Almost Gone: North Ward School
Text by Donna Malloy
The students’ backyard was the salty water of the intracoastal across the street at N. Osceola Avenue.
“For Science Class we just crossed the street and collected sea shells and creatures” stated North Ward School alumni LuAnn Wilder.
“It was very hands on; you could smell, feel and touch textures.” stated Wilder, who attended North Ward as a first grader in 1961. “There was no kindergarten and no air conditioning. We’d all head for the corner of the classroom; it had the most ventilation.”
Wilder arrived more than half an hour early for North Ward’s Open House held last Saturday, April 25th. Tours of the buildings, performances by students and photographs of past graduating classes from 1915 thru 2009 were on display. It was at attempt to give the community a last look at the historic building, which has been in continuous operation for the last 94 years.
Sitting on the concrete steps outside the school, Wilder continued: “My father, Gus and all his siblings attended North Ward. In 1955 he opened Wilder Funeral Home right there” Wilder stated as she pointed north to the next block. “Now it’s Weible’s.”
The Maypole Dance holds fond memories for Wilder. The Maypole Dance was orchestrated every year by Music Teacher Miss Margaret White. Paired in partners, the couples circled the Maypole, winding their streamers in a symmetrical pattern on the pole.
Former student Don Prokes comments: “It’s a lost art.” That’s because after the students entwined the Maypole with their streamers, they would then have to unwind them in the same symmetrical sequence.
Causing some commotion by their appearance at North Ward’s Open House were Marvin and Hank Moore and George Fulmer.
“My father, Willard Moore, built the Calvary Baptist Church; my mother was a Charter Member of North Ward’s PTA, founded around 1921” stated 80-year-old Marvin. All nine of the Moore children attended North Ward School.
Older brother Hank, now 83-years-old, recounts his first day of school:
“There was this beautiful red-head; her name was Helen Baker. I wanted to sit next to her, but so did another boy.” As the two young boys headed toward the same empty chair, a brawl broke out between them. Hank was sent to the Principal’s Office.
“Miss Belcher did not paddle me that day, but gave me a warning.”
“Did you ever get paddled?”
“Plenty of times.” In a whispered voice, Hank then shared with me that Helen had recently passed away.
George Fulmer, owner of Fulmer’s Photography since 1947, shares his childhood story:
“One day, in Miss Barrett’s room, the Art Teacher, I made a bow and arrow out of two pencils. Then I shot a rubber band and hit a fellow student.”
Fulmer was called down to the principal’s office.
“What happened at the principal’s office?”
“Miss Belcher hit me with the switch.” The three friends laughed in reverie.
Through tears and laughter, North Ward alumni reminisced about the good old days and anxiously searched for pictures of themselves among the displays.
As for the fate of the building the community has called North Ward School for the last 94 years, nothing is certain.
“After all these years, we finally got our $50,000 playground in 2008; now we get to use it for one year” stated Larry Logan, Head Plant Operator at North Ward.
Similar to North Ward’s future, Logan has no idea where he’ll be employed after North Ward closes.
“They said they would place us; I don’t know.”
Hopefully the city will recognize this landmark structure as one worth saving. Hopefully the only remains of North Ward School will not be in a time capsule buried by a future developer that a generation 100 years from now will unearth and say they wished the school had been preserved.
Photo Courtesy of Dorothy Davies
Photo Courtesy of George Fulmer
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