Last fall I attended a meeting of the Greater Southport (now Southside) Business Alliance, and the speaker was Perry Schools Superintendent Thomas Little.
He outlined some of district’s accomplishments and spoke of things to come. He told us that the old James Whitcomb Riley Grade School, a long-closed township facility on Shelby Street and adjacent to Rise Learning Center, would be reopened as the alternative school, which would be relocated from the Education Center on Orinoco Avenue.
The renovation was coming along nicely, and things were looking good.
I saw Dr. Little after the meeting and explained to him that I was in Riley’s first graduating class. He smiled and gave me a puzzling look.
I explained that as a first-grader I attended a crowded Edgewood Grade School. At that time, all eight grades of an elementary school were housed in one building. We watched as a school was being built next to ours. As a second-grader, I was switched to the Riley building, which had been constructed to accommodate six- and seven-year-olds.
I then moved back to the Edgewood for the third grade. So, we were the first class of students to attend and then move forward from the Riley building.
Jumping ahead to earlier this year, bad weather delayed the start of school after Christmas break. But when school did resume, the Riley building leaped into life. An open house had been planned but was postponed when Old Man Winter came calling.
When the weather finally allowed for the event on March 3, we received a warm welcome from the school’s staff. A tour of the building was provided, and we met students and instructors. We gathered in a large room and were brought up-to-date by staff members and Dr. Little during a wonderful presentation.
Barry Browning, vice president of the Perry Township/Southport Historical Society and a former Riley and Edgewood student, was on hand, as were three gals from my second-grade class: Carol Kottkamp, Judy Poland-Hobbs, Sharon Brinkoetter-Kinder. Those girls and I had the same teacher: Margaret Rickard. We all had big smiles on our faces as we walked down the second-grade hallway. My good friends, Denise Summers and Sherry Hubert from The Southsider Voice were also there as they are James Whitcomb Riley and Edgewood alumni, too. The evening brought back lots and lots of special memories.
The Edgewood/Riley buildings and property were the center of everything in that part of the township during the late 1940s through the early ’60s. There were always basketball games on the 12 or 13 outdoor courts, and the PTA put on a giant fish fry each year.
I’m sure that all of the former students and teachers who attended the open house went home with big smiles on their faces. I know I did.