Howbert enjoys ‘fabulous’ 50th b-day

       The 25-year time capsule was a bust (literally), but Howbert Elementary was a cheery place for at least 100 people celebrating the Westside school's 50th anniversary Oct. 12.

Former staff and students at Howbert Elementary had a good time browsing through memorabilia at the 50th anniversary event Oct. 12. In the center of the photo are the remains of the ill-fated capsule buried in 1984. The Howbert sweatshirt on the yellow-cloth table had been given to then-student Ray Ferguson after he won the contest for the school nickname by coming up with "Hornets" in 1970-71.
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       “Isn't this a fabulous day?' asked former Howbert Principal David Morris (now head of Trailblazer) in a brief address to a multipurpose room filled with students (many of whom cheered him loudly), staff and visitors. “Fifty years of kids just like you have gone through school here.”
       Candy Lesoing, Howbert's administrative assistant and event planner, said that a total of 56 people - many with spouses or other family members - signed in during a roughly three-hour afternoon period set aside for the event.
       Activities kicked off with an assembly including comments by current Principal Gail Smartt, 1970s-'80s Principal Joe Wallace and 29-year teacher Linda Smith. There were also two songs with choreography involving all the Howbert students and led by music teacher Katherine Kennedy. Afterward, visitors got to peruse scrapbooks, photos and other memorabilia that had been laid out for them on tables in the multipurpose room and media center.
       “People appreciated looking through the old books,” Lesoing said, adding that the occasion was also like a reunion. “There were some people who had not seen each other for a long time.”
       The only big disappointment was the condition of the time capsule. “It was what a lot of people had come for,” Lesoing said.
       Unfortunately, the small fiberglass cylinder, buried four feet underground next to the school flagpole Oct. 12, 1984, had somehow cracked open over the years. When Howbert building manager David Gidley dug down to it Oct. 9 to see what kind of shape the capsule was in, “the lid just kind of poppped off, but it was already wet and gooey inside,” Lesoing said. “There had been class pictures, but they were just disintegrated. There was a strip of negatives, but they were faded too. Supposedly every class had put something in.” One of the few recognizable objects from 1984 was a muddy (possibly shrunken) Howbert Hornets T-shirt.
       There are plans for a new 25-year capsule (going up to 2034). but arrangements are not yet finalized, Lesoing said. The tentative plan is to put items inside a fireproof safe and to work with the contractor building the new addition to possibly place the capsule inside it (perhaps as a cornerstone).
       Among the visitors Oct. 12 were two sets of three-generation families. Karen (Roe) Loy was in Howbert's first kindergarten class in 1959. She and her sister both went there, then Karen's son and daughter and now her grandson. Another early student on hand was Paula (Mullane) Shields, one of eight children in her family to attend Howbert. Two of her children and other family have since gone there, including nephew Jason Waite and now his son Austin.

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       “The school hasn't changed much,” Paula said. “But I don't think you can get on the roof as easily.”
       Karen and Paula shared memories of how differently lunch used to be handled by the school. For one thing, the lunch period was longer. “They used to make you walk home for lunch if one of your parents was home,” Paula noted.
       Otherwise, Karen elaborated, kids would be expected to bring their lunches, which they'd eat in the multipurpose room. Hot lunches weren't provided yet , and it wasn't till later that even milk was sold.
       Opened Oct. 12, 1959, Howbert back then was mostly by itself at the upper end of 31st Street. Over time, the Pleasant Valley neighborhood was built up around it and still provides most of the school's students.

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