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Published: Monday, 1/9/2006

Alumni revisit Navarre ahead of wrecking ball

BY CHRISTOPHER D. KIRKPATRICK
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Norma (Sherer) Carsten and her husband, Robert Carsten, look for their class photos from when they were both students at Navarre School in East Toledo. The pair toured the school yesterday during its 85th anniversary celebration. The school is scheduled to be closed and demolished on Jan. 20 to make way for a modern structure as part of a districtwide rebuilding program. Norma (Sherer) Carsten and her husband, Robert Carsten, look for their class photos from when they were both students at Navarre School in East Toledo. The pair toured the school yesterday during its 85th anniversary celebration. The school is scheduled to be closed and demolished on Jan. 20 to make way for a modern structure as part of a districtwide rebuilding program.
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Bill Hatch moved the spout of his plastic water bottle, as if it were a ruler or a pointer, along old black-and-white Navarre class photos.

The white-haired 1938 graduate squinted as he looked closer to the wall of photo of children dressed up and sitting in tiered rows for their class portraits. He was trying to recognize his siblings and others from the scores of children who graduated in the 1930s from what was then a K-8 school. "I can't find them. I don't recognize them," he said, reviewing a few of the pictures again. "I think my sister could be in here."

The 1934 class photo was missing from the lineup of several pinned to a bulletin board and might explain why he couldn't find some of his friends and family. It also was missing 10 years ago for the 75th anniversary of the school's founding in East Toledo at 410 Navarre Ave. - a long block away from the foot of the Anthony Wayne Bridge.

Mr. Hatch, who said schoolchildren dressed better back in his day, was among hundreds who toured Navarre yesterday for its 85th anniversary. Some were there to get one last look inside before it is closed Jan. 20 to be torn down and replaced with a modern structure as part of a school district-wide rebuilding program, which is 77 percent paid for by state tobacco settlement money and rest of which comes from local dollars approved by voters.

A group of graduates and other residents has been waging a public relations battle to save the school and other 1920s-era public school structures.

They succeeded with nearby Waite High because it "was a national-quality building. It was [designed] by a nationally known architect," said Larry Michaels, a pastor at Martin Luther Lutheran Church, 601 Nevada St., and a 1961 Navarre graduate. He was hawking a book at the school yesterday about Peter Navarre, who is the school's namesake and lived from 1785 to 1874.

The War of 1812 veteran, a famed trapper and woodsman who lived off the land, is credited with heroic deeds during the war. Some say it is just legend.

Like Mr. Navarre's portrait in the auditorium, traces of bygone eras were all around, and not just in the visages of the graying and fully white-haired graduates who reminisced yesterday.

In the '20s, the children would have recess on the roof, with the wall only a few feet high all around. That would never happen today, Mr. Michaels said.

Near the front door of the school, Debra Lenkey, a Navarre kindergarten teacher whose mother attended kindergarten in the same classroom 80 years before, was taking digital photos of her classroom, which she had been packing up all week. At one end of the room, a yellow brick fireplace with a functional flue was covered by a bulletin board.

Ms. Lenkey said her mother, Dorothy, who died 12 years ago, told her a fire would be lit there in winter months. "She said she could remember that they weren't allowed to get near it," she said. "A working fireplace; only the kindergarten room had this."

Mr. Michaels' mother, Doris Michaels, said she is still a member of the Navarre Mother's Club. The women, mostly in their 80s, still have lunch together, she said. She graduated from the school in 1936 and later from Waite High School.

She doesn't want the school be to razed, she said.

"I'm a loyal East Toledo resident, and I went to Waite High School, so anything different, I'm against," she said of the new construction program.

Contact Christopher D. Kirkpatrick at: ckirkpatrick@theblade.com or 419-724-6077.



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