Memories astound during Seaford school open house
By Lynn R. Parks
The talk among the members of the class of ‘65 was all about exploding toilets.
“We were all in a school assembly and the principal was speaking,” said Barry Slater, 57, of Seaford, a graduate of Seaford High School. “All of a sudden, there was this big boom. We all turned to each other and said, ‘What the hell happened?’”
As it turned out, the boom was from a cherry bomb that a member of the class of ‘64 - “I want to make sure that you know that he was not in our class,” said 1965 graduate Donna Angell - had lit, thrown into a toilet in the boy’s second-story bathroom and then flushed.
“The toilet was completely blown up,” said classmate Barry Calhoun of Seaford.
Following the explosion, the principal called another assembly. “We all sat there and he said that we would have to stay there until somebody confessed,” said class member David Spencer. “We sat there for about an hour, but nobody said anything.”
As far as the classmates can recall, no one was ever punished for blowing up the toilet, and for causing such damage to the plumbing system that that bathroom and the boy’s bathroom on the third floor were out of commission for some time. But, “we all knew who it was,” said Angell. “Kids always know.”
The members of the class of 1965 were among about 150 people who visited Seaford Middle School, formerly Seaford High School, on Sunday to mark the building’s 75th birthday. The classmates gathered in the school foyer to exchange reminiscences - about a civics teacher who grabbed Slater by the throat and threw him against a wall.
About the day President John Kennedy was assassinated. “All the girls just sat there and cried,” said Norma Dukes of Seaford.
About pep rallies and dances after lunch in the gym. The music included hits by the Four Seasons, the Lettermen, Frankie Avalon, the Beach Boys and, of course, Elvis.
Spencer remembered that, as a member of the school’s football team, he broke his finger. He came out of the game onto the sidelines, where his broken finger was taped to the intact finger next to it.
“I went up to the coach and told him about my finger and he just pointed to the field and said, ‘Get back in there.’ I went back into the game and played with that taped up finger,” Spencer said. “We were tough. If you weren’t tough, you weren’t a Blue Jay.”
Spencer’s football coach, Robert Dowd, was one of several former administrators who spoke during the ceremony. Dowd came to the Seaford School District as a teacher in 1946, fresh out of World War II. He was junior high school principal through the early 1970s and retired as acting superintendent in 1975.
During his tenure, he coached football and basketball teams. The school’s football stadium is named after him.
Dowd said that he ended up at the Seaford School District after a night spent partying with his brother, who lived in Philadelphia.
“I had two interviews, one in Philadelphia and the other in Seaford,” he said. “I had a brother who was a blacksmith in Philadelphia and after my night with him I was too sick to go to the Philadelphia interview. I made it to Seaford, though, and I’ve been here ever since.”
Former district superintendent Ken Madden told the audience that he owes his success “to this school and to this community.” Madden came to the district in 1952 and the school, which at that time housed all 12 grades, “was one of the nicest schools anyone could imagine.”
Under Madden’s leadership, West Elementary School was built in 1953, Central Elementary in 1959 and the new high school in 1966.
Dr. Jack Rawlins, of Seaford, was voted “most likely to succeed” by his class of 1939. He said that the school building has meant a lot to the Seaford community.
“Reading, writing, home economics, manual training, French, Latin, biology; you name it, we learned it here,” he said. “This building is the reason we have so many Seafordians who have been so successful.”
Rawlins remembered that the basketball court, which doubled as the school’s stage, had little room for running out of bounds. “When you have a stone wall just 2 feet past the net, it is a little difficult to make a lay-up,” he said.
Rawlins took the district to task for installing “garish” red window replacements across the front of the school. “That is Laurel’s color,” he said.
But former principal George Stone said that the school has three fine architectural features: a large window in the principal’s office, overlooking the Odd Fellows Cemetery (“So I was always reminded of my mortality”), a private bathroom for the principal (“I would trade every conference room for a private bathroom”) and a great stickball court next to the rear parking lot.
“I spent a lot of time out there, playing with the kids,” said Stone, now superintendent of the Delmar School District.
Seaford Mayor Dan Short graduated from Seaford High School in 1968, two years after the new high school opened. But he has many memories from the two grades, ninth and 10th, that he spent in the old high school.
“The people of the community made this building what it is today,” Short said. “And a lot of people who were here did a lot for me that made me what I am today.”
Former principal Dowd said that all of his six children graduated from the Seaford School District. “They were all well-educated, they all went to college and they all are successful,” he said.
“I gave everything I had to this school,” Dowd said at the end of his talk. “And I owe everything that came to me to this school. That’s my story.”
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