October 16, 2019

“Celebrate Center!” Historians Visit Old Lyme Historical Society Exhibit

The entire committee in front of a Celebrate Center display that showcased original signage and furniture: kneeling (left to right): Anne Colangelo, Lizzy Duddy, and Lauren Presti. Standing, left to right:  Emily Nickerson,  John Coffey,  Gabe Katwaru,  Zoe Jensen, and Elise DeBernardo.

The entire committee in front of a Celebrate Center display that showcased original signage and furniture: kneeling (left to right): Anne Colangelo, Lizzy Duddy, and Lauren Presti. Standing, left to right: Emily Nickerson, John Coffey, Gabe Katwaru, Zoe Jensen, and Elise DeBernardo.

On Thursday, June 4, seven of the eight students who were the driving force behind the May 1 “Celebrate Center!”  ceremony and display visited their new neighbor, the Old Lyme Historical Society (OLHS), to take in their current exhibit, “A Glimpse of Early Schools in Lyme, Connecticut, 1650-1868.”  The invitation was extended by Kevin Cole, a member of the OLHS Board of Trustees, Region 18 Liaison; Center School alumnus; and a fifth-grade teacher there, recently retired.

Alison C. Mitchell and Kevin Cole address the Celebrate Center committee when they visited the Old Lyme Historical Society.

Alison C. Mitchell and Kevin Cole address the Celebrate Center committee when they visited the Old Lyme Historical Society.

Although these students did not have ‘Mr. Cole’ as a classroom teacher, he was a familiar, popular presence at the school. Exhibit Chair Alison C. Mitchell, along with Cole, greeted the children and, after time for refreshments provided by the Historical Society, guided them through the various displays.

The 'Celebrate Center' Committee stands in front of the school (left to right): Lauren Presti, Elise DeBernardo,  Lizzy Duddy, Emily Nickerson, Zoe Jensen, Gabe Katwaru, and John Coffey. Missing from photo: Anne Colangelo.

The ‘Celebrate Center’ Committee stands in front of the school (left to right): Lauren Presti, Elise DeBernardo, Lizzy Duddy, Emily Nickerson, Zoe Jensen, Gabe Katwaru, and John Coffey. Missing from photo: Anne Colangelo.

The students learned that during this historical period, local school districts certified their teachers to teach; a certificate is on display. Along with numerous photos, there are such artifacts as a schoolmaster’s watch; schoolbooks of the day, including a hornbook—students were surprised at the small size of some of these books; a slate pencil; toys; and a flag with 13 stars.

Fifth-grader Lizzy Duddy was intrigued by the books. “They were very interesting because of all the different spellings. I liked all the cool pictures and artifacts.” Staff Advisor Helen Traver Scott felt this was “a wonderful opportunity for the students to see what it was like before Center School was built. The students were interested and polite and asked intelligent questions.”

Back at the school following the tour, the students were met with a surprise …

A T-shirt presented to the students showing the mural inside the front lobby of Center School.

A T-shirt presented to the students showing the mural inside the front lobby of Center School.

Scott, an Old Lyme native herself and Center School alumna who spearheaded ‘Celebrate Center’ and coordinated the students’ efforts, presented each student with a small photo album containing pictures of the display boards the students made for Celebrate Center, a copy of the speech he or she made during the May 1 program, and a T-shirt printed with an image of the mural in the front lobby of Center School.

Student committee n front of display board, with Center School mural in background (left to right): John Coffey, Lizzy Duddy, Emily Nickerson, Anne Colangelo, Zoe Jensen, Elise DeBernardo, and Lauren Presti. (Missing from photo: Gabe Katwaru.)

Student committee members stand proudly in front of an event display board with the Center School mural in background. From left to right, John Coffey, Lizzy Duddy, Emily Nickerson, Anne Colangelo, Zoe Jensen, Elise DeBernardo, and Lauren Presti. (Missing from photo: Gabe Katwaru.)

This mural depicts local scenery, both current and historic, and was created by all the students several years ago immediately following the renovation in the pointillism style, with each student adding dots of color.

The student committee at the Old Lyme Historical Society (left to right, kneeling): Lizzy Duddy, Elise DeBernardo, and Lauren Presti. Standing, left to right: John Coffey, Zoe Jensen, Gabe Katwaru, and Emily Nickerson. Missing from photo: Anne Colangelo.

The student committee at the Old Lyme Historical Society (left to right, kneeling): Lizzy Duddy, Elise DeBernardo, and Lauren Presti. Standing, left to right: John Coffey, Zoe Jensen, Gabe Katwaru, and Emily Nickerson. Missing from photo: Anne Colangelo.

There were eight students who made all the displays for Celebrate Center. Anne Colangelo, unfortunately, was not able to tour the Historical Society. Those attending were John Coffey, Elise DeBernardo, Lizzy Duddy, Zoe Jensen, Gabe Katwaru, Emily Nickerson, and Lauren Presti.

Two of these students are “descendants” of other Center School alumni: Lizzy Duddy’s sister, Lexi Duddy; father, John Duddy; grandmother Patricia Bugbee; great uncle Don Bugbee; and great-grandfather Donald Bugbee as well as various aunts, uncles, and cousins all attended Center School.

Emily Nickerson’s grandmother Beverly Mathiason and several uncles attended the school.

Friday these fifth grade students will make history as the very last class to graduate from Center School. A clearly pleased Scott points out, “They will take all the friends they made and the history they learned with them when they move on to middle school.”

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