AMHERST – One hundred years. A long time. A short time.
“Soldiers were everywhere in Amherst at that time,” said Jennie Embree.
Embree was a student at West Highlands Elementary School at the start of the Second World War. The school is holding a centennial celebration Wednesday night – an open house marking one hundred years.
The 88-year old attended the school, opened in 1912, for Grades 5 and 6.
“She was a beautiful person,” said Embree of her Grade 5 teacher, Ms. Ripley.
Ms. Ruby-MacKay, her Grade 6 instructor, wasn’t as popular. Embree said Ruby-MacKay was nice, and she never had a run in with the teacher.
“Some of the others did,” said the former student.
A public open house will take place Wednesday between 6 p.m. and 8. Principal Kevin Mapplebeck said classrooms have tackled projects by decade reflecting the different things the old building has ‘seen’ over the years.
Students at West Highlands had family in the wars, heard about the Beatles crossing the ocean for their first North American tour, and attended the school when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, said Mapplebeck.
“I think it’s definitely a celebration,” he said.
The principal said he hopes former students join others at the event. The educator is hoping it evokes a ‘memory lane’ feel to the proceedings.
The event will include the dedication of a plaque, and the presentation of the contents of a time capsule being prepared for opening 25 years hence, in 2038 (the school discovered and opened a time capsule this past year).
Mapplebeck said it’s up in the air when a new building will be completed, but anticipating a new structure doesn’t preclude celebrating the stories of the current building.
“History’s a funny thing,” said Mapplebeck.
The 20th century feels like ancient history to his young pupils, the principal thinks, but it’s important to reflect on the past and remember it.
Grade 4 student Cameron Moreau knows there was less technology a hundred years ago. Moreau, and classmate Emma Sjanic, have been tasked with researching 10 differences each between life a hundred years ago and today. For example, said Moreau, ink that costs $1.25 today was just $0.25 back then.
“(Students) probably had to sit on long benches and write with those feather pens,” said Sjanic.
A girl named Marie White was Embree’s best friend those long decades ago. They played hopscotch together at recess. The old woman wishes she’d stayed in touch with her best friend from West Highlands.
“It was a good school and I enjoyed going there,” she said.