Farewell to Eugene Field: Community event set for May 21

May 2016 Posted in Arts, Culture & History

Eugene FieldBy Kristine Thomas

Over the years, 95-year-old Eugene Field Elementary School has gotten a bit of a reputation for frequently blowing a fuse, its unique odor, having hot flashes and then being freezing, the creaky floors and a host of other problems mostly attributed to age.

But none of its physical conditions are what community members remember when they reminisce about the school.

The reason? The school is more than the building.

It’s a place where if the walls could talk. they would share stories of the friendships, the family-like atmosphere, the fun of encouraging children to learn and more.

Eugene Field secretary Debbie Wiesner has been at the school for 24 years and her husband and children attended the school.

Public invited to say goodbye to school
Saturday, May 21, 1 to 3 p.m.
Celebrate and reminisce the “good ol’ days”
with current and past staff and students as
the community says good-bye to the
95-year-old school.

There will be music, refreshments
and stories as well as a display
of history and memorabilia
collected over the years.

Call 503-873-6341 for
additional information.

“For me, this school has always been about the people,” Wiesner said, adding she considers current and past staff members as family. “It’s been fun to see the generations of kids who went here and now see their kids. We have always been a fun place to learn.”

A Farewell to Eugene Field School celebration will be held Saturday, May 21, 1 to 3 p.m. at the school.

There will be music, refreshments and stories. Lots of stories.

The Silver Falls School Board has decided to sell the property. In the fall, the kindergarten to second grade students will attend Mark Twain Elementary. Their mascot will be the “Kits.”

Third through fourth grade students will attend Robert Frost and the sixth through eighth grade students will move to parts of the former high school on Schlador Street to become Silverton Middle School.

One thing that makes the school special to many families is the generations who have attended there.

Fränz is part of a real skeleton used for studying science.

Fränz is part of a real skeleton used for studying science.

Greta Ledford said three generations of her family attended the school – both her parents, Arland Anderson and Linda Schmidt Anderson; herself and her sisters, Kirstin and Ingrid; and her daughter, Brooklyn Ledford, who is now a fourth-grade student at Robert Frost.

“I have many fond memories of Eugene Field. Funny that it was 30 years ago, and when I walk in the doors, it feels the same,” Ledford said. “I remember starting kindergarten in the same classroom my mom was in. I would imagine at the time that was helpful in my transition of leaving my mom. When my daughter started school in 2011, she, too, was in that same classroom for kindergarten.”

Ledford said her teachers were “fantastic,” including “Mrs. Clark, Mrs. Estell and Mrs. Lizotte.”

“Some of my favorite memories are from PE with Ms. Jackson; riding on scooters was a favorite along with climbing the giant net that went all the way to the ceiling, or so I thought at that time,” Ledford said.

On a recent Friday morning, Wiesner met with retired teacher Marjorie Jackson and school counselor Nancy Ohren to discuss plans for the farewell event and share memories.

“There are some stories we can’t share,” Jackson said, laughing.

What they all said they enjoyed about working at Eugene Field is the children and their colleagues.

“I loved teaching PE and all games we used to play,” Jackson said. “We used to roller skate in the gym and we had a parachute we used to play with.”

Working with young children requires a nurturing staff, Ohren said. “This was the perfect place for that.”

“We always had the best interest of the children in mind,” Jackson added,

Long gone are the days when this “tool” was used to keep students in line.

Long gone are the days when this “tool” was used to keep students in line.

They do have stories about the building’s flaws, including finding dead animals in closets or under the stage. But all the building’s flaws play a distant second to how staff members did things to encourage and make learning fun.

They remember the dress up days, the annual May Pole dance, the games, the laughter and the chance to introduce students to the gift of learning.

Students to volunteers

Larry Brown, 82, and Cindy Parr, 48, are two of the STARS volunteers who also attended Eugene Field School.

Brown recalled when he attended Eugene Field, it went first to sixth grade.

“We didn’t have the wonderful books to read the children have now,” Brown said. “There wasn’t the emphasis on reading then as there is today. We focused more on the basics and were told to behave ourselves.”

He recalls watching “black and white movies in the school’s basement.” While he understands why the school is closing, it’s still a “disappointment.”

“So many people have such special memories of this school,” he said.

Parr remembers in 1976 when everyone gathered for a Bicentennial photograph.

“Because I had great memories of attending Eugene Field, I was thrilled to come back and volunteer,” Parr said. “There’s a lot more people today involved in a child’s education than when I attended school.”

Crossing guard Bobby Hitch.

Crossing guard Bobby Hitch.

Karen Hatteberg taught at Eugene Field for 18 years and is now a STARS volunteer.

“It was lots of fun teaching here and I taught a lot of great kids who now have children of their own attending the school,” Hatteberg said. “I am happy the building is finally closing because it was not healthy to be in when I was here.”

Bobby Hitch greets each child he sees with a “Where’s my smile?” A crossing guard for Eugene Field, he offers words of encouragement and kindness.

“We had a fun crossing guard when I was I kid and that’s part of the reason why I do this,” he said.

Hitch, 38, wants students to have the same fond memories of the school he does. He recalls his first grade teacher who had “Rosie the rat,” the tractor tires that had to be removed because students were caught kissing under them, the jungle gym and big slide in the playground.

Sharing he is sentimental about the school, he said he’s sad to see it being closed but understands why.

tokens

“I hope someone buys it and finds a way to use some of the old parts of it,” he said.

Marie Coxen, who has taught for 25 years at Eugene Field, remembers being told when she started there would be in a new school in three years. “It’s bittersweet to be leaving but we know it’s not a safe place for kids,” she said.

What makes Eugene Field special, Coxen shared, is how students receive the individual and personal instruction they need to be successful in learning and how the staff works to create a family.

“We provide a really good education for our kids and our staff will continue to do that when we move,” Coxen said.  “A school isn’t a building. It’s the people inside it that make it a school.”

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