Elmhurst High School tour brings back great memories for alumni

Dr. Terry L. Frederick of North Webster, who wore his Elmhurst High School letter jacket, was among more than 100 Elmhurst alumni who toured the school Friday morning during tours organized by alumni and allowed by the property's owner, Hanson Aggregates Midwest. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)
This 2010 photo shows the front of Elmhurst High School. (Courtesy of Allen County Public Library Community Album)
Volunteer guide Karen Dowdell, left, leads a group including sisters Erica, center, and Alyssa Leeper, right, during one of the guided school tours offered Friday for Elmhurst High School alumni, their immediate family members and former school staff. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)
All of the hallway clocks people pass on the guided tours of Elmhurst High School are set to 2:49 p.m., the time of the final bell on the last day of school in 2010. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)
Some of the wall signage at Elmhurst High School still directs people where to go, though the school closed in 2010. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)
Elmhurst High School alumnus John Reynolds of Dallas, Ga., pauses to take a photo of the school crest during a guide tour of the school Friday morning for older alumni. The school, which closed in 2010, is scheduled to be demolished in the future. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)
During guided tours Friday morning of Elmhurst High School for alumni, visitors often joked about getting in trouble as they passed by the old principal's office. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)
Stuart Trainer, left, and John Reynolds of Dallas, Ga., gaze at memorabilia displayed in the trophy case outside the main gym at Elmhurst High School. Both had taken the tour of the school Friday morning for alumni who graduated in 1969 or earlier. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)
Elmhurst High School alumni gather in the school's main gym to talk and reminisce after taking a guided tour Friday morning at the school on Sand Point Road. The school is scheduled for future demolition. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)

It was below freezing outside, but inside the Elmhurst High School building, faces glowed with warm memories.

“Elmhurst was a small school with a big heart,” said Karen Dowdell, a Class of 1985 graduate serving as one of the volunteer tour guides for other alumni, their immediate families and former staff members visiting the school Friday morning.

Elmhurst alumni and staff have a chance to step back into the school and their past today and Saturday during guided tours of the newer parts of the main floor of the building, which Fort Wayne Community Schools closed in June 2010.

Hanson Aggregates Midwest now owns the building and allowed an alumni group to organize the tours before the school is demolished.

Just as the people she was guiding on tours, Dowdell said walking the halls again brings back lots of good memories. She also has enjoyed seeing the smiles on the faces of older alumni when the school and classmates they know.

One of those was Dr. Terry L. Frederick of North Webster, a Class of 1963 graduate who wore his still-new looking letter jacket to take a tour with his wife, Sue.

Frederick said he grew up in a house about a block from the school on Sand Point Road. A grandfather was on the committee that approved building the original section of the school, which opened in 1929.

Frederick said he went on to graduate from college and medical school, accomplishments he attributes in part to the great teachers he had at Elmhurst.

While at Elmhurst, one of his biggest goals was to earn a letter jacket, which he did by participating in cross country, basketball and track, he said. He hasn’t worn the letter jacket since graduating, he said, but he wanted to wear it Friday — and it kind of still fits he added, pulling each side of the jacket together to meet in the middle of his chest.

“So many memories here. All good,” he said as he gazed around the main gym, where people gathered to chat after taking their school tour.

Stuart Trainer, president of the Class of 1953, also has fond memories of the teachers.

“They ran the school,” Trainer recalled. “They handed out corrections. You didn’t go to the office very much,” he noted, remembering stepping out in the hallway one day and seeing four guys getting their rear ends whacked with a paddle for misbehaving.

And the guys didn’t mind, he added, because they knew they had it coming to them.

At least 100 or more people had toured the building as of 11 a.m. Friday, and event organizers expect an even larger crowd Saturday because that day is for alumni who graduated in 1970 and later, said Alex Cornwell, one of the organizers. Friday was for alumni graduating in 1969 and earlier.

FWCS closed Elmhurst because of major budget cuts and the condition of the building, FWCS officials have said.

The school district sold the school building, parking lot and farm field west of the parking lot in August to Hanson Aggregates Midwest, which operates a quarry adjacent to the school property.

After closing on the purchase, Hanson announced it plans to demolish the school building but would allow alumni a final walk through the school.

FWCS still retains ownership of the Elmhurst athletic fields north of the school.

ELMHURST TOURS

WHAT: Alumni of Elmhurst High School and their immediate families are invited to take guided tours through the school one more time before its planned demolition. People will be required to sign a liability waiver before touring the building.

WHEN:

• 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday for alumni who graduated in 1969 and earlier, their immediate families and former school staff members.

• 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday for alumni who graduated in 1970 or later and their immediate families.

WHERE: 3829 Sand Point Road

COST: Suggested donation of $5 per person. Proceeds will be divided between the Waynedale Sidewalks and Trails Initiative and the Waynedale Corridor Project.

NOTES:

• The guided tours are scheduled to include music rooms, courtyards, auditorium stage, lecture room, cafeteria, library, main gym and a few other rooms.

• After their tour, visitors can gather in the main gym for a “meet and greet” with other alumni, which includes light refreshments.

• Visitors can’t bring food, drinks or pets into the building.

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