When Herndon Elementary School opened its doors for the first day of classes on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1961 at 8:30 a.m., longtime Herndon resident Elma Mankin could be found busy at work as the school’s first secretary.
"I have a suppressed desire to slide down the banister," said Mankin on Sunday, May 5, at the celebration of the school’s 40th anniversary. "I do remember one of the most unusual things," she said. "A little boy was being paddled — that was in the day when students could be paddled — and the intercom was on. That was the one time you could hear a pin drop," said Mankin. She said the paddle said "board of education – applied psychology." Mankin served as secretary in the current elementary school building for 20 years after five in the previous building and before a five-year stint at Herndon High School.
Lifelong Herndon resident Connie Hutchinson also participated in the opening of the building in 1961, as a second grader. "There were about 300 students — and no trailers," said Hutchinson, who runs the Visitors Center at the Herndon Depot. "The school is pretty much the same — the front two hallways, the cafeteria, but the library was originally upstairs," she said.
Hutchinson recalled a day in either third or fourth grade. "I had to bring something to the office and was returning to class very slowly. Mr. [Dudley] Page [principal] came up from behind, picked me up and brought me back to class. ‘Get to class,’ he said. I was mortified," said Hutchinson.
HERNDON ELEMENTARY principal Carolyn Gannaway played host at an assembly during the Sunday open house, at which time she explained that the 40th anniversary is a celebration of the current school building. Herndon Elementary became a separate entity in 1957, operating out of the current Herndon Middle School building, she said.
"It’s like a reunion here," said Gannaway. "People have seen people that haven’t been here in 10 years," said the school’s newest principal having begun her tenure on Feb. 5, 2001. During her remarks, she named a number of former and retired teachers who returned for the celebration, including former principal Wayne Chester and former teacher James "Jim" Grimes.
Grimes, on the opening day staff in 1961 taught fourth and sixth grades, among others, as he recalled. "I remember when we had to teach art, music and P.E. [physical education] in addition to" the academic subjects, he said. "I had 11 sixth grade girls teaching P.E. I was the sixth girl on the other team. I requested a 12th girl from the office," said Grimes, 78, still teaching — at the Leesburg Detention Center. "I really enjoy it there," he said.
"MY DAD was a student here," said current sixth grader AJ Williams, 12, of Herndon, who attended the event with his father. "I came to see some of my friends and some of his teachers," said Williams, who enjoys science and is taking seventh grade mathematics while still in sixth grade.
"I got to see my fourth grade teacher — Mr. Grimes," said AJ Williams’ father, Scott Williams, a Herndon Elementary student from 1966-72. Although Williams lived in Herndon prior to first grade, he did not attend kindergarten at Herndon Elementary. "You had to pay for kindergarten back then. My parents couldn’t afford it," said Williams, also remembering the air raid drills of the ‘60s.
"The school had a bomb shelter under the building — probably isn’t there with the renovations. We had air raid drills at least one every couple of weeks. A huge siren went off — we didn’t know if it was a drill or the real thing. We either hid under our desks or in the shelter. It’s like today — pangs of terrorists — like what we went through worrying about the Russians," said Williams.
Also reliving memories, but through pictures scattered on tables in the gymnasium was social studies teacher Anne Friedman, of Herndon. "I first came during the addition of the gymnasium. There was a lot of dust and construction," said Friedman, who looked at pictures with current sixth grader Bevin McGibbon.
"I’m looking at pictures of older teachers — they’re funny," said McGibbon, a member of the school’s student council. "I enjoy the clubs here, especially the newspaper," she said.
"It’s the parents, teachers and staff that make this building a school," said Herndon Elementary PTA president Peggy Smith. "Here’s to another fantastic 40 years."
Kim Coffman, representing longtime business partner Minerals Management Services, congratulated the school "on educating the community over 40 years," as he presented Gannaway with a surplus laptop computer. MMS has contributed more than 60 surplus computers to the school in its over 10-year relationship with Herndon Elementary.
"This program was excellent," said Town Councilman Dennis Husch, following the video presentation that concluded the assembly. "This school system is the heart of the community. Most volunteers start here at the school level. My start in this school was with the Tiger Cub Scouts when Jason was about seven," said Husch of his son. The council was also represented by William "Bill" Tirrell, Sr.
Making a presentation was former mayor and current Del. Thomas Davis Rust (R-86th). Bringing a proclamation from Richmond along with good wishes from Gov. Mark Warner, Rust said his family at one time lived four doors from Herndon Elementary and that his daughter attended. Two of his grandchildren attend currently.