When Randallstown Elementary first opened its doors, William Jennings Bryan ran for president, the Orioles led the Eastern League by 10 games, and a round-trip train ticket to Niagara Falls cost $10.65.
That was 85 years ago.
Today, 300 chattering schoolchildren will mark the school's anniversary with a flag-raising and ribbon-cutting ceremony. Former school Superintendent Robert Y. Dubel, who graduated from Randallstown Elementary in 1937, will give one of the speeches.
"This school is truly a landmark to quality education," said Barbara Harding, who is in her first year as Randallstown's principal. "This is an opportunity for the community to recognize its rich heritage."
The heritage includes rats.
According to current PTA president Phyllis Bloom, legend has it that the school building owes its existence to Miss Kitty Fite, whose class was interrupted one day by a rat skittering across the floor of her room in the Knights of Pythias Hall, which served as a school.
The school commissioner and the school superintendent didn't believe her complaint. Then they visited the school and saw a rat.
Miss Kitty bargained with the two gentlemen in extremis, and won. In September 1908, a four-room school opened with Miss Susie McClure as principal.
No one knows how many students attended the first day, or how many have attended since, but as former principal Stephen Mackert says, "The school has been a cornerstone of the community. It parallels the growth of Baltimore County."
Randallstown Elementary became a high school in 1918. A dozen classrooms and an auditorium were added in 1926. The last high school class graduated in 1931. After that, Randallstown again became an elementary school with grades one through eight. More classrooms, a cafeteria and a gym were added in 1938.
Now Randallstown is for prekindergarten through fifth-grade, with 37 faculty and staff members. One of the teachers is Barbara Tillman, who has taught second-grade at Randallstown since completing college in 1963.
"This is a wonderful school and wonderful children," she said yesterday in her classroom. "I'm really going to miss them."
Ms. Tillman will retire at the end of the school year.
School Superintendent Stuart Berger also will attend the ceremony. County Councilman Melvin G. Mintz, D-2nd, will give the rededication speech, and VFW Post No. 521's honor guard will present a new flag to the school.