Old Orchard School

It’s a surprise when you go back to see your old school and find it gone, replaced by a new building. That’s happened to a lot of people who attended Toledo Public Schools in the last few years.

I feel like I have some links to the district since my grandfather was a long-time teacher at Macomber, my father taught at Libbey High School for a while, and me…well, I went to school at Old Orchard School.

The front of the former Old Orchard, from the Cheltenham Road side. Photo by the author, June 2002.
The front of the former Old Orchard, from the Cheltenham Road side. Photo by the author, June 2002.

Prior to the opening of the old Old Orchard in 1937, there was not much, according to Mrs. A.H. Poll, who recounted the early days of education when the school’s Mother’s Club met to celebrate its 25th anniversary in 1962.

Since there was no school in the area in 1929, a small handful of kindergarteners met in the now non-existent Ottawa Hills Tea House. A year or two later, portable wooden structures with tin roofs were built.

As the heat was furnished by large black coal stoves, the schoolboys took turns shoveling coal. The floor got so cold, Mrs. Poll recalled, that pupils frequently used cigar boxes to prop their feet on, and during especially bitter weather, classes did not meet.

Because there was no gym, students got their exercise practicing in plays which were later presented in the University of Toledo’s Doermann Theater. Finally, through the work of fathers in Parent-Teacher Association and the Board of Education, Mayor Roy Start turned the first spadeful of earth in 1936.

The official dedication was Feb. 23, 1937, and the News-Bee was there, along with 500 locals, Mayor Roy C. Start (who has high school named after him), and beloved crossing guard “Andy” Dugan, who got the biggest hand of all.

Wait, who?

From the Berkeley Daily Gazette of Sept. 17, 1936. Really.
From the Berkeley Daily Gazette of Sept. 17, 1936. Really.

This architectural study from 2002 provides some more details about the former Old Orchard. It had two additions: one in 1950, and a second, more significant one in 1955 that nearly doubled the school’s size (the two-story addition on the east side). Alas, the school was not “directly associated with significant events or persons.”

I attended Old Orchard from the fall of 1968 until early 1974 when I moved to the Sylvania City School District and attended the bland, totally white (seriously), totally ’50s Stranahan Elementary. I can conveniently pinpoint the day I started since The Blade was out taking pictures at Old Orchard that day.

Principal Bruce Kuntz greets students from this picture on the front page of The Blade, Sept. 4, 1968, my first day of formal education.
Principal Bruce Kuntz greets students from this picture on the front page of The Blade, Sept. 4, 1968, my first day of formal education.

The school and neighborhood was a pretty good place to grow up. We’d walk home for lunch, for heaven’s sake. I lived on the short one-way stretch of Aldringham just north of the school grounds, which seemed huge at the time: baseball fields, a concrete pad for basketball, a loud, frightening air-raid siren on top of the kindergarten room (which went off one afternoon when I was standing in front of it while delivering The Blade). The fields would occasionally flood and then freeze, providing a place to play sandlot hockey. Temple B’nai Israel was nearby, Ottawa Park was on the other side of the Toledo Terminal railroad tracks – we were never lacking for things to do as kids.

I would probably be a different person had I stayed and rolled on to DeVilbiss High School, which was what Old Orchard fed at the time.

Here are some additional pictures from June, 2002, taken by me:

The former Old Orchard, as seen from across Darlington Road.
The former Old Orchard, as seen from across Darlington Road.
A peek inside the front door of the former Old Orchard School.
A peek inside the front door of the former Old Orchard School.
The gymnasium of the former Old Orchard School. Photo by the author, June 2002.
The gymnasium of the former Old Orchard School.

Here is a pretty good album on Flickr full of photos I wish I’d taken.

The old building closed after 74 years of service in June 2011, as part of the district’s ten year, $650 million Building For Success program, which closed, remodeled or demolished forty buildings in the district and met with mixed reviews (at least according to The Blade). The new building opened that fall.

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