School history study spans generations Students, senior citizens preserving memories of Ellicott City High

April 29, 1996|By Dolly Merritt | Dolly Merritt,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

History is the common thread binding students and senior citizen volunteers at Ellicott Mills Middle School, as they sew a wall hanging as part of a six-week project, "Tales of Seniors From Ellicott City High School."

The project -- which highlights the early days of the 57-year-old building on Montgomery Road -- comes to life every Tuesday as eighth-graders meet with graduates of what was formerly the Ellicott City High School, which opened in 1939.

With two more meetings to go, the students plan to complete a hanging that will illustrate the stories told by eight senior citizens, all of whom attend the Ellicott City Senior Center at Emory United Methodist Church.

On video and sound cassettes and in computer files, the students also record stories about air-raid drills, bloomers for gym class and collecting foil from cigarette wrappers because of the need for metal during World War II.

The results of all that work will be displayed on May 9 during the Enrichment Fair at Ellicott Mills, where other student projects also will be on view.

"One of our goals is to establish a relationship between young people and seniors," said Judie Cephas, resource teacher for the gifted and talented program. "We also want to preserve some of the history of the school so that we can have something to look back at, and we want to teach the kids how to document oral history; we want them to remember."

The project is an extension of an effort that started three years ago when Kim Martin -- then a sixth-grader, whose grandparents had attended classes in the same school building -- became interested in the school's history.

Ellicott City High School was converted into a junior-senior high school in 1947. After Howard High School opened in 1951, the building was used as a junior high school and then, in 1966, was changed to a middle school. The building was renovated in 1984 and renamed Ellicott Mills Middle School in 1988.

When the students were unable to find detailed information on the school in its media center, Mrs. Cephas stepped in, calling the school system's central office -- only to discover that the records could not be found.

So students took matters into their own hands and began to research the history themselves, interviewing a local historian and former teachers from Ellicott City High School.

Additional information came from records in the Board of Education and the Howard County Historical Society. Last year, all the information was documented on videotape.

This year, with help from the Howard County Office on Aging, students were connected to the Ellicott City Senior Center, where several Ellicott City High alumni volunteered to help with the project.

During a recent meeting, students gathered in groups to work on the wall hanging with the help of Velva Howard, 69, and Ella Stump, 70.

Rosalie Kerr, 73, who did not attend the Montgomery Road school, said she was helping in memory of her deceased brother, Phillip Moore, who graduated in 1940 from the school and died during World War II.

Phillip Moore is one of six students who died in the war and who are listed on a memorial plaque that hangs inside the school entrance. A panel in the wall hanging will include an American flag with the names of the deceased students.

"He was in the first graduating class, where he played football, soccer and baseball," said Mrs. Kerr, as she clutched her brother's yearbook.

Colleen Kirby, 13, and Sarah Beaumont, also 13, sat at a table with Mrs. Stump, who shared some of the memories of her alma mater. As the students listened, they worked on the design for their panel, which included the school colors, motto and flower for the class of 1943 -- the year Mrs. Stump graduated.

"We had a junior-senior prom banquet during the day, because we couldn't have lights on at night," Mrs. Stump told the students, recalling the war-time blackout.

Lauren McInturff, 13, said she hopes that efforts to document the school's history will ensure that no one ever tries to tear down the historic structure. No such plan is on the table.

"If [people] are learning about all the history and stories, I am sure they wouldn't tear the school down," said Lauren. "Probably they would preserve it in some way."

Pub Date: 4/29/96

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