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Published: Monday, 7/27/2009

'Old Girls' recall fun times at now-closed Fulton School

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Roggie Shall Siegel, left, and Rosemary Cannon Bramson, who attended Fulton School in the 1930s, look at a sixth-grade class photo during their 'The Old Girls' club monthly luncheon. Roggie Shall Siegel, left, and Rosemary Cannon Bramson, who attended Fulton School in the 1930s, look at a sixth-grade class photo during their 'The Old Girls' club monthly luncheon.
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They remember the Naughty Bench.

"It was like a pew from a church, a long bench, and it was right outside the principal's office," said Roggie Shall Siegel, who went to Fulton School in the 1930s. "You never wanted to be seen sitting out there."

She and several other women who call themselves "The Old Girls" not only still sing the praises of the school, they remember the words to the school song.

During their monthly luncheon recently, they lifted their voices in harmony, pledging fidelity to "the glorious, grand, old school we love the best, all hail, Fulton School."

The school closed in June and won't reopen this fall. Toledo Public Schools' spokesman Patty Mazur said no plans for the building have been finalized.

The former students readily agree Fulton School was wonderful in many ways, and at one time, some said, it was the premier educational facility in Toledo.

"I don't know about that," Betty Mae Fink Brandman of Findlay said. She's the only one in the group who went to Cherry School. She became friends with the others in the group when they were freshmen at Scott High School.

After graduation came college and careers, marriages and children, and the former Fulton classmates would bump into each other and say, "We should get together for lunch."

But it wasn't until 1975, when

Joanne Friedmar Stockstiel, Lil Salzman Perlman, and Marilyn Bracker Reinstein were grocery shopping at a market on Talmadge Road that plans were hatched for the monthly get-togethers.

Mrs. Siegel, who also lived in the Old West End neighborhood and was a classmate, is the fourth founding member of the group.

The friends named their club after Ms. Stockstiel told them about a conversation she had had with her children.

When asked where she was going, she told her kids, "To meet my girlfriends."

The response: "You're too old to have girlfriends. You should call them women, not girls."

Hearing this, club members said, "No, we're still girls, maybe old girls, but still girls," recalled Rosemary Cannon Bramson of Sylvania, who joined in 1989 when she retired from teaching.

She and the four founding members attended kindergarten together at Fulton School.

When the topic of age creeps into the conversation, fingers point to Doris Shulman Stark, who joined five years ago, and Beverly Manoff Steinman, who has belonged for two years.

They're the "babies" of the group, Mrs. Bramson said.

Mrs. Stark and Mrs. Steinman, both of Sylvania, who are alumni of Fulton and Scott as well, are in their late 70s. The others are in their early 80s.

Adelyn Shapiro Greenberg, another neighbor and classmate, lives in Detroit and attends when possible.

It's an active bunch. Some play tennis or golf. They volunteer for their congregations; they belong to book clubs, and they love the theater, movies, and opera.

Many are active in the Jewish community. Some were in each other's bridal parties.

Marilyn, who lives in Sylvania Township, recalled how her friends Lil, Roggie, and Joanne wore velveteen dresses and carried muffs made of mums during her wedding to Zale Reinstein at Thanksgiving time in 1948. Her husband passed away six years ago.

Five of the women are widows. The Old Girls have a total of 27 children, and there are grandchildren and great-grandchildren to brag about.

Although founding mem-

bers have met once a month for 34 years, topics stay fresh. They chat about recently released movies or books, about new adventures in their lives, about world events and politics.

During their recent luncheon at a Toledo restaurant, pages from the Fulton Story, published in 1962, sparked not only the singing of the school song but also the retelling of favorite stories from their school days.

"We all have wonderful memories of Fulton," Mrs. Perlman said. They talked about homerooms, teachers, principals, and, for some, the dreaded restrooms in the school's basement.

The custodian who shoveled coal into the furnace was often soot-covered and looked scary to little kids, said Mrs. Bramson, who wouldn't go alone to the basement.

When asked about the school's Cocoa Monitors, Mrs. Bramson recalled the hot beverage was served when her mother was a pupil at Fulton School.

The school's longtime principal Nettie Marker, who was in charge when some of The Old Girls were in kindergarten, introduced an "open-air school" program. Wide-open windows in the winter let fresh, cold air into several unheated classrooms.

"They thought it was a healthy thing to do," Mrs. Bramson said.

Students and teachers wore robes or heavy coats and boots, and parents served hot chocolate in the basement at midmorning recess.

Later, that job was taken over by student Cocoa Monitors.

"The school set very high standards, and I would say that 99 and nine-tenths of the students met those standards," Mrs. Siegel of Ottawa Hills said. "Behavior was not a problem. There was respect for others."

It was tough to get into the Glee Club, Mrs. Perlman of Sylvania said, and Mrs. Siegel said it sure was. Students who lacked good singing voices had the option of joining, but were told they had to mouth the words, she said.

They halted their Fulton recollections as they grabbed car keys from their purses for lottery ticket-scratch-off time. Ms. Stockstiel of Holland gives lottery tickets to her friends for their birthdays. But there's a catch.

"If you win, you have to split the money with Jo," Mrs. Siegel said.

Added Mrs. Bramson: "I won $2 and had to give a dollar back to Jo. We always celebrate each other's birthdays, but only Jo gives presents."

Money was hard to come by when the women were growing up. There was a drugstore across the street from the school. "If you had a penny, you could get a bunch of candy. But it was the Depression, and you never had too many pennies," Mrs. Siegel said.

Mrs. Steinman pointed out that Mrs. Bramson, who has written a self-published book about Toledo, is the club historian, keeping track of the details of the club and its members.

The women have much more in common than just being classmates. "We're all Jewish, and we share a

cultural history through our parents and grandparents," Mrs. Bramson said. And, they agree, they are all

good friends. They treasure their time together during their monthly club meetings.

"This is a nice way to get a group of friends together," Mrs. Stark said. "In this day and age, friends are so terribly important."

Contact Janet Romaker at:

jromaker@theblade.com or

419-724-6006.



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