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Published: Thursday, 4/18/2002

Harvard School students hear of school's history

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Robinson Cope, who was among the first kindergarten pupils at Harvard, told present-day kindergartners of his days at the school, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary. Robinson Cope, who was among the first kindergarten pupils at Harvard, told present-day kindergartners of his days at the school, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary.
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It's only been 70 some years since Robinson Cope attended Harvard School in South Toledo, but some youngsters might think it was back during the dinosaur days.

Cell phones? Cable TV? Calculators?

Nope.

Those modern-day wonders weren't around when Mr. Cope was a student at Harvard, the castlelike structure that crests a hill overlooking the Maumee River.

“Television, computers, VCRs, the Internet, CDs, microwaves, portable radios. They didn't even exist. We didn't even have ballpoint pens,” Mr. Cope, a retired accountant, told a bunch of wide-eyed kindergarten pupils during his visit to the school last week.

It was obvious pupils were having a little trouble comprehending Mr. Cope's stories about the “olden days,” way back when the world was without MTV and fourth-grade proficiency tests.

Mr. Cope, who was in the first kindergarten class in 1926, will be a special guest during the school's anniversary celebration in May.

Harvard pupils, parents, teachers, and others have been busy preparing for the 75th anniversary observance for several months. Some pupils penned poems or wrote songs. Others learned the Charleston, and several created artwork of the red-brick school - painstakingly drawing hundreds of bricks and stones, under the guidance of art teacher Emmajo Gray.

A song called the “Red Brick Garden,” written by fifth-grade pupil Faith Miller, will be featured during the school's anniversary weekend activities.

Harvard is like a red brick garden. The teachers are like the water and the sun. The principal is like a watchful gardener, helping the growth of everyone, Faith sang for a visitor last week.

Her words were set to music by Hal Walker of Kent, Ohio, during an artist-in-residence program in February. He will return to the school May 3 for Harvard's SMART Fair. Science, math, fine arts, reading, and technology projects will be on display during the fair, which will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. The Harvard Choir will perform some of the pupils' original songs.

In her poem, fifth-grade student Shayna Corbett described the school as “Toledo's ageless jewel” where history lies. Indeed, there is a lot of history here.

Because of Harvard's significant historical value, many area residents were concerned that the school might be replaced as part of Toledo Public Schools' 10-year, $750 million renovation project, but principal Sharon Ulrich said that Harvard will remain as a neighborhood school.

“They absolutely cannot destroy this beautiful school. It would be crazy to tear it down,” said Mr. Cope. “It's a wonderful school.”

As he shared his stories, he surprised the children when he announced that the Anthony Wayne Trail didn't exist when Harvard School opened. “It was just an abandoned canal,” he said.

Pupils knew that they had heard the word “canal” before, but they were having trouble remembering exactly what the word means. Mr. Cope's mention of “canal boats,” triggered a chorus of “oh, yeah, canal boats” from the group. He explained that the Miami-Erie Canal, built in the 1800s, was like a narrow river in which boats could haul supplies and other items.

By the time Mr. Cope was ready for school, the canal had been drained.

When Harvard was under construction, pupils attended classes in long, wooden white buildings called portables. “They looked like army barracks,” he told the children.

There were no school buses, either, when he was a youngster. Most children walked or rode bicycles to school.

Harvard didn't have a cafeteria when it opened; pupils went home for lunch, or possibly they stopped by a sweets shop on Glendale, one of the most popular places in the neighborhood in the 1920s.

He didn't have to explain the reason for the shop's popularity after he listed what the place had to offer: soda and milk and candy and gum and school supplies. The lunch hour lasted 90 minutes, and some pupils hurried back from their homes to hang around the shop for awhile before returning to class.

When Harvard opened, it was regarded as one of the most beautiful structures in the city's elementary system.

Harvard's 75th anniversary historical program begins at the school at 2 p.m. May 5, and a semi-formal dance will be held from 7 to 10 p.m. May 4 in the school auditorium.

Music from the 1920s (with several girls dancing the Charleston), 1950s, and 1970s will be included during the program May 5. Janet Keener, chairman for the historical committee, will offer some of her recollections about the school where she has worked since 1979. Mrs. Keener is Harvard's music specialist.

Nearly 600 invitations for the anniversary celebration were sent, she said. The school, which has 324 pupils in kindergarten through sixth grade, is known for its strong community support and dedicated staff. Pupils often sing the praises of this special castle on the hill.

“It's a very safe school. Everyone is nice,” Faith said after she sang her song. “It has got a feeling of home.”



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