50-year anniversary for Howbert school Oct. 12

       In 1959, on Oct. 12, the doors first opened to students and staff at Howbert Elementary. In 1984, on the same date, to mark its 25th anniversary, the school's students and staff buried a time capsule near the flagpole with the instruction that it be opened 25 years later.

Susan Ball teaches her second-grade class at Howbert during the school's 25th anniversary school year (1984-85). Past teachers and students are invited to attend the 50th anniversary open house Oct. 12.
Courtesy of Howbert Elementary

       This coming Monday, Oct. 12, at 1:40 p.m., the Pleasant Valley school will commemorate its 50 years of history, starting with the unearthing of that capsule. If the weather's bad, the festivities will move to the gym. Former students, staff and community members are welcome to attend.
       After school, from 2:45 to 4 p.m., there will be an open house in which Howbert's alumni can “check out Howbert in 2009,” as the school's October newletter puts it, then adds, “Don't forget to wear your Howbert T-shirt.”
       Another event for school supporters is a gathering at Stargazers Theatre and Events Center, 10 S. Parkside Ave. (east of downtown), Saturday, Oct. 10. The cost is $10, with food and drink available for purchase.
       Among those planning to attend the Oct. 12 event at the school are Becky Stanley, who was one of the students who first walked through those doors in 1959; Linda Smith, who taught there for 29 years; and Joe Wallace, who was principal when the time capsule was buried. He left a note at that time, giving a general statement of what the capsule contained and including a request: “If I'm still around, please invite me to the opening of the capsule.”
       “I'm still around,” he laughed this week, when asked about the event. He and Smith were both present when the capsule was buried, although the passage of time has somewhat blurred their memories of what it contains. What the principal from 1973 to 1985 remembers going in were classroom pictures, “probably a yearbook” and a Howbert blue-and-gold T-shirt (designed by a dad back then who was a gifted artist).

Howbert Elementary cheerleaders root for the boys' softball team in a game on the Howbert field during the 1959-60 school year. Note the lack of houses at that time in the view west across 31st Street.
Courtesy of Becky Stanley

       “I believe we did something about how we thought the world would change in 25 years,” said Smith, who was at Howbert from 1969 to 1998. “It was a technology, culture and creative writing thing.” She doesn't have a precise recollection, though. When it's opened, “I'll be surprised too,” she said.
       What she's a little disappointed about is that many of Howbert's historical records seem to have gone missing. For instance, a photo in the 1984 scrapbook shows a couple of former teachers perusing scrapbooks from previous years during the 25-year celebration, but no one at present knows where those books are.
       Stanley, who went on to become a teacher at Buena Vista, has the only memorabilia from the first year that has currently surfaced. These include shots of her and other girls as cheerleader, complete with pom-pons. A fifth-grader at the time, she particularly remembers cheering on the Howbert boys' softball team in its games against Whittier and Buena Vista. The Whittier games were especially competitive because Howbert was largely formed of students who had been going to Whittier. “If we won a game, we would go and honk by Whittier,” she recalled with a grin.
       (Ironically, this year, several dozen students who had been attending Whittier were put into the Howbert attendance area as a result of Whittier closing.)
       Built at a cost of $307,000, the new Howbert school had seven classrooms and one kindergarten and opened with 200 students, according to a 1959 newspaper article in Stanley's scrapbook.
       At the time, Howbert was mostly by itself at the upper end of 31st Street. In years to come, as homes were built around the school and the area became known as Pleasant Valley, the enrollment would consist more and more of children from that neighborhood.
       Howbert opened about a month after the start of the school year because of weather problems that affected the construction schedule, the article states. During that month, the Howbert students-to-be went to Whittier, with administrators finding a way to “squish” them into classroom space with the teachers to whom they were assigned at Howbert, Stanley said.
       The first principal was Eunice Phillips, who Stanley recalls as having a uniquely rolled hairstyle and a “happy countenance.”
       Although the school's 1950s-style architecture hasn't changed much over the years, a big difference is that the space in the middle - which became a library/resource area in the early '70s - was originally not closed in (though it had a roof).
       The article also notes that the school was constructed “so that further additions can be made to the building at the least possible cost” - a helpful fact with a four- classroom addition being built onto its northeast end this fall, next to the playground.
       Discussing this addition, Smith mentioned that her classroom for much of her Howbert tenure was at the northeast end. “Well, we wouldn't be first onto the playground anymore,” she quipped.
       Wallace made a point of crediting the parents for their support during his years as principal. “The parent group was one of the strengths of the school, and I imagine it still is,” he said.
       This year is particularly special for Becky Stanley because her granddaughter just started in kindergarten at Howbert, making her the third generation in the family to go there. Both her boys went there in the '80s. “I'm sure there are others [with three generations],” she said, pointing out that people who attend the Oct. 12 open house are encouraged to write down their Howbert connections. Her belief is: “It's kind of that Westside thing where there's a strong community bond.”
       Smith had a similar assessment. “I always felt at Howbert, when I stepped in the door, that I wanted to stay there,” she said. “Maybe it's the kind of person I am, that I don't like change, but I felt comfortable there. It was a place I wanted to stay.”
       She'd even tell her students - who perhaps agreed with her without saying so - that she thought the school “had the best view of any school in the district,” taking in the Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak. “I would tell the kids, 'Do you realize how lucky you are?'”

Westside Pioneer article