Formerly a high school, a century of East Aurora education marked
By Matt Hanley email@example.com September 24, 2012 1:48PM
Tina Tinsley and son Nathan walk on the indoor track at Waldo Middle School Saturday during a 100th anniversary open house for the building. Tinsley attended the school from 1982-84 and shared her memories with her son, including gym uniforms she called "awful." Mary Beth Nolan~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 26, 2012 6:05AM
AURORA — On Aug. 24, 1912, the public was welcomed to a magnificent new three-story school on the corner of Jackson and Fox streets. Hundreds of people attended the open house, marveling at the largest and most expensive building in the city.
On that day, State Superintendent Francis G. Blair declared: “This building will stand for 100 years. It has equipment and conveniences good for years and years. Yet so fast are people progressing in the ways of education, even this splendid building will be outgrown.”
Blair’s prediction rang true last weekend, as Aurora residents were once again welcomed to the building at 56 Jackson St. for an open house. Indeed, 100 years later, the building was as solid as ever. Blair was right about the growth, too. While it opened as East Aurora High School, it is now K.D. Waldo Middle School.
On Saturday, more than 400 visitors marveled at the history in a school that opened just four months after the Titanic’s maiden voyage.
“The Titanic didn’t make it out of the first year, and this building is still standing,” former Waldo Principal Harrison Schneider said, as he looked over sign-in sheets that had been set out for visitors.
Alumni and staff autographed the poster board laid out on tables in the large multipurpose room. Although the signatures thinned out as you moved back through the decades, there were still plenty of names on the ’40s and ’50s. There were even four people signed in for the 1930s, including 100-year-old Elsie Ruth Armbruster Dieterich Wagner, who graduated with the East High class of 1930.
As people gathered at the posters, some ran into friends they hadn’t seen in years. Other alumni simply wandered the halls, reminiscing.
“Miss O’Neil was on the corner. Miss Dingle — she was the homeroom teacher. Miss Youngblood was the drama teacher,” Mel Oros remembered as he walked through the hallways with his wife.
Oros graduated from the building in 1954. He has fond memories of his school days, but none better than of a pretty sophomore, who was walking the halls with Oros Saturday, after 53 years of marriage.
Of course, reunions of this sort are good places for remembering how many things used to be something else. The list starts with Waldo, which was East High until 1957. Then there was the school’s multipurpose room, which used to have a balcony to watch musical performances. Then there’s the southwest corner, where there used to be giant study rooms.
At some point, they were divided into three classrooms, which is where Bob Cutter taught geography and English from 1959 to 1964.
“Yep, they’re still classrooms,” Cutter said as he peeked into a window. “A lot of kids I had here went on to be pretty darn successful — lawyers, doctors.”
Cutter graduated from the same school in 1950. He grew up in Oswego and hitchhiked to school in Aurora every day. He left the house at 7:20 a.m. and school started at 8:05 a.m., but he estimated he was only late two or three times in four years of school.
“Hitchhiking was OK back then,” said Cutter, who later served as an Aurora alderman.
As he talked about his school days, Cutter noticed a white-haired woman standing near the school’s entrance: it was Esther Lindahl, his typing teacher.
“It’s Cutter, right?” the 92-year-old said as soon when Cutter walked up. “I used to teach your sister, too.”
Lindahl ran into several former students Saturday. One even made a confession to her. In typing class, the boys used to sit almost shoulder-to-shoulder working at wooden tables. The former student said they’d time it so when they shoved the typewriter return bars, they’d clack into each other. Lindahl laughed when she heard this 60-year-old admission of a schoolboy hijinks.
“They were good kids,” she said.
As alumni filed out, one message on the poster board seemed to ring true for all the visitors.
“It was great! Woo hoo!” wrote Charles White III, class of 1987. “Let’s go back and do it again!”