Whittier alumni recall school of late 30s, early ‘40s

       The people didn't look quite the same, but then the school they attended has seen some changes too.

During a tour of the former Whittier Elementary (now the Bijou School) with fellow attendees at their reunion Sept. 10, Dr. Kenneth Goldsberry (sitting on table) shares a story about a teacher he once had. Their class had started at Whittier in 1937, with some of them going on to graduate from Colorado Springs High School with its Class of 1950.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Memories of the late 1930s and early '40s flowed during a reunion Sept. 10 of nine former Whittier Elementary students.
       They spent about an hour strolling around their former school, which had become the home of the Bijou School (alternative high school) two years ago. They remembered the building when it was smaller - lacking the later, lighter-brick additions on the east end for administration and classrooms and on the west end for a larger gym. And they talked about people and places from long-ago days, reminscing about favorite teachers and poems they had to memorize and stairways made of wood (now concrete) and a playground (now a parking lot) where a drinking fountain and a tetherball pole used to be.
       Some things that had not changed were happily noted, such as the classroom layouts, the metal ceilings, the hallway coat hooks and the “Whittier School 1901” nameplate etched in stone and installed into the brick facade at the front of the building.

After enjoying the discovery that the hallway coathooks from their day remain in place, several of the Whittier reunion group enter a classroom where many of them wrote with a quill and inkwell in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Dr. Kenneth Goldsberry, who had helped organize the event, was pleased to see that the school's boiler looked the same too… however, it was coal-fired in his day, as opposed to gas now. He also had a story about getting to know the janitor back in his Whittier days and being paid a silver dollar for going in and cleaning the boiler out.
       A classmate recollected that Joan (Sispela) Gordon had done a great job of memorizing the “Ride of Paul Revere” one year at Whittier. The next thing Joan knew, Carol Parks (one of the Bijou teachers) had gone out to the Internet, found the poem and printed it for her.
       Joan, who grew up near Adams Crossing, said she later graduated from Denver University and has lived in Colorado Springs ever since, working several years as a kindergarten teacher.
       She and others lamented the lost art of penmanship. In their days at Whittier, Joan said that kids had to become adept with a pencil before they were allowed to use a quill and inkwell.
       Alumnus Tom Tidemanson was amazed to think that it's been 72 years since he started kindergarten at Whittier. Like many others from the school, he went on to graduate from Colorado Springs High School in 1950. In fact, the Whittier reunion was a side piece to the reunion of the CSHS class the same weekend.
       A favorite memory of Tidemanson's from his childhood days was deer hunting off Rampart Range Road.
       Bessie Radspinner, who attended grades K-2 at Whittier with that class, said she had looked forward to going to school. “My main memory was the first day of kindergarten,” she said. “That was the happiest day of my life.”
       Fred Clark, part of the family that ran the Clark's service station for many years in the 2700 block of Colorado Avenue, has even written a multi-page account of growing up on the Westside, which he has presented to the Old Colorado City Historical Society. A segment is included in this issue (see top of page). Clark now makes his home in Silverton during the summer and Florida during the winter.
       Goldsberry shared an “Encyclopedia Brown” sort of sleuthing adventure. One night someone broke into the school. It was right after the janitor had painted the floor. So the burglar left tennis shoe footprints. At the janitor's urging, Goldsberry kept alert for someone with shoes with that sole and size and eventually traced it to someone who lived across the street. However, he said, “I never did hear what happened.”

Westside Pioneer article