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Remembering Normandy School

Published: Monday, Jan. 14, 2013 4:15 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Jan. 14, 2013 5:41 p.m. CDT
(BCR photo/Barb Kromphardt)
Scott Gerbitz stands on the front porch of Normandy School, located on Route 92 in Normandy. Although the school closed in the 1960s, it was later used as a community building, and now is used for storage by the Atherton family.
(Photo contributed)
The Normandy School District came into existence in 1853. The third schoolhouse, pictured here, was built in 1907 by Henry Kerchner.
(BCR photo/Barb Kromphardt)
The Normandy School looks fairly similar to the way it did when students attended there years ago. Scott Gerbitz has many memories of the school, the students who attended and his teacher, Gladys House. Gerbitz said there were usually about two students in each class.

NORMANDY — Scott Gerbitz doesn’t need to look through old photos to find memories of his school days at the Normandy School. All he needs to do is drive down Route 92 to see the Greenville Township school, looking much the same as it did during his years there.

Gerbitz said there were usually about two students in each class, or about 15 students in the entire school.

Gerbitz and classmate Clayton Blackert graduated together in 1955.

“I was second in my class,” he said with a laugh.

Gerbitz had the same teacher all eight years, Gladys House.

“When we played baseball, she was the pitcher for both teams,” Gerbitz said.

As the students got older, House kept pitching faster and harder.

“The first-graders didn’t get those fast balls,” Gerbitz said.

There weren’t enough students to field two teams, so they just fielded the infield.

“We probably couldn’t hit it that hard, anyway,” he said.

Gerbitz has many good memories about the school, particularly playing outside on the swing set and slide.

The children would bring their lunches to school with the sandwiches wrapped in waxed paper. When the sandwiches were eaten, the older boys would slide down the slide sitting on the sheet of waxed paper.

The wax made the slide nice and fast.

“The little kids were afraid to use it after we had gone down,” he said.

Gerbitz attended the school with his two brothers, one four years older and another four years younger. They, and most of the students lived in town, but Gerbitz said all of the students walked to school.

The Normandy School had indoor bathrooms, and Gerbitz said the older boys took turns going down the basement and bringing up a bucket of water to dump in the cistern every day.

The basement was also furnished with long tables, and the students would eat their lunch down there in the wintertime.

“Summertime, we’d always go outside,” he said.

For classes, Gerbitz said the students had individual desks. The teacher’s desk sat up on a foot-high stage, something many schools didn’t have. Gerbitz said the other schools in the area would come to Normandy for programs because of that stage.

Gerbitz said there was a Victrola record player in the classroom, and House taught the students square dancing.

One time a man visited the school and taught the students music.

“We wrote a song about the school, about the train going by, and then pretty soon it came back,” he said with another laugh.

On Thursday, Gerbitz returned to the school, which is now used for storage by the Atherton family. He descended the narrow flight of stairs and stood looking around the basement.

“I haven’t been down in quite a while,” he said. “These ceilings used to be a lot higher.”

Jean Atherton said few changes have been made to the building over the years.

“They just painted it last year, which it needed,” she said. “I said, ‘As long as you have it and it’s a good building, you don’t tear it down.’”

Atherton said the family doesn’t need the ground the school stands on for anything else.

“I prefer keeping things if they’re something that’s worth keeping, and I think the school’s worth keeping,” she said.

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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