A special day for the old school
200, including lieutenant governor/ex-BV parent, enjoy building’s centennial

       A.R. Lewis remembered Buena Vista Elementary from the 1930s as the place he first wore clamp-on roller skates, trying but failing to make the turn after rolling down the ramp beside one of the cottages.
       As a student there in the early '60s, Charles McBride got hit on the head with a flying baseball bat. “I've still got the scar,” he said.

Colorado Lieutenant Governor Joe Garcia speaks at a ceremony during the 100th anniversary of the historic Buena Vista school building Oct. 1. Also on the stage are (from left) Matt Heard, senior pastor of Woodmen Valley Chapel (which now runs the location as the Westside Community Center); Alan Rasmussen, event coordinator and former principa; and Lisa Czelatdko, District 3 City Councilmember.
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       The mother of two BV students (now in their 30s), Cheryl Shell helped organize PTO carnivals in the 1980s that “made a fortune” for school needs, she said, including cement tables that are still in use.

Three Buena Vista generations - (from left) Pat Gulya; her daughter, Jessica Feis Lamirand (who also taught there); and Pat's mom Arwilla Cook (who was a secretary there).
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       It was West Elementary teacher Denise Gutierrez' first teaching job (she was at Buena Vista 13 years).
       Living right across the street in the late '80s and early '90s, Andrew Stolz must have been the envy of other students. “Sometimes I wouldn't come over till I heard the bell ring,” he chuckled.
       These were some of the memories shared during the 100-year anniversary of the historic Buena Vista school building Oct. 1.
       The location in the 1600 block of West Bijou Street was a school from 1911 to 2009. Since then it has been the Westside Community Center, with BV having relocated (becoming an all-Montessori school) in August 2009 to the former Washington building at 924 W. Pikes Peak Ave.
       The open-to-the-public event was attended by about 200 people in all, estimated Alan Rasmussen, a former BV principal (1988-2005) who in his last two years had presided over the start of the Montessori transition. He and his 10-member committee (consisting mostly of former staff) also coordinated an invitation-only dinner, set up primarily for past BV employees, that drew about 80 people Sept. 30.
       He termed the events “a big success,” giving credit to his committee as well as staff and volunteers with the Westside Center. “Several people said they thought we'd done a good and professional job,” he said.
       The reunion feature was the arrival of Colorado Lieutenant Governor Joe Garcia, who at one time in the '90s had four children attending the school and served as its PTO president. His kids “got a good start here, not because it had modern technology” Garcia said on stage, during a ceremony in the center meeting hall (which used to be the school gym and cafeteria), “but they had good teachers in a supporting community, and every kid needs that.”
       Also on stage was District 3 City Councilmember Lisa Celatdko. She noted the school's origins as a set of five cottages, one for each grade, which was a trend in the early 1900s.

Visitors enjoy a school photo display on a hallway wall.
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       The school changed over the years, with cottages being joined and additions being made, and at present there are three separate buildings.
       Czelatdko also praised the “hundreds of volunteers” who have boosted the center since city funding for community centers fell off two years ago. The effort, including donated funds, has been led by an action arm of the Woodmen Valley Chapel, which has operated the center since April 2010.
       Garcia read aloud a proclamation, signed by Governor John Hickenlooper, which praised the center for its accomplishments in that time. He made it fun, by having the audience join him each time he said the word “whereas” (six times in all).
       Before and after the proclamation ceremony, visitors roamed around the former school, visiting old classrooms and enjoying photos, news clippings and other BV-related graphics that were on display in different places. Ken Rush, one of the center volunteers, had put those displays together, as well as a continuing “loop” of photos that were projected onto the screen in the hall.
       Some people brought their own BV memorabilia to the reunion, such as Cheryl Shell, who had one of the PTO newsletters she'd published in 1986, which helped spread the word about school fundraisers; and brothers Gerald and Charles McBride, who had old photos and school yearbooks. The McBrides had other memories in their heads, including all the family members who had preceded them to Buena Vista - their dad, Charles; uncles Ron, Don, George and James; and aunts Dorothy, June and Carol Ann. Before them, the McBride brothers' mothers' father had gone to the old Bancroft school, which existed from 1888 to 1926, where Bancroft Park is now.

Gerald (left) and Charles McBride point to their pictures in a BV yearbook from the 1960s.
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       As for the day with the baseball bat, Charles still remembers where he was standing and how the bat had flown out of the hands of a kid playing in a game at least 20 feet away. He bled a lot, he said. “I had to get five stitches.”
       Marilyn George, a former BV teacher who was part of the planning committee, was spotted talking to Andrew Stolz, who now lives in Denver, working as a wedding deejay and selling sports items on E-Bay. “My first straight A's were with Miss George,” he said proudly.
       Asked about the changes in the facility since Buena Vista Elementary relocated, George said, “It looks lovely - better than it did when District 11 had it.”
       A.R. Lewis' family had moved here from Missouri in 1933, and in his first year he had gone to Whittier. He spent the rest of his elementary years at BV. Another of his memories was working with other students to make “our own golf course” in the dirt. He went to West and Colorado Springs High School, but dropped out of the latter to join the Navy. World War II was on, and he served on mine-sweeping ships in the Pacific Theater.
       After leaving BV in 2007, Denise Gutierrez taught at Whittier before it closed, then was hired at West Elementary. She revealed that she's had the option to teach elsewhere in D-11, but since her initial stint at Buena Vista, she decided she wanted to stay on the Westside.
       Her loyalty to her original school emerged in conjunction with her praise for the new center. Noting the new Garden of the Gods viewscape mural in the hall (former BV gym), she said “I love the mural, but I miss the tiger.” What tiger? “There used to be paw prints that led to the stage,” she recalled.
       A current BV student, Ursen Black, who had previously attended the school at the historic location, also expressed some nostalgia at the event. “I remember where everything is,” he said. “I miss it. It [the current site] isn't the same.”
       Arwilla Cook, Pat Gulya and Jessica Feis Lamirand were on hand - a three-generation combo with ties to BV. Arwilla was a secretary at the school in 1960 to '65 while her daughter Pat went there. Then Jessica, Pat's daughter, attended the school from 1981 to '88, returning as its art teacher from 2006 to '09. “I still have dreams of it [the school],” she said.

Before this centennial cake was eaten, its frosting showed a photo of the school in its original, five-cottage layout.
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       Pat had always liked the “good energy and old memories” of the school, and she admitted being “devastated” when it relocated in '09. But she is appreciative that as a community center it's still a place for kids, “well used and well loved.”

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