The Waco Elementary Centennial Celebration drew hundreds Saturday to a building that stirred up memories of those good ol’ days — back when, yes, they had to walk three miles to school on a dirt road. Lined up on the school’s patio were tables covered with centuries of memorabilia, from old high school trophies to worn black-and-white photographs dating back to the 1930s. Originally designed in 1912 to offer grades K-12, those I spoke with were uncertain about exactly when it became strictly an elementary school (a quick Google search revealed nothing).
But, 1943 graduate Charles Metcalf still had vivid memories of his time there. Sporting his threadbare letterman’s jacket, the 87-year-old shared his story about walking three miles to school (and three miles back) with his four older brothers.
“The youngest brother was five years older than me, so I had a hard time keeping up,” said Metcalf, who remembered they “ran most of the way because we were afraid of being late.”
At the 1940s table, he held a magnifying glass over pictures of his young self posing with his basketball team and wearing a caped uniform as a trumpeter in the band (he was not wearing a smile in this picture).
Metcalf was there with his daughter Pat Metcalf Farmer, who attended Waco school between 1958 and 1964. Her mother, Jean Metcalf, taught second-grade there between 1960 and 1964.
But his Waco story was not the oldest. Charles introduced me to a 92-year-old man who is “probably the oldest Waco graduate,” he said. A 1939 graduate, Harry Bush, “lived across the hollar” from his cousin Charles Metcalf. Determined not to join the foot race to school, Bush rode atop a spotted horse named Roy and tied him up in the school’s stables, he said, located on school property and available for horse-riding students.
Only two highfalutin people had buggies to drive to school, he said.
“I never liked school too good. I liked other things better,” Bush said.
“Like chasing girls?” I asked.
He couldn’t say with his wife standing nearby, he joked.
Bush said he enjoyed playing basketball and agriculture class, during which students worked with hogs and sheep at one of the surrounding farms.
Of the 39 students in his graduating class, only two are left, he said.
I caught up with Principal Marsha Vanhook, who had just been serving, what several in attendance claimed, was “the best barbeque in Waco,” (it was pretty dang good) made by Lorena Webb, the school’s library/media specialist and organizer of the event.
“It’s wonderful to see the community come out and to hear bits and pieces of history,” Vanhook said. “This school truly belongs to the community.”
She told me a story that was shared with her that day by a former student who recalled when schoolmates left to fight in WWII.
The student remembered the whole school praying at the flagpole anytime they caught word of a classmate who was killed or had become a prisoner-of-war.
“It just gave me chills to hear this story,” Vanhook said.
On top of making “the best barbeque in Waco,” Lorena Webb was selling commemorative Waco school items, the proceeds of which will be added to the fund to create a paved walking path, pavilion and playground on school property that will be open to the community.
“Like a mini-Lake Reba — is what I have pictured,” Webb said, who along with a committee of educators, community members and alumni, had been planning the Centennial event for more than a year with the goal of making a “mini-Lake Reba” a reality.
Webb has been busy collecting artifacts, images and oral histories — all of which will be compiled into a DVD documenting all 100 years.
The DVD will be available around June, she said, and will even feature some footage of the 1999 demolition of the school’s old building.
Commemorative bricks also were for sale and will be placed along the walking path.
Earlier Saturday morning, many joined in the Centennial 5K Race/1-mile Fun Run, with participants in categories ranging from elementary-aged to 62-plus.
Nathan Brinegar (high school) and Christy Hazelwood (ages 29-39) were the overall winners of the race.
Contact Lorena Webb at 387-3639 or Jeanne Caldwell at 387-3600 for more information about the commemorative bricks and DVD.
Article and photos by Crystal Wylie of the Richmond Register. To read more local news, please visit the Richmond Register online.