In a note stuck to the teacher's desk, Howard G. Rogers (Shady Side Elementary, 1941-1947) recalls something to which students of any stripe can relate.
Largely funded by grants from the Maryland Historical Trust and the Maryland Humanities Council, the exhibit has established an archive of community memories.
That process is continuing. Guests can sit down at a "Memory Desk" and respond to a list of questions about their school days: What happened when you broke a rule? How was your school heated or cooled? What did you bring for lunch?
"It has been so interesting to learn these details," says Denniston, who sent questionnaires out to members of the community and got dozens of replies.
Then there's that 1966 letter.
Framed beside a chalkboard on which someone has been writing their ABC's, it informs the parents —presumably of a white child — that their daughter would be attending Lula G. Scott that September.
Five years after that, a full 17 years after Brown v. Board of Education deemed integrated education a right under the Constitution, the community opened Shady Side Elementary, an integrated institution that is still in operation.
In and out of school, the process was hard at times. Hicks tells of walking to the home of a friend in the mostly white Avalon Shores neighborhood and hearing racial insults. Jean Yvonne Johnson of Churchton, 58, felt intimidated starting at a formerly all-white school.
Yet throughout the film, the character of the speakers rises above bigotry.
Hicks was not brought up to judge by skin color, she says, and still doesn't. Johnson made friends, including one white girl others routinely picked on. And Bobby Bast, 75, a fourth-generation Shady Sider, tells the filmmakers that blacks and whites worked together as watermen, an experience that made them brothers.
"That water can get unfriendly and take you down. If you fall in, it don't make no difference what color you are. The bay isn't prejudiced," he says.
Jennifer Sturgell, a teacher at Shady Side Elementary and a fifth-generation resident, says her students are so used to an integrated life that they "don't see black and white." But it gives her pause that their exposure to people of other cultures is so slight.
She detects confusion, even fear, among grade-schoolers toward religions such as Islam, she says in the film, and hopes they'll be able to keep an open mind when they get older.
If that happens, they'll probably look back fondly on the education they've gotten.
"That's the nice thing about Shady Side," she says, sounding every bit a latter-day Miss Smith. "The [elementary] school is the hub of the community."
An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the race of Flora Ethel Andrews. The Sun regrets the error.
If you go:
WHAT: "Memories and Mementos," a retrospective on Shady Side's elementary schools
WHERE: The Captain Salem Avery Museum, 1418 East-West Shady Side Road, Shady Side
WHEN: 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Sundays through Jan. 1.