"Memories of early days at school"

Thursday, October 4, 2012 - 01:28

From a column in the Chugiak-Eagle River Star, July 29, 1976:


Checking youngsters for frostbite when they came to school was one of the unusual duties performed by Eagle River Elementary School secretary Verna Lentz and principal Sam Hays in the school’s early days.

Other memories include a Thanksgiving observance when children dressed up as Pilgrims and Indians. Teachers Leo Powell and Mrs. Doris Larson — also dressed appropriately — aided the children in preparing their own food, which was eaten at long wooden tables improvised for the occasion in the team teaching room. One young boy became so involved with the spirit of the event that he cut his hair Mohawk style — bald except for a strip of hair running down the length of the head.

Mr. Powell fondly recalls the second principal, Chuck Smith, as being strong on fun, but fun always came second to schoolwork. He instigated several special events, such as “Hobo Day,” where children dressed up as hobos, and he approved the production of a school talent show. Mr. Smith himself participated in the talent show, dressing up as a woman with a mop for hair and playing a tiny piano.

Even disciplinary actions had a flavor in Eagle River Elementary’s earlier days. Leading a boy to the office could be risky business, discovered art teacher Dick Burgess. The child balked at submitting to punishment, and on the way to the office bit Mr. Burgess’ thumb so hard it bled.

The school, built in the autumn of 1961, received considerable damage from the 1964 earthquake. Powell recalls that both ends of the gym fell down, leaving it supported only by its remaining walls and the roof beams. Other damage included several cracks in the walls. Children gained an extra three weeks of vacation, since all buildings had to be approved by a safety inspector before normal activities could resume.


This column is provided by the Chugiak-Eagle River Historical Society. Reach them at info@cerhs.org or leave a message at 688-4706.

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