A Golden Celebration At Garfield

A Golden Celebration At Garfield

Laced in a web of community togetherness, the old and the new gathered together on the field at Garfield Elementary School on Friday, Oct. 17. The event marked the Springfield school's 50th anniversary, making it one of the oldest elementary schools in the area.

Alice George Chisholm just happened to be visiting her parents in her old house in Springfield and saw the celebration as she drove by. Chisholm went to Garfield from 1962-68 and then Washington Irving Middle School. A 1974 graduate of Lee High School, She now lives in Georgia.

"I ran into my sixth-grade teacher here," Chisholm said. "She remembered me."

Chisholm witnessed the highlights of the 1960s while sitting in class at Garfield. The assassination of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were part of her experience.

"All those events were very personal," she said, remembering in those days that they didn't have televisions in the classrooms, so they wheeled in a television on a cart.

"There was a girl in my class whose father was killed in Vietnam," Chisholm said. "When I was a freshman in Lee High School, that's when girls could start wearing pants."

In the years following, Chisholm was married in the Springfield United Methodist Church across the street.

"It was very family-oriented, a closely knit community," she said.

Ruth Thorpe was a librarian at Garfield for 30 years. She retired last year but was back for the celebration.

"It's always been a warm, friendly place," Thorpe said.

Brett Kirby was a newcomer to Garfield. This year he started his first teaching job as band director and played at the gala event with the newly named "Brett Kirby Jazz Trio," with Chantilly resident Patrick Moss on drums and Burke resident Brian Keegan on bass. Kirby got a good feeling from his first day at Garfield.

"Everyone that works here is fantastic, very welcoming," he said.

With the trio at one end of the courtyard, the field was dotted with the "Taste of Springfield," which consisted of Springfield restaurants of all types.

"It's really a good example of the community supporting the school," said assistant principal Maureen Marshall.

Fifty years ago, Springfield was a different place. In 1950, the population in Springfield was 300, and the Crestwood Construction Co. purchased 500 acres for homes along Backlick Road. This was the start of Springfield's suburban reputation.

In 1952, the plans for Garfield were hashed out, and classes met temporarily in the existing Franconia Elementary School, with their principal, James Robinson, responsible for both schools. In September 1953, Garfield opened, and Robinson moved over as the new school's principal. Garfield was renovated in 1967-68 and again in 1989.

Springfield United Methodist co-pastors Dan and Pam Horner were involved with Garfield through the years. Currently, they have a mentoring program in which parish members read with students, as well as an emergency arrangement.

"We have a formal agreement to be a evacuation center in emergencies," Dan Horner said.

The school had an emergency drill last week. The church is celebrating its 50th anniversary next year. In the first year of the school's existence, the ground-breaking ceremony was moved inside the school because of rain. They used a flower pot for the official golden shovel routine, according to Pam Horner.

Reading teacher Lisa Merkel is in her seventh year at Garfield.

"We're such a small school that we get to know each other so well. I drive from Herndon to be here, I feel so strong about it," she said.

Alexandra Rivera, a fourth-grader, is following in her brothers and sister’s footsteps. Two brothers and one sister attended Garfield. Her favorite activity every year is the Sock Hop, a dance that takes place the first week of school every year.

"You get to dance and act all crazy," she said.