COBWEB CORNERS: A last visit to Whittier Elementary
By Mel McFarland
The news about District 11's school closures reminded me that I wrote a story here some time ago about visiting Buena Vista School. I wanted to do one about the school where I started, Whittier. I had done a story or two before about the school's history, but I had a few memories I wanted to refresh.
My grandmother took me across Kiowa Street to be enrolled in kindergarten at Whittier in 1949. It started something I still live with. Mel, as any of you who read my books know, is not my first name. It was my grandfather's middle name, and the one he used instead of his first name, and my grandmother liked me having it!
The principal was Richard Ragsdale, and my first teacher was Mrs. Shepard. I attended Whittier into most of the second grade, when we moved. In grade school, I attended five schools: Whittier, Palmer, Buena Vista, Bristol, and Pike. All, but one on the Westside. Three in the recent school shuffle. As for "Palmer," you may think I mean the current Queen Palmer Elementary, but in fact that school was originally named for both Queen and her husband; his name was dropped from it when Colorado Springs High School was named William Palmer High.
I got to know the Ragsdale family well. Mrs. Ragsdale taught at West Junior and Wasson, and I never had her as a teacher. Mr. Ragsdale, I remember fondly. Even when I was a junior high school student, he remembered my name. He died, as I remember, in the late 1950s. In 1962, I went to work for his son, who had a photo studio.
When I walked into Whittier last month, it had changed a bunch! I was a student there before both additions to the 1901 building. The little folk had their rooms in the basement. That space has changed a bit over the years. And the old office, more recently a classroom, was just to the left at the top of the stairs.
Also, back then, the janitor had lived in a district-furnished house next door. This house was torn down when the addition on the west side of the school was built. All the old schools had one of these houses. The one for the old Midland School is still there!
I did not visit Pike, but my sister went to its farewell ceremony. I used to see Pike all the time when I lived in that neighborhood. I had spent half a year at Bristol waiting for it to open in 1956. A few of the sixth-grade boys, like me, still sang in the Bristol Boys Choir. Once a week we got on our bikes and rode down Chestnut to choir practice. That too, was the original Bristol, where my mother had gone to school!