Edward W. Morley Elementary School, which first opened during the 1927-28 academic year as the Fern Street School, held a 90th anniversary celebration Wednesday.
By Ronni Newton
Memories and laughter flowed freely and faces lit up as those attending Morley Elementary School’s 90th anniversary celebration reconnected with old friends and former teachers, or formed new bonds with current students and staff.
Principal Ryan Cleary estimated that approximately 100 people – in addition to students and staff – turned out to celebrate the 90th anniversary of their beloved school. Alumni as well as former parents and teachers joined today’s Morley community on the back field for an assembly Wednesday morning, and then were invited into the school where the students had prepared a walk through time of important moments in the school and town history throughout the past nine decades.
Music filled the air as well, as the Morley choir delighted the crowd with their rendition of two songs that were no. 1 hits in 1927: “Me and My Shadow” and “Accentuate the Positive,” and led a group sing of “Happy Birthday.”
“Did you know that 90 years ago when Morley first opened the streets that surround us right now were dirt roads?” said Morley’s Student Council president.
The sunny and warm morning was a great day for Morley’s birthday party, Superintendent Tom Moore said, but “I don’t think it looks a day over 80,” he joked.
While there have been some bad times since the school was built – like the stock market crash in 1929 – things always got better. “That’s something to always remember … you can stick it out through it all,” Moore said.
Louis Dube, a former student, parent of three Morley alumni, and current grandparent of a second-grader, said he was thrilled to be able to speak to the Morley students.
Dube said he started at Morley as a fourth-grader in the fall of 1955. He noted the things that were different – the playground where there was only one basketball hoop, really tall swings, and tetherball; there was no gymnasium; the hot lunches of meat, mashed potatoes, green vegetable, and gravy served on real plates; and chalkboards rather than whiteboards or smartboards.
While back then students walked to and from school all by themselves, Dube said he thinks it’s great the way the families now accompany their kids to and from school, creating a wonderful atmosphere of daily celebrations.
“High ceilings and wide hallways” are still here, Dube said. “The stairs are still here as well, and they show the wear of 90 years of children’s feet going up and down,” he said of the grooves worn in the slate surfaces.
“I’m proud to have been a Morley student in the 50s, I am proud to have been a parent of Morley students in the 80s, and I am proud to be a Morley grandparent in 2018,” Dube said. “I never dreamed that life would work out this way. I am glad it did.”
Cleary said that Morley immediately felt like home when he arrived. “The reason why is simple – it’s the people.” Their stories are so similar in many ways, even the way the students are inspired by their teachers is something that has never changed.
Of course there are differences that are fun to learn about, like A.C. Petersen Farms delivering fresh milk every day, or when there weren’t any snow days, said Cleary.
“We still focus on Morley’s six character traits every day,” Cleary said, “kindness, caring, fairness, respect, responsibility, and citizenship.”
Former teacher Mrs. Sandy Later, who taught third grade at Morley for 36 years and attended the anniversary celebration, still comes back and teaches students each year about “credibility,” Cleary said.
“I’d like to thank this community for proving that credibility, character, and supporting each other is a successful way to lead a life,” said Cleary.
After the assembly, alumni and other guests were invited into the school to take a “Walk Through Time” that the students had prepared, with exhibits highlighting each decade beginning with the 1920s. There were yearbooks to peruse, and classrooms to visit, as well as a reception in the auditorium.
Many who attended were excited to reminisce, and the connections to Morley that they shared, many of which were multi-generational, were remarkable.
Lorry Wachtel Clayman and Marty Clayman will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary this year, but they met long before that.
Lorry, who attended Morley from the start, was in third grade when Marty came to the school as a fourth-grader. Neighborhood kids would congregate on the playground, and the summer when she was 11 and he was 12, he pushed her on the swings.
“After that he said, ‘I want to talk to you,'” Lorry recalled. The pair rode on his bike from the back of the school to the front steps. “He asked me to the ‘Miss West Hartford Dance,'” Lorry said, and the rest is history.
Although their own children went to Norfeldt, the Clayman’s daughter and son-in-law bought Lorry’s parent’s former house on Auburn Road, and their children (Lorry and Marty’s grandchildren) Andrew and Spencer Glantz went to Morley.
Spencer Glantz and his wife recently moved back to West Hartford, and are living on Bretton, right across the street. The Clayman’s great granddaughter, Ayelet, will be the next generation of their family to go to Morley.
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