TWINSBURG —It was a weekend of reminiscing for some area residents who attended the city’s "Old School," and an opportunity to learn a little about its history.
The Twinsburg Historical Society conducted an open house June 23-24 at its museum and Mail Pouch barn, which focused on the building across Route 91 that was razed earlier this year, and which sat on the site of the city’s first centralized school.
"We had around 200 people stop by," said historical society president Andy Tomko. "It was crowded at any one time, but there was a steady flow of people. We had some light rain, but that didn’t deter people from coming."
"Sixty years ago — in May 1958 — I stood with tears in my eyes as our class marched down the aisle in the auditorium of the Old School to receive our diplomas," said society member and Andy’s wife Betty Tomko.
"This year — in February — I stood with tears in my eyes as our school was torn down and leveled. But she will be remembered."
The historical society is doing its part to keep the memories alive.
Chairs from the auditorium, a stage curtain with a "T" on it donated by the Twinsburg High School class of 1950, an electrical box, a boiler plate, railings, mahogany trim, wall sconces, slate chalkboards, a basketball hoop and mercury lights are among items salvaged from the building that are now in the society’s possession.
Tomko said the society sold 44 auditorium seats, Old School T-shirts, 28 pieces of slate from the blackboards, pieces of the original wooden chalk ledges, about 50 bricks and miniature wooden likenesses of the Old School during the open house.
Some seats, T-shirts, bricks and pieces of slate are still available, but the miniature wooden school replicas are all gone.
Tomko said buyers of bricks can have them placed on a walkway in the historical museum’s garden, where an old bell from the previous school on the site and the Old School will be located.
"Sale of the items not only helps the society with its work, but it gives folks a chance to own a piece of the past," said Rich Bissell, who worked with Ken Roddie to get the artifacts ready for sale.
Tomko said sale of the items helps to maintain and restore the three society-owned buildings — the museum, Mail Pouch barn and the Riley house on Liberty Road.
Tomko said local high school students Tommy Kijauskas and Audri Carmoni set up a video booth at the open house so residents and / or former students at the Old School could share their memories in five-minute or less clips. The videos will be preserved in the society’s archives.
A video interview with local resident Daisy Walker ran for almost 15 minutes, according to Tomko, who noted that at least one former Old School teacher stopped by the open house.
Tomko credited Bissell and Roddie with moving most of the items from the school to the historical society grounds. Coach Mike Bell and some members of the Twinsburg High School Tiger football team also pitched in.
The Old School was razed by Ray Bertolini Trucking Co. at a cost of $199,775, after a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to delay demolition filed by Active Citizens of Twinsburg member Sally Gaydosh was rejected in Summit County Court of Common Pleas.
In recent years, the Committee to Save the Old School had sought to keep the building standing and use it for a worthwhile purpose, claiming it represented a specific and unique heritage in the city.
City officials hope the now vacant 16-acre site will be redeveloped as part of a downtown redevelopment effort. Twinsburg Director of Planning and Community Development Larry Finch has said the sandstone archway at the front of the now-gone building will be preserved and incorporated into the redevelopment project.
The original 1921 building was erected on the site where a previous school was destroyed by fire. It was expanded in 1952 and closed as a public school in 1992.
Daimler Chrysler used the 40,000-square-foot building as a United Auto Workers training center starting in 1995, and Kent State University occupied it until 2012 as part of its Geauga Campus.
Tomko said eight new historical society members were signed up during the open house, including two lifetime members. The society’s membership is now 198, the highest Tomko remembers in his years with the group.
"Our goal this year is to sign up 50 new members, and we’re already at 30-some," he said. "We have 14 business members."
Reporter Ken Lahmers can be reached at 330-541-9400 Ext. 4189 or firstname.lastname@example.org