By SHANNON TAYLOR
OBSERVER Staff Writer
Today, One Temple Square houses the elderly and disabled, but from 1924 to 1967, the building welcomed young children into its halls and rooms for a unique educational experience. Then, Fredonia residents knew the building as the Campus School or Old Main, a training school for teachers. On July 6, former students, teachers and faculty of this school are invited to attend the first Campus School Reunion.
The Campus School ninth grade class, pictured in June 1961.
"We all have fond memories. I have no bad memories from the Campus School," said Mary Christy, a former student.
And memories are exactly what the members of the reunion committee hope to share in the coming together of people who have experienced many similar events in this school.
Three other former students, Mary Reynolds, Michael McEntarfer and Leslie Zeman Gordon, also discussed their memories at the school and their hopes for the reunion.
"There have been high school reunions over the years, but you sort of lost touch with the Campus School," McEntarfer said. "I think that's where this reunion came up. After all these years, we never really did anything for the Campus School. We feel a desire to get back in touch with these people."
On a warm, sunny day on the veranda of the White Inn, McEntarfer and Reynolds exchanged their stories from going to the Campus School. The historical setting of the inn offered a wonderful place to escape back in time.
The two began exchanging tales from their grade school years. As they talked, their stares became distant and soon drifted back into a time long ago.
The Campus School was once a bustling school full of children from kindergarten age to the eighth grade (and ninth grade for a few select years). It was connected to the teacher's college and presented a place for the college students to do their practicums.
After the original building burned down on Dec. 14, 1900, noted architect George L. Heins redesigned the school in the Academic Revival style featuring symmetry and classic detail. The design won national recognition in 1904 at the Grand Exposition in St. Louis.
"It was a beautiful building, inside and out," said Reynolds, "with granite, vast columns and relief work on the ceilings. For a small child to be in there, it seemed huge."
In the lobby and on the grand staircase, children of every grade stood at Christmastime to sing carols. During the May Festivals each year, students would pour outside to dance around the Maypole and to see the crowning of the May queen. Classes were small and, because of the school's affiliation with the college, offered many opportunities not available to public schools at the time. Art class was directed by Lawrence Urbscheit, and for his last eighth grade art class, he painted a portrait of the class. A game commonly played by the students was Lummi sticks, which is a musical game involving hitting wooden sticks together in rhythm and passing them back and forth. In the massive and elegant auditorium, students were able to return in the evenings to see performances offered by the college.
In speaking with Gordon and Christy, the same memories were shared with the same enthusiasm and excitement. The stories all four former students had to tell sent them into roars of laughter or brought wide, bright smiles to their faces. In every conversation, one thing is for certain, they are proud of their background at the school.
The Campus School shaped these students into the people they are today. For Gordon and Reynolds, it even helped shape their careers.
"The college's speech and hearing department was in the basement. I observed them working with kids my age who were deaf and I found it very fascinating," Gordon said. "From that experience, I decided at that time that that's what I wanted to do for a living. It had a huge impact on me."
The excitement for the past translates into the excitement for the future reunion.
"The reunion is really exciting, connecting with people who have a common experience," Gordon said. "You don't have to necessarily explain it. Everyone shares the same stories and history. As you get older, it seems more important to make connections to people of your past. I'm really looking forward to going into my time machine and feeling just like I did growing up. I'm also looking forward to meeting people I didn't know. The whole experience is just like a family reunion."
"It has been a lifelong dream of mine to have a reunion for the Campus School kids," Christy said. "I am glad that Mike, Mary and Leslie felt the same way and jumped on the ball with the idea."
Though McEntarfer, Gordon, Christy and Reynolds were not in the same grade at the time, their memories related to each other. From Christmas carols to May festivals to science fairs, their different experiences from different years crossed paths in many ways. This is the hope that they have in meeting with other students, teachers and faculty of the Campus School: the chance to relate to others who share a similar background with them.
On July 6 from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Fredonia Beaver Club, 64 Prospect St., Fredonia, former students, teachers and faculty from any of the years the Campus School was opened are invited to the reunion. The cost is $5 at the door with a cash bar or $7 which would include drinks.
For more information, visit the Fredonia State Campus School Facebook page or call McEntarfer at 672-5808.