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Memories stirred at Fairfield school open house

Returning to his former junior high school Saturday morning brought back sweet memories for Steve Miller.

In the late 1970s, Miller said, the students in the Fairfield City Schools District had split days because they shared a building: seventh-graders went to class from 7 a.m. to noon, eighth-graders from 12:30 to 5 p.m. There was no lunch period, said Miller, a 1983 Fairfield High School graduate and the city’s mayor.

He said the cafeteria line consisted of nothing but Hostess products, and if the students got thirsty, there was a pop machine down the hall.

“All the things that were bad for us,” Miller said. “You wouldn’t see that today.”

On Saturday, the cafeteria served more sentiments than sweets as the community was invited to tour the elementary and freshman buildings before they’re scheduled to be demolished after the 2016-17 school year to make room for three buildings in the district.

There was a large display of school memorabilia displayed on tables in the cafeteria and it was a popular gathering place for Fairfield alumni. They looked at yellowed newspaper clippings, black and white photos and vintage letterman jackets. It was like a time capsule had been unlocked.

Miller was one of about 700 Fairfield alumni who attended the two-day open house that concluded Saturday, said Jerry Oberdorf, president of the Fairfield Alumni Association, which organized the event. In May 2017, after the school year, the two buildings will be demolished because the district is constructing three buildings: a Freshman School, to be located behind the existing high school, and two elementary schools.

One elementary will replace the current Central Elementary building. A second elementary school, to be built across from the high school on the Holden Boulevard side, will be added to the district, creating a total of six elementary schools.

Fairfield voters passed a $61 million bond issue in 2014 for construction of the schools and state funds are paying the other $19 million for the buildings.

Judy Frances, 66, a 1968 FHS graduate, was thrilled to see a 1943 FHS class picture hanging in the hallway. Her parents, Tom Withrow and Pat Murphy, graduated that year and they married the following year, Frances said. Her father attended Fairfield schools all 13 years, while her mother transferred to Fairfield for her senior year after attending Catholic schools.

She said her father was a standout three-sport athlete, playing football, basketball and baseball. Her parents were married for more than 50 years, she said.

“Seeing that picture was pretty incredible,” Frances said while looking through Fairfield historical photos that were displayed on cafeteria tables. “I’m getting chills.”

Oberdorf, a 1962 Fairfield graduate, said the open house gave alumni an opportunity to reconnect with their classmates and reminisce about their childhood education. He said most of the attendees wanted to walk through the tunnel that connect the elementary and junior high together. The adults joked they remembered the tunnel being longer and there not being as many steps, Oberdorf said.

“That comes with age,” he said.