There is a pirate ship. In an Old North basement classroom? Yes, it is January 1954, and never mind that adults see only a messy jumble of large wooden blocks and a broomstick flagpole. We 5-year olds in Mrs. (JoAnn) Frame’s Campus School kindergarten class know it is a pirate ship. How do we know? We built it before nap time, that is how.
A few years later, upstairs in the classroom by the middle staircase, Mrs. (Dee) Ray is reading the 4th grade a story. Mrs. Ray is a student teacher and a wonderful story reader. The one about Cherokee General Stand Waite is a spellbinder, but when she reads Mrs. (Gladys) Gayle’s class the book about the space alien boy, we are hooked on the printed word. When Mrs. Ray reads, we climb on an invisible bus and drive off on eye-opening adventures.
The following year, Mrs. (Florence) White, the 5th grade teacher down the hall, loves us. She prepares us for adolescence so well that I do not to collapse in a puddle of my own making when Sandra Grywalski kisses me at recess. In front of the other kids. On my lips. Well, on mine and on those of six other boys! Sandy is such a flirt.
It is the year of the square dance, as our state has just turned 50-years old, an anniversary which mandates performances of the musical, “Oklahoma” in every school across the state. From Old North, young performers march in single file into the Evans Hall Great Room where with disproportionate enthusiasm, Sandy Gosselin (the non-kissing Sandy), Mike Freeman, Steve Fears and the rest of the little Ado-Annies and Curlys do-si-do, allemand-left, and promenade home.
But it is Mrs. (Catherine) Haden who gives us 6th graders across the hall the confidence to face the future. She brings to class guest speakers: Three Campus School graduates of the previous year – big kids -- in our own classroom to prep us for Jr. High. You share lockers. You do not have to finish your milk. THERE IS NO RECESS! Oh, Sandy, how could we have known what lies ahead for us without Mrs. Haden’s help?
Between September 1953, when my classmates and I first entered Old North as kindergartners, to May 1961, when we crossed Boulevard to a Jr. High filled with strangers from Edmond’s two other sixth grade schools, Campus School prepared us for this new world. Central State College’s on-campus demonstration school for student teacher training made us into Edmond’s educational elite. Or at least we thought we were.
Who else, after all, had their own gym (Old Wantland Hall) with a swimming pool in the basement and a spiral staircase between floors? Who else had music lessons from a college teacher called Doctor Gardener? Where else could anyone have made a stage debut in theater so grand as Old Mitchell Hall, playing a one-armed, wooden Christmas solder (with his real left arm in his pants) while the lovely, magic ballerina Pam Manners danced around him? I digress.
What other school had a wonderful Speech and Hearing Program, and because of it, gave Edmond children classmates from Oklahoma City, who were so wealthy they did not have patches on their jeans? Whose 5th and 6th grade football teams (Little Bronchos and Colts) had real college student coaches? Not the Russell Daugherty Greens or the Ida Freeman Blues.
And who ever had such a wonderful student teacher as Mrs. Ray, who read stories to us?
Campus School in Old North carries precious memories for this group of Edmond Baby Boomers, some of whom grew up to be doctors, network engineers, stock brokers, one State Treasurer (Edward Ellis, 1987-90), college deans, and best of all, teachers.
Three cheers for Campus School and the Central State College teachers who cared so much about their youngest students. Three cheers for Old North, where dreams came true for wooden soldiers and pretty ballerinas.