4/30/2013 6:00:00 AM Palo Christi Elementary marks 85 years as repairs commence
Janitor Corey Roderick shows off the 1940s classroom created by former teacher Sharon Hackley so her students could see history. KIM STEELE/Miner
From left, students Kori Guillot, 11, a fifth-grader; Rope Swats, 9, a fourth-grader; and Annika Duh, 8, a third-grader, smell the roses in the school’s Victory Garden. KIM STEELE/Miner
Kim Steele Miner Staff Reporter
KINGMAN - It only takes a quick tour of the Palo Christi Elementary School campus to realize it is no ordinary school.
Painted wood covers an area where French doors once opened over the front entrance to the school, allowing guests to stand on a balcony and make speeches to an audience gathered below. A vibrant rose garden - called the Victory Garden - continues to bloom long after it was planted in 1945 to celebrate the end of World War II. All but six of the 21 rose bushes are original.
A locked room is home to a 1940s classroom created by former teacher Sharon Hackley, who began teaching in 1966 and rode her horse to school at that time. The room contains a cone-shaped dunce hat, a pencil box and two original desks. Behind the school sits the old cafeteria, where nearby high school students walked six blocks every day for lunch.
It's these oddities and more the Kingman Unified School District wants to share with former staff, students and the public during an 85th birthday celebration at 5 p.m. Thursday at the school, 500 Maple St.
Tours of the school grounds and historic documents will be on display at the event, and visitors are invited to reminisce about their experiences at the school.
Palo Christi will be closing in May for two years so repairs can be done, said Kevin Curran, who became the school's principal in November.
The former Kingman Grammar School, which opened in 1929, needs repairs to its roof, plumbing and wiring. The school's 275 students and its staff will relocate to Desert Willow Elementary School during that time.
"Palo Christi is the history of Kingman," said Curran. "So many politicians and local dignitaries went to this school. I've worked at a number of schools and this one has personality and character.
"There will be a lot of tears shed in May when they close its doors and a lot more shed when they reopen in two years."
During a recent tour, janitor Corey Roderick pointed out how the school served as a fallout shelter during the war and housed servicemen.
Roderick, who has worked at the school for 17 years, said he and his son met a couple who attended there and remembered standing outside watching rainbow clouds moving into Kingman from nuclear testing north of Las Vegas.
"This is a building worth saving," said Roderick, noting the spirits of three adults and three children haunt the building. "Those spirits are here all the time. I've seen them. And I can tell you I'm going to be here, too, after I'm gone.
"I've always found comfort in this building. Every morning when I get here, I pat the pillars so I know she's OK."
Kingman Fire Chief Chuck Osterman said he attended the school from 1962 to 1968 when he lived downtown.
He said the school replaced the Little Red Schoolhouse, a one-room school located at the site.
"I loved the school," said Osterman. "It was the hometown school and part of the community. It was a comfortable school, and I got a good education there. I have a lot of good memories from my time there."
Osterman's father, John Osterman, also attended the school, but in the 1930s when it served eight grades.
John Osterman said he lived downtown in the 500 block of Oak Street and walked to school every day with his friends. The only students who rode buses then lived outside of town, he said.
"School wasn't difficult there," said John Osterman, 86. "We were all one happy family. We had some good times and grew up together.
"I'd like to see the school saved for sentimental reasons."
What a beeoohtiful story about Palo Christi School. I hope it will continue being a source of wonderful memories for many generations to come. Sharon Hackley was an innovative teacher there, whose personality was the epitome of excitement and wonder. I'm confident that many former students will attribute a large part of their future success to her, as well as to the warm memories of their childhood school.