DENVER – Nostalgia fills the halls at Rock Springs Elementary School, where administrators have planned a series of projects including – among other items – a floor-to-ceiling mural timeline of the school’s history in the lobby and a cafeteria gallery walk of old photos from past school years to celebrate 100 years of education in eastern Lincoln County.
“We want the community involved in this,” said Rock Springs Assistant Principal Alyssa Tench, whose family has attended Rock Springs for five generations. “We want new families and those with deep roots in this area to be committed to this school so its legacy will continue.”
The year-long centennial celebration of the opening of Rock Springs High School in 1923 has served as an opportunity for alumni to return to their old stomping grounds, which transitioned to its current use as an elementary school when East Lincoln High was built in the 1960s.
Among those alums is Lillian (Polly) Black Greene, a member of the 1948 graduating class who recently enjoyed a tour of the school as it stands today alongside her great-grandson, Oliver Utke, who started kindergarten at Rock Springs in August.
“I think it’s great that they’re celebrating the history of this school and that there’s so many past students willing to participate,” Greene, 92, said.
Having spent many days lending a helping hand on the family farm while in school – a practice that was common among many of her classmates at the time, especially while underclassmen during the final years of World War II – Greene’s recollection included only a handful of memories from her time at Rock Springs High.
“Principal (Harold) Little liked me so if a teacher had to leave early then I was the one left to take care of the classroom,” she said. “The teacher had left a test for my younger sister’s class to do, so I was walking up and down the rows of desks and here’s my sister who thought she’d outsmart everyone and pull her little cheat sheet out, but I just reached over and snatched it off her desk. She probably doesn’t remember that but it’s something I still think about.”
While specific memories of her time at the school were limited, Greene shared a vast collection of documents scrapbooked over the years, including a program prepared by classmate Dan Ballard ahead of the 50th reunion of the class of 1948. Within the program Ballard and several other classmates shared their memories of 50 years prior.
“In agriculture classes we visited nearby farms and were taught how to prune fruit trees, grape vines and castrate pigs,” Ballard wrote. “I remember the outside water trough that was at the back of the school building and the bathrooms that were in the basement with stairs that were located outside but under the roof. Sometime during our stay at Rock Springs the outside water troughs were taken away and water coolers installed in the building.”
For more information on the school’s efforts to preserve its history, visit rockspringshp.com.