Sharing the value of a good education

Grade school class of 1945 returns to Northwest Baltimore roots

  • Stephen Sachs, left, and Dr. Charles "Chick" Silberstein, right, who graduated in 1945 from Liberty Elementary, greet students in the Pre-K class, including Ty'nasia Washington (rear, shaking hands) and Angelo Winston (also shaking hands with Silberstein).
Stephen Sachs, left, and Dr. Charles "Chick" Silberstein,… (Baltimore Sun photo by Lloyd…)
May 09, 2010|By Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun

A yellow school bus carried 17 graduates back to the Northwest Baltimore elementary school where they had been students during the final days of World War II. Most had never returned to their alma mater, and all had long moved on from the Forest Park and Ashburton neighborhoods where they lived many years ago. Before this reunion, many had not seen each other in decades.

But the group had decided to gather to celebrate the 65th anniversary of their grade school graduation and to give a little something back to the students who were walking in their footsteps at the school, which remains a neighborhood elementary school.

By the end of the day, the Class of 1945 at Baltimore City Public School 64 — the Liberty School — presented Principal Beverly Woolford with a check for $3,000 to be used for the school at her discretion. At an assembly, the school's students broke into applause as the 1945 graduates beamed back in appreciation.

"In my heart, this was a golden moment," said Woolford. "It was a first experience welcoming that many people into the building. We worked very hard, both students and staff. It became a highlight of my career."

As their contribution, the Liberty School students and their teachers put on a revue, "Sentimental Journey," as a way of recalling the time when the alumni were in class at the school. The children danced the jitterbug to the accompaniment of 1940s music. There were bulletin boards that recounted the news events of the period as well as some of its popular-culture landmarks, such the film " Casablanca."

"Obviously the staff used this as a teaching opportunity," said former state Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs, a member of the class.

The schoolchildren spoke at the assembly and told the graduates what happened in world history in the years they were students at the brick schoolhouse on Maine Avenue.

One student told the 1945 class what the 1944 Gross National Product was, prompting Dr. Charles "Chick" Silberstein to say, "When we were students here, we never heard of a gross national product."

The 1945 class members smiled broadly as the students sang and danced; many wore costumes and jaunty hats that recalled the period.

"It was incredible to think of the time, effort and nurturing the faculty spent on those kids, said Silberstein. "The dancers were marvelous. They could have been on Broadway."

"We consider you schoolmates. We belong to the same club," Sachs told the students.

The 1945 class has prepared a plaque to commemorate the day. Its text notes that the "students and staff welcomed us with warmth and style. They decorated the school with memorabilia that evoked our student years. … They performed. … Our reunion visit confirmed that those values endure at Liberty School."

After the assembly and the check presentation, the 1945 class toured the school and watched a class in session. They then reboarded the school bus for an hourlong tour of the old neighborhood. They saw their homes, or those of other classmates and friends, on Granada, Sequoia and Liberty Heights. They passed the Forest Theater and the old Beth Tfiloh buildings, the Forest Park branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library and the site of Carlin's Park.

They learned that two 1945 classmates, Stan Duke and Eleanor Strouse, had married.

"We hadn't been back to the school because I was hired by [ World War I flier] Eddie Rickenbacker at Eastern Airlines. We married and moved around quite a bit. I was Eastern's senior pilot," said Duke, who lives in Hilton Head, S.C. "Returning to Baltimore and being at the school was an emotional experience."

His wife, Eleanor, said, "I was impressed by the kids. Their effort and the research and the teachers were so kind. … They were so warm to us."

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