitable for homes, and Collister community began to grow. Miller Drive, named for a long-time janitor of the school, was constructed to enable people to get from Hill Road to Collister Drive more easily. It was later changed to the present Catalpa Drive, named for the trees.
In 1939 a hot lunch program was started by the government, with some financial and commodity help. Community mothers, led by Mrs. Dillard, brought dishes from home and made sure each child had a nourishing lunch. It cost just 7 cents at first and then 10 cents. The P.T.A. took over the program after the war, and in 1965 turned it over to the school system. Hot water was installed in 1944.
In 1948, four rooms were added to the west side of the school, the red brick was covered with white stucco, and the basement kitchen was completed. Also at this time, more land was purchased on the north to extend the playground to Sand Creek for the 177 students and 7 teachers.
Six classrooms, and auditorium and office were added to the east in 1953, and the grounds were landscaped in a P.T.A. Project. The largest enrollment occurred in 1959 with 509 students and 15 classes.