Odenton pupils probe pre-VCR dark age of 1967 WEST COUNTY -- Crofton * Odenton * Fort Meade * Gambrills

October 27, 1992|By Arthur Hirsch | Arthur Hirsch,Staff Writer

In the mind of a 9-year-old it must seem eons ago. Imagine, 1967, a dark age before Nintendo, compact discs and VCRs, when the bulldozers tore into an old farm to make way for an elementary school in Odenton.

Rachel Frieder's eyes grew wide at the very thought: 25 years ago. Imagine.

"THAT'S long," said Rachel, of Odenton, who attends fourth grade at Waugh Chapel Elementary School, which last week celebrated its silver anniversary. "I think they were a lot stricter" in the school in those early days, she guessed. "They weren't walking around wearing these cool things."

Rachel had not heard about tie-dyed elephant bell-bottoms, hip-huggers or psychedelic T-shirts. She was unschooled in the ways of Haight-Ashbury, Jimi Hendrix and Timothy Leary. She figured it was all pretty formal and stiff way back then, around the time her mother was born.

Rachel was among more than 400 Waugh Chapel students gathered in the assembly room last Thursday afternoon, listening to the grown-ups on the stage talking medieval history -- 1967. You mean, like, they had no fax machines?

"They didn't have much electricity," guessed Edward Nowottnick, who also is 9 and in fourth grade. "I imagine it was pretty dark out in school."

The fourth-grader figured kids in school back then dressed "probably like you go to church. . . . They probably didn't have recess, either."

On the positive side, he imagined that when his school was built "they probably had a lot of trees around."

The school building rose on property that was once part of the old Hammond family plantation, an 18th-century land grant that at one time encompassed about 10,000 acres, stretching from Waugh Chapel Road to Routes 170 and 175. Over the centuries, the plantation was broken up, sold off and developed piece by piece.

On the day of last week's ceremony, more of the old Hammond plantation was being swallowed by suburbia as crews erected houses at the Stonegate subdivision, right next to the school.

Three descendants of the Hammond family attended the ceremony, including Linda Stoll, Rachel's fourth-grade teacher. She told the assembly that by teaching at Waugh Chapel, she feels she has one foot planted in the s future, another in her family's past.

On Nov. 1, 1967, the school opened with Ruth Pratt as principal. Ms. Pratt now lives in California and could not attend the ceremony. But her successor, Robert Masters, was there to present a time capsule that was buried by sixth-graders way back in 1980.

"Twelve years ago," said Mr. Masters, who was succeeded last year by Principal Joyce Fink. "How many of you think that was a long time ago?"

With that, hundreds of tiny arms shot up, a nearly unanimous vote. Mr. Masters explained that the 1980 sixth-grade class meant for the cinder block capsule to remain buried until 2010, but school officials decided to jump the gun for the 25th anniversary ceremony.

Mr. Masters poked through the cinder block and produced for display the following items: a No. 2 pencil, a compass, an erasable pen, a few Matchbox cars, a couple of comic books, an American flag. Most revealing was the front page of the Washington Star of Nov. 5, 1980, the day after Election Day.

"It's a Landslide" blared the headline over a photograph of president-elect Ronald Reagan. It may have been morning in America, but it was dusk for the Star, which folded nine months later.

A news brief inside reported that an East German border guard took a shot at one of his colleagues at the Berlin Wall and defected to West Germany. It was as good a reminder as any that 12 years can be a long time in world politics, and it made a fitting counterpoint to the current fourth grade's offering for the 1992 time capsule: a piece of the Berlin Wall.

That bit of Cold War memorabilia went into the new capsule along with, among other things, a pencil and button bearing the logo of D.A.R.E., or Drug Abuse Resistance Education, a concept that to Waugh Chapel youngsters in 1967 would have seemed as weird as a laser beam in your stereo system.

"They didn't have so many programs about drug education because there weren't as much drugs then," said Rachel, getting it half right. Perhaps Waugh Chapel should offer "Introduction to the 1960s" in its next term. Then again, maybe not.

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