WITH VIDEO: Dartmouth remembers Gidley School
"This is my yearbook!" yelled Alex Clough, rushing over to pick up a plastic-bound, semi-dingy book with "1999" blasted across the cover.
Now a first-grade teacher at Quinn Elementary, Clough had spent five years in the "brick and mortar school" — as countless speakers would later refer to the Gidley School— that offered more than a graduation ceremony and class photo.
"[Second grade teacher Mrs. Kris Simon] had chicks that hatched in her classroom," Clough recalled. "We actually watched them hatch."
Clough was one attendee in a full auditorium at Quinn Elementary on February 13. Former staff, students, and town representatives had gathered to remember the now-shuttered K-5 school slated for demolition.
The 84-year-old school opened in 1923, and witnessed the birth of the telephone and the television, and 24 elections, pointed out former Gidley School principal Lorraine Granda.
The school's oldest living principal was there to speak as well.
Dr. John Fletcher last served as principal in 1985. Speaking to a room of familiar faces, he told the audience that working at Gidley was the best job he'd ever had, due to the caring staff and supportive community. Afterward, he commented on the property's future as home to a new police station.
"Constantly, all the principals, staff, and teachers were very concerned with the safety of the children, and it's very appropriate now that it's going to be a police station, where they will take care of the safety of the people of the town," he said.
The school is the namesake of Job Gidley, a Quaker living in Smith Mills Village in the late 1800s. As town moderator, Gidley was ahead of his time, often giving women a chance to be heard to the frustration of the patriarch, said Ben Waite, Gidley's great-great-grandson and a 1983 graduate.
Gidely would hate to see the school be demolished, but wouldn't want an unused building as a memorial, Waite added, before recalling the time he contracted chickenpox in the first grade.
"Ms. Letterman is here, and reminded me that we had to cancel the school play [because of the contagious virus]," he laughed.
Former Gidley School principal Dr. Carol Karafotis, who currently serves on the School Committee, along with former teachers Kathy Garth and Marylou Clarke echoed similar sentiments that the people working in the school made it special.
"They all gave their time, their talent, and sometimes their money to make Gidley better," said Granda, remembering after-school cooking and scrapbooking programs, Halloween events and school plays, and Souper Bowl can drives for the Council on Aging food pantry. "Everything we did, we had 100 percent turnout."
School officials were happy with the turnout for the school's farewell event, commenting that attendees had braved the ice and the cold to partake in the collective memory of Gidley School.
And townspeople have plans to keep the memorial going.
Historical & Arts Society president Bob Harding said the society will host a "Remembering Gidley School" lecture, although the date has not yet been determined, while Clarke announced that a permanent exhibit will be housed in the new North Dartmouth library, to be built on Cross Road.
Dr. John Fletcher recalls serving as principal at the now-shuttered Gidley School.