“Come let us sing and let our voices ring for a place that we hold dear/ Longfellow School, Longfellow School, sing her praises loud and clear/We’re learning together. Knowing whatever in life we choose to do,/Longfellow School, Longfellow School, we’ll keep fond memories of you.”

 

BRUNSWICK – The lines to the Longfellow School song, penned in 1996, seem all the more poignant today. After helping to shape the formative years of nearly eight generations of schoolchildren, the schoolhouse at 21 Longfellow Ave. will close in the spring.

But before the final class bell rings, Longfellow alumni will gather to say, “Thanks for the memories.”

Former students Mary Parsons, 60, and Kathy (Fox) Koerber, 62, have formed a committee with ex-classmates Ruth (Woods) Thibodeau, Jane (Marriner) Connors, Brenda (Baldwin) McDonald and Elizabeth (MacEvoy) Henderson to eulogize their alma mater.

They plan an open house, memory walk and narrated slides presentation from 6 to 8 p.m. May 13. The women are soliciting the written memories of former students, staffers and community members along with other memorabilia related to the school’s history.

Parsons and Koerber recall attending dances, singing in schoolwide Christmas pageants and exchanging cards with their classmates on St. Valentine’s Day. They also spoke of the educatorers who influenced them, like Parsons’ mother, Doris Parsons, 92, who taught Grade 5 from 1955 to 1967 and was Longfellow’s principal from 1975 to 1978.

Doris Parsons recalled enjoying seasonal student performances in Longfellow’s auditorium-cafeteria and her husband’s always buying her new boots each Christmas to keep her feet warm during playground duty.

“My years at Longfellow were ones of pride in Longfellow’s excellence of faculty and service to the community,” she said. “I enjoyed the role I played in shaping the children’s lives and watching them grow.”

Koerber said the school inspired her nearly 40-year career as an educator. While her schoolmates were saving up for a new bicycle or roller skates, Koerber was saving to go to college to become a teacher. Not only did Koerber achieve that goal, but she also landed her first and only teaching job at Longfellow School at age 21.

She went on to educate many of her former classmates’ children and grandchildren, retiring in spring 2009. Today, she volunteers at Longfellow, where she assists a staff of equally long-tenured employees like Principal Greg Scott.

“I was never a student at Longfellow, but I have grown up with the staff there over the past 23 years,” said Scott, 55, of Freeport. He and his staff will transition to Collins Elementary School, where Scott will serve as principal for students in grades K-2. Students in grades 3 through 5 will move to the Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School, now under construction at 44 McKeen St.

Scott said the future of Longfellow School remains a mystery, but he hopes it continues to be used for educational purposes.

Built in 1924, the two-story brick schoolhouse sits on land abutting the Bowdoin College campus. The property was sold to the town of Brunswick by Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain for $1 under the stipulation that it be used as a school for at least 20 years.

“The building is in beautiful shape,” said Scott. “The town has done a great job of maintaining it. It still has its wonderful old slate blackboards and a lot of updated materials, like new windows and a new ventilation.”

Longfellow students and staffers are involved in monthly activities celebrating the school’s legacy. Bequests to the school from two former teachers are helping to pay for commemorative items for students like T-shirts and a panoramic photo of the student body in front of the school. A 2011 calendar, featuring images of the school and its alumni, also is set to be printed, and copies will be available for $10 each.

Putting it all in perspective, Mary Parsons said, “It is important to honor an institution that has been such a big part of our formative years. Elementary school is the place where you learn to read, write and begin life’s lessons of how to interact with others. And it is where some of our first friendships are formed.”

 

Staff Writer Deborah Sayer can be contacted at 791-6308 or at:

[email protected]