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Published: Saturday, 6/13/2009

Alumni from the class of 1959 reminisce on tour of Scott High School

BY JC REINDL
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Scott High School alumna Nancy Blaine Clark believes some of our strongest memories embed themselves into physical locations - especially old school buildings.

Many of her classmates from the Scott class of 1959 feel similarly. So Friday, on their 50th reunion weekend, they journeyed on a self-guided tour through the tiled corridors of their alma mater in Toledo's Old West End.

"We decided that it would be great to be able to go in the building, because so many memories are triggered by actually being inside," said Mrs. Clark, who, like several of the two dozen classmates who made the tour, remarked on how little has changed in the building's overall appearance.

"It looks the same," said Tom Brymer of Columbus. "It's got a lot of history, this school. Look at the wide aisles. You go to schools today and everyone is crowded together - you don't have these wide aisles."

Opened in 1913 and named for former Blade editor Jesup W. Scott, it's the oldest existing high school in the city.

The English Gothic-style building along Collingwood Boulevard had about 2,370 students at its 1931 peak, though enrollment was about 800 this past school year.

The visit Friday marked the last time the group of alumni would be able to gather for their anniversary and see the school building in its present state.

After recent preservation efforts by alumni, neighbors, and others, Scott will close temporarily next school year to undergo an estimated $39 million renovation. It is scheduled to reopen by 2012, and students will be housed in the former DeVilbis High School during the interim years.

Alumni on yesterday's tour marveled about the building's original reddish floor tiles, creamy plaster work, and stairwells with wooden handrails. Much of the woodwork throughout the school is also original.

"It is a beautiful building," said Doris Greer, who entered Scott with the 1959 class but graduated early. "It's been a hard fight to preserve this."

The architect of Scott's planned renovation, Keith Riley, said the goal is to preserve as much of the original building's look and spirit as possible while bringing the school up to date with current standards, such as bigger classrooms.

Several original windows and skylights that vanished from the building over the years will reappear when Scott reopens.

"From the exterior it will not look anything different than it looks now," said Mr. Riley, senior project architect for SSOE Inc. "We are going to take it back to what we call the grandeur of the old Scott."

Yet the new Scott won't be a full replica of the old Scott. Some of the older building's unique features, such as the swimming pool, will not return.

The pool was "floored over" in the 1970s, although Patricia Huston Hall still has clear memories.

"That pool is where I learned to swim," the West Toledoan recalled.

"To pass your swim test and get your certification, you had to swim it four times."

David Oxner, of central Toledo, remembered running up flights of stairs to the old fourth-floor cafeteria. Back then they served wholesome food at school - dishes like turkey, mashed potatoes, and meatloaf - without the soda pop or pizza that teenagers today like so much, he said.

And the price was right: just 30 cents for lunch.

Alumni also remarked on the racial diversity of Scott's student body during the late half of the 1950s, with its visible mix of white, black, and Jewish students.

The school gained national attention in 1957 after electing its first black homecoming queen, Janet Quinn, class of 1958. Though a group of five white boys hung an effigy on the front lawn in protest, racial tensions eventually eased when the two white females elected as Miss Quinn's attendants announced at a school assembly that they would gladly be on her court.

"It was turbulent times," Ms. Greer recalled yesterday.

Mr. Riley said elements of his renovation work will follow the original 1910 blueprints. The building had two architects, David L. Stein and C.M. Nordhoff, and nearly the exact Scott design for a "cosmopolitan school" was used for Waite High School in East Toledo, which opened in 1914.

There were two pairs of high school sweethearts on yesterday's tour who since have married.

Mrs. Clark and her husband, Harry, had their first date during the Thanksgiving dance during their senior year. The couple live in Niles, Mich.

Jerry Rynder and Rita Fulton Rynder of Evansville, Ind., started dating freshman year when they met in Latin class.

"I was failing Latin miserably and she was the smartest one in the class, and I had a plan," Mr. Rynder recalled with a smile, adding that the teacher soon caught on to the arrangement. "After I started dating her I was acing all the homework but flunking all the tests."

Contact JC Reindl at:

jreindl@theblade.com

or 419-724-6065.



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