Gathered on the grounds of Uniontown Elementary School Friday evening, students and teachers from past and present celebrated the bond that has united their school and community for more than a century.
Uniontown Elementary School is a tidy, four-room, red brick school that has been at the center of the town since 1883. The building houses four grades and kindergarten and is scheduled to be closed. Its students will be sent to a new, larger school, Runnymede Elementary, which is scheduled to open next fall.
When parent Gail White first sent her children to Uniontown seven years ago, "there was one class of each grade. That was really neat," she said. "Everyone knows everyone." She was one of many parents who quietly, but passionately, disapprove of the move to the larger, newer school.
Teachers, such as Margaret Brilhart, now 83, attended the outdoor event to reminisce. In 40 years as teacher and school principal, she had taught three generations.
Walter Brilhart spoke for his mother, who was unable to speak because of illness.
"She never expected less than excellence in this school, because that's the standard," he said. When she sees Runnymede, he said, "she will be really impressed. It's a great way to move forward."
State Sen. Charles Smelser, commemorative speaker at the event, had Mrs. Brilhart for first grade in 1926.
"They don't come better than that," he remarked. "She was a great favorite and a great teacher."
Senator Smelser's mother and sister had attended Uniontown; his father was a driver of the first school bus.
He remembered the 1931 addition to the original two-room 1883 school of kitchen, cafeteria, and "four classrooms and drinking fountains. What we missed the least were the outhouses."
The present charm of the tiny school was shown by the fourth grade. Not unlike their counterparts through the decades, the girls wore dresses of flowery prints. One boy wore a necktie. With beef cattle grazing on the farm behind them, they assembled in three neat rows to sing:
"If you were a little peach, I would be your fuzz. Best friends should be together. . . ."
Lynne Blacksten, music teacher, led the group. A photograph inside the school showed Mrs. Blacksten many years ago, a smiling student at Uniontown.
"Uniontown is the name of our school," said Dr. Mary E. Stong, also a former Uniontown student
who has served as principal for 17 years. "The building is made of bricks and mortar. But not the soul. It consists of love, warmth and genuine caring."
Later, the fourth grade danced while winding pink, yellow and green banners around three Maypoles.
The Maypole has been a Uniontown tradition.
A memorabilia display inside the school showed photographs of an elaborate May Day celebration, with king, queen and court, held outdoors 40 years ago. It was a tearful group of parents watching Friday, unsure if this tradition will be continued at Runnymede.
Dr. Stong, who will be principal at Robert Moton Elementary in the fall, read a brief poem of farewell written by Neil C. Fitzgerald.
"Children of the morning sun," she read, ". . . leave your echoes behind. . . ."