Former students visit old Powers Elementary before demolition

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JASON HAWK
EDITOR

Glue sticks and cafeteria food.

That’s what the inside of Powers Elementary School smelled like Sunday to Jessica Barnes.

Scents proved to be powerful triggers for former students who visited the Washington Avenue school one final goodbye before the 67-year-old building is torn down.

For Guy Wharton, who attended in the mid-1960s, the smell that mattered as he stood in the school’s combination gym and cafeteria was no-bake cookies.

He tasted no-bake cookies there for the first time a half-century ago. “I can almost taste them right now,” Wharton said.

Now a bassist for the band The Buckshot, he also got his first turn on stage at Powers. It was for a play, and Wharton recalled wearing a cowboy hat and holster.

The sounds of school were also important to Barnes. Her favorite memory was “probably when I was in third grade and we would sing a lot of songs in class,” she said — especially “You Are My Sunshine.”

Looks sure have changed. Most saying farewell Sunday took time to hunt through yearbooks to see pictures of their younger selves and old friends.

Russ Marty, a 2000 graduate, now teaches at Steele High School and is the district’s historian. He shared a laugh at his own Powers Elementary class photo, and the bowl cut he wore.

“That poor kid,” he joked.

Just inside the school’s entrance, a video recorded in 1961 by namesake and former principal Fred Powers showed smiling kids marching to class.

Marty, who is Powers’ great-grandson by marriage, said the principal loved to record on a handheld tape recorder, capturing kids stepping off the school bus or performing in holiday concerts.

Today, Beth Schwartz serves as principal and is the steward of the old Powers building in its final month.

“My fondest memories are always seeing kids when they come in in the morning,” she said. “They’re so excited and they’re sometimes even holding hands. They have a great energy.”

The lights will turn off at Powers on Thursday, Dec. 19, when kids leave for winter break.

That afternoon, teachers will pack the last of their classroom materials to be taken to the new PK-3 school on South Lake Street, said Schwartz.

The public can tour the new school at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 5, when a dedication ceremony is planned. Students will report to the first day of classes at the new Powers on Monday, Jan. 6.

The old school is scheduled for demolition this spring.

Asbestos and other hazardous materials will be removed starting in late January or early February

and the walls will be torn down in late March or early April.