Students at C.K. Burns School paused for a big group photo on June 14, prior to an assembly to mark 100 years of the school building, which was named for Saco businesswoman Clementine Kendrick Burns. Alex St. Cyr Photo /City of Saco

SACO — In 1922, the city’s decision makers pronounced that a new school under construction on Middle Street in Saco should be named for Clementine Kendrick Burns, a local businesswoman, mother of six, a former school teacher and a supporter of the suffrage movement.

The school opened later — on Jan 2, 1924, and continues to educate school children within its brick walls. It was originally comprised of eight classrooms, a music auditorium, home economics lab, and space for industrial arts, educating young people in grades 7, 8, and 9 who later went to Thornton Academy. The building has been enlarged twice, and currently educates children in grades 3, 4 and 5.

Students at C.K. Burns School in Saco sang this song – an old one found in the school – to mark the 100th year of the school building. Tammy Wells Photo

There have been celebrations to mark the 100th anniversary — including a big assembly on Tuesday, June 14, with all of the students outside, posing for a photo in front of the school just as students have done for many years.

Students and teachers have been working on the 100th anniversary events for some time. They gathered artifacts, putting word out to the wider community that they were looking items from the school’s long history, and were later able to visit the Saco Museum to view a memorabilia collection on display earlier this year.

Students watched a video created by Carey Leone Johnson, a grade 5 teacher at the school, to mark the event, which can be viewed at:

The Middle Street school was built on a location that used to be known as Hartley’s Field, according to Johnson. “There used to be ice-skating there and torchlight parties at night,” before the school was built, she said.


Students produced a newspaper, “Face the Facts Centennial Edition,” to commemorate the event, that contains a history of the school, interviews with current and former staff, and more. There were many contributors and editors of the publication.

“One of my favorite things I’ll always remember is playing kick ball,” one current student wrote.

Group photos have been a tradition at C.K. Burns School in Saco for some time – including this photo of the Grade 9 class back in 1943. Courtesy Photo

“My favorite memories are of my friends and teachers, and the dodge ball tournament I participated in,” said another student. “My favorite subjects were art, STEM, and gym. One thing I will miss forever is this whole school in general.”

“One of my favorite memories is when I made new friends,” wrote another student.

On assembly day, Saco Mayor William Doyle — who had attended C.K. Burns School as a youngster — came to visit.

He mentioned some “fun facts” about the year 1922, like gasoline priced at 25 cents a gallon. And, he noted, it was the year a company in Germany first produced a tasty treat we know today as Gummy Bears.


“When I went to school here, it wasn’t as big,” Doyle told the students. “We were in a modular (classroom) in the parking lot.”

He noted it was a pretty big week — with grade 5 students finishing their time at C.K. Burns and getting ready to move on to Saco Middle School in the fall, C.K. Burns School turning 100 years old, and most of all, it’s the end of the school year.

Superintendent Jeremy Ray reminded the young people that they got to participate in an event most students do not have the opportunity to take part in — the 100th anniversary of a school building.

Saco resident Clementine Kendrick Burns, for whom the brick school on Middle School is named, once took part in a mock trial at Saco City Hall, and is shown here in a photo of the event, second from right. Courtesy Photo

A couple of students, Izzy Pelletier, and Carlotte Ramsey, held a bake sale at the school, raising money for the Saco Food Pantry, and presented a check for $169.44 to food pantry President John White.

Students sang a song a teacher found in the building, an old one, set to the music of Auld Lang Syne, called “Burns School Class Ode,” with the first verse going like this: “Our happy years at Burns now end, with memories of the past. They’ll always bring us happiness, as days go by so fast.”

They saluted the Stars and Stripes, to mark Flag Day.


Earlier in the month, they students played “old fashioned” recess games, hosted by the parent teacher organization.

So who was C.K. Burns?

Clementine Kendrick Burns was born Feb. 13, 1852, the youngest daughter of Humphrey P. and Jane Kendrick of Saco. According to her obituary, published on June 30, 1922, in the Biddeford Weekly Journal, she taught in Sabattus and in Goodwin’s Mills and later in Illinois, before returning to Saco and going into the retail business with her brother at H.B. Kendrick and Co. She married Henry N. Burns of Saco in 1878; the couple had six children.

“Clemmie,” as she was called, was a founding member of the Lotus Club, a social club for women, according to an excerpt from the students’ 100th anniversary newspaper. She was also an active member of the Biddeford Alumni Association. In 1894, she spoke on Women’s Suffrage at an alumni event.

She was a leading businesswoman and a leader in civic life and had an active interest in Saco schools. She was “ever prominent in all movements tending for the betterment of the educational facilities of the city,” according to the student newspaper.

In 1903, she spoke at a banquet for local businesswomen at the Saco Hall.

Saco Mayor William Doyle, who attended C.K. Burns School as a boy, addresses the student body at a recent assembly marking the school building’s 100th anniversary. Tammy Wells Photo

“Saco is a good place in which to be born… It is for me to make Saco a most desirable place in which to pass the period of our earthly existence,” she said, in part. “There should be a united and persistent effort made by all to further the best interests of their home city, and to promote its progress along the right lines.”

Clementine Burns died in 1922, two years after Maine women first got the vote. She is buried at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Saco.

The school, named in her honor, continues on.

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