The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

May 7, 2012

1926 Saybrook student, others say goodbye to grade school

SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP — The pages inside the slender book in Marian Douglas’ hands were yellowed with age, with a softer feel than the crisp white pages of a modern yearbook.

Douglas’ trembling hands stroked the leather cover, her 92-year-old fingers tracing the signatures on the first page of her 1926 yearbook from Saybrook Elementary.

“Back in the day, we didn’t have yearbooks with fancy pictures,” she said. “Instead, we had these little books that everyone would sign. I remember the day I had everyone in my class sign it and looking at it now, I see that I am the only one living today.”

Douglas, who is the oldest living alumni of Saybrook Elementary, told stories Sunday of her school days at the farewell party for the old school building. Former teachers, students, administrators and support staff took turns with the microphone, crying over lost friends, laughing at their school day shenanigans.

School custodian Dick Bessant recalled the school’s noted athletes and a few of the little scamps, too.

“In the 1950s, (Principal) Ken Weir kept bottles of soda in the refrigerator and some kid used to go in there and steal them,” Bessant said. “No one could figure out who was taking the soda bottles. So one day, Principal Weir comes in and he has this little ultraviolet light. He has everyone put their hands under the light and lo and behold, he had put something on the soda bottles and the thief was caught red-handed!”

Emily Fisher, whose mother was the first kindergarten teacher at Saybrook Elementary, was also a teacher and administrator at the school.

“I have wonderful memories of the students, parents and staff of Saybrook Elementary,” she said.

Principal Jim Buttel presented the school’s time capsule, which will be buried at the new Ashtabula Lakeside Elementary campus.

Anyone can drop off items to be put in the time capsule at the school on Depot Road until the end of the school year, he said.

The farewell party for the school building came with a hint of celebration, Superintendent Joe Donatone said, as the building has been saved from demolition. Thanks to a gift from Ron Kister of Ashtabula, Ss. John and Paul students will move into the Saybrook school come fall.

“The educational mission of this school will continue,” he said. “Clearly, it will change from public education to private education, but the integrity of this place will be upheld.”

Board of Education member Jim Hudson said his children attended the little school and he was happy to be part of the deal to save the building.

“This building still has a lot of life in it,” he said. “To be able to save this important piece of the community is a real win.”

Douglas said she remembers her first day of school at Saybrook Elementary.

“I was so afraid, but I came home and the first thing I said to my mother was, ‘I love that school,’” she said. “I’m telling you, I wouldn’t have stood for it if they tore this building down. I would have found the man who tore it down and hit him with my cane!”


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