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Present meets the past at local school

Kaiser Elementary celebrates 60 years

November 23, 2012

» click to enlarge «
Barbara Miglio, a long-time volunteer at Kaiser Elementary School, chaired the 60th anniversary celebration committee and filled the library with photographs and yearbooks that she’s collected throughout the years.
Brothers James and Ed Reini flip through the yearbooks to find their old school pictures at Kaiser’s 60th anniversary celebration Nov. 17.

ROSEVILLE — The black and white, color and sepia-tone pictures strewn across the tabletops and stuck to poster boards around the little library told more of the story than words alone could relate.

They showed images of farmland, metal playground equipment and vintage chalkboards. Young eyes looked upon them with wonder and amusement. Old eyes filled with nostalgia.

“Kaiser Street was just a dirt road back then,” says Barbara Miglio. “The school’s changed a lot since then. There aren’t as many parents in the PTA as there used to be, there aren’t as many kids either, and the technology has changed, but the staff is still caring about kids just as much, and that hasn’t changed.”

Kaiser Elementary School in Roseville opened its doors to students and staff, past and present, in celebration of its 60th anniversary from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 17.

Miglio helped plan the event. She’s been volunteering at Kaiser since 1969, when she enrolled the first three of her six children who attended school there.

“There were 600-700 kids here back then,” Miglio says.

“It was what we call the baby boomers,” Jackie Herden Byrnes, a teacher at Kaiser from 1959-1986, says from the other side of the display near Miglio. “When the men came back from the war, they all had children. We had so many kids here back then, we had to hold classes in St. Mark’s Lutheran Church basement.”

“St. Mark’s basement was a classroom, on the stage here was a classroom, the custodians’ closet was a classroom (and) the teachers’ lounge was half of the office because we didn’t have room for them to have a separate office,” Miglio adds, and they both laugh.

“We were kind of a unique school because all the teachers who taught here stayed here,” Byrnes says. “We got so that we were really like family. Your best friends were those people that you taught with, and then the parents were your close friends, too, because if they had three children, they would all come through and we would get to know them all so well. It’s a whole side of teaching and schools that people don’t see anymore.”

As the two women reminisce, visitors pass through the library. Brothers James and Ed Reini, who attended Kaiser in the late 1980s and early 1990s, pore over a table of yearbooks that Miglio brought in from home for the event.

“It’s changed a lot,” Ed Reini jokes. “They have air conditioning now.”

At a table across from them, Kelly Ford looks at another display Miglio set up for the event.

“I left here in ’84,” Ford says. “I remember when my brothers and sisters came though, it was all trailers. The classes were held in trailers.”

Groups of people, who didn’t know each other moments before,  reminisce together.

“My father used to be principal here,” says Sue Todd. “He would bring me here after school, when he had administrative work to do, and I would come in here, and this library, well, it kind of set things in motion for me. You know, it’s changed completely, but it’s still the same room. It still feels the same.”

Todd, the assistant director at the library in neighboring Eastpointe, looks around
the room with a smile, taking it all in, before a group of women standing at the yearbook display call out that they’ve found a picture of her father.

At a table behind them, a father and his two young children flip through photo albums.

If each of the rooms at Kaiser had a theme for the event, the library’s would be history, the cafeteria’s would be celebration — that’s where a local boy scout troop present a flag to a descendant of the school’s namesake during a ceremony at noon — and the gym’s would be fun. Walking through the big double doors, kids entering the gym were greeted by an assortment of carnival-style games.

“The kids seem to be having a ball, playing,” said Char Van Marcke, a first-grade teacher in her 13th year at Kaiser. “We set up games for the children that are all fun and free. They love it. We have such a great spirit here. It’s so great to see the children playing and also the children who have grown up and come back to see us.”

Back in the library, photos of similar carnival games cover a poster on top of a bookshelf.

“We used to have mother-son night, father-daughter night, mother-daughter night, father-son night through the PTA,” Miglio says. “It was so much fun.”

A lot has changed throughout the years, but if one thing hasn’t changed, it’s the sense of pride that surrounds this 60-year-old community school.

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