Group wants school added to registry

Members of the Marlowe Alumni Committee are working to have Marlowe Elementary School, which opened in 1922, named on the Nation

Members of the Marlowe Alumni Committee are working to have Marlowe Elementary School, which opened in 1922, named on the Nation

May 09, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

MARLOWE, W.VA. - More than 50 years ago in a small West Virginia town called Marlowe, there lived a boy named Cecil Foltz. Like most boys of that era, Cecil had a fondness for apples.

Lulled by an orchard next to his school, Cecil one day stole an apple from a tree. Promptly caught, he was ushered into the principal's office. Rather than face the administrator's wrath, Cecil, 12 or 13 years old, hopped out the principal's office window - a second-floor window - and slid down a flagpole.

Of course, also like most boys of that era, Cecil was not one to disobey his elders. When the principal yelled for him to return, he did. He had to bend over a desk and received five whacks with a paddle. He got another five in his woodshed after he got home, the news of his deed having preceded his return.


"I never went back to the apple orchard," said Cecil Foltz, now 66.

In Ruby Foltz's comfortable kitchen, the story of her husband's shenanigans with an apple caused loud laughter to ripple through the group of five women gathered around a table.

Stories about the school all of them attended, now named Marlowe Elementary School, abound.

The women - Rose Ceravalo Straley, 65; Ruby Clopper Foltz, 64; Julia Merceruio Cammer, 79; Sherry Osborne Dockeney, 49; and her daughter Jaime Dockeney, 26 - are members of the Marlowe Alumni Committee.

They are working to have the school named on the National Register of Historic Places.

They've taken black and white photographs of the school - which opened in 1922 - including shots of the old cloak rooms, wooden floors and stairwell.

Men in the community built the school, while women gathered together to cook meals for them. They would bring the food to the men at night.

Although Straley said the school once taught grades up to the 10th, when it was named Marlowe Junior High, it now houses only kindergartners, first-graders and second-graders.

Historical value

Changes over the years have included a large addition built onto the back of the building, and another addition is likely. Other future plans include possibly upgrading the electrical system and heating and air conditioning system, Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Manny Arvon said.

"Any restoration, we would do it in good taste," Arvon said. A committee made up of residents would have input on any construction plans, he added.

A few weeks ago at the Marlowe Ruritan building, Arvon met with a group of 40 community members who had gathered because of a rumor that the school was going to close.

Arvon assuaged their fears.

"We don't close schools. We build them," he said. "We are very proud of our historical value in the community. We value our buildings, and tradition is very important in our school system."

Arvon said he would have no problem with the building being listed on the National Register. Winchester Avenue Elementary and Burke Street Elementary schools already are listed as important historical sites, as is the Ramer Center, a formal school for black students in Martinsburg.

Don Wood, the county historian, said it could take as long as two years to have the building listed. Members of the state's Archives and History Commission will meet in January 2005 to decide whether to give Berkeley County officials a grant for the project. Matching funding would be sought locally and Wood said work on the project would begin next summer.

If approved by state officials, the project would go to officials in Washington, D.C., Wood said.

Wood said he is not sure how much grant money is needed. An individual project costs $2,500, but several local projects can be combined for a lower total rate.

Although Wood has not been inside the building, he said the exterior is "lovely."

Arvon is of a slightly different opinion.

"I think we can improve the exterior," Arvon said. "The interior of the school has such character, from the staircase to the wood floors."

Alumni reunite

On a recent afternoon at the school, students gathered in classrooms, waiting to hear their bus numbers announced. Sunlight filtered in through the old windows while the polished wooden floors shone.

In a small upstairs room - once the principal's office from which Cecil Foltz performed his acrobatics - an interesting clock hangs on the wall. It once was used to control the bell system.

When the weather turns less agreeable, students still hang coats in the cloakrooms. The former cafeteria, in the basement, now is home to a cluster of computers. Teachers take their breaks in the former kitchen.

Along with spearheading the effort to have the building declared historic, members of the Alumni Committee also have been holding reunions for former Marlowe students.

They initially planned to hold a reunion every five years, but the first one in 2000 was so successful, they have been holding them every two years. In 2002, around 150 people attended.

This year's reunion is set for June 5. A quilt made by a fellow member of Cammer's class of 1941 will be raffled.

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