Reunions are about emotion and reconnecting with old friends. The 70th anniversary of Prescott Elementary School in the Parkrose School District was no different.
When Prescott Elementary principal Sam Maranto went to unlock the doors Saturday, May 19 for the 70th anniversary open house, he was taken aback to see a line of people waiting to enter. “They were ready to go,” he said. “Most were alumni from the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s. It was a fun experience.”
When Maranto learned his school was approaching its 70th anniversary, he thought it would be fitting to celebrate the school’s history with an event marking the milestone. District administrators thought it was a great idea too and supported the effort.
Serendipitously, about a month after he got the go-ahead to do the event, students from Prescott Elementary’s very first first-grade class contacted Mr. Maranto and asked if there would be an event marking the school’s 70th year of operation.
He not only said yes but immediately pulled them into the event planning process. “It was great to get to know some of the original first-graders,” Mr. Maranto said. “They had old photographs from 70 years ago. It was really interesting.”
Nearly 200 former and current Prescott Elementary students, teachers, office staff and their friends and family showed up for the open house style event (even present-day kindergartners with their parents attended). Remodeled in 2012, tours of the 70-year-old building were popular. “The tours were great; [tourgoers] asked great questions and were amazed at how well the school has been maintained and how updated it was,” Maranto said. “It was a great event.”
Maranto said he met either a former teacher or student from every decade of the school’s existence. “It was really nice to connect with the history Prescott Elementary has. It was nice to connect with a whole bunch of interesting people.”
The Parkrose High School Alumni Facebook page had many people sharing memories of Prescott, especially about their principal. “Mr Riley was our principal at Prescott. He had been my father’s grade school teacher at Columbia Elementary on Marine Drive,” said Chris Hansen Koopman. “He was a very dear man. I still tell kids a joke he told me: ‘Do you know how to tell if a tree is a dogwood? By its bark!’’
Bill Krieger, a professional musician said, “My first memory of Mr. Riley was his willingness to excuse me from class by 15 minutes every Monday, so my mom could transport me to my piano lesson. Years later, at a production in high school, he approached me and said his decision to dismiss me from class early had paid dividends. To this day it’s still paying dividends.” Krieger had fond memories of his elementary school. “The auditorium is much smaller than it was in the early 60s when we learned to play all kinds of games. As I walked down the steep stairs into the cafeteria I could hear the voice that seemed to scream every lunch period: ‘Heads down! No talking!’ Memories of tetherball and Miss Tobias as recess monitor; visions of Mr. Bell slinging erasers and yardsticks across the room to interrupt ‘unruly’ students (Bobby Hanson, Johnny Lankford). Mrs. Carlson and Mr. Miller were a couple of my favorite teachers. We played outside until dark; rode bikes without helmets; moms brought homemade goodies to class parties; I’m thankful for the memories.”
The event, understandably, also got emotional.
One of his current kindergarten teachers who attended the event, is also a Prescott Elementary alumna. Mr. Maranto said when she saw her kindergarten teacher at the event, she told her former teacher, “You’re the one who inspired me to be a teacher.”
The neighborhood babysitter for many kids from the original 1947 Prescott Elementary class was among the many people Maranto met that day. “While I was talking to her, someone from that class stopped in her tracks and said, ‘Wait a minute, are you so-and-so?’ and when [the babysitter] said yes, the alumna said, ‘You used to babysit me when I was younger living in Maywood Park! I haven’t seen you for 65 years,’ and started crying.”
‘Life was much simpler then …’