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Laura Kessel is managing editor of The News-Herald in Willoughby. She writes a weekly column and shares her thoughts here.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Some reminders of a youth guided so carefully

“We are young
So let’s set the world on fire
We can burn brighter than the sun”


I heard the first strains of that song by a band called Fun as I traveled south on East 222nd Street, but it reached that chorus as I turned down Ivan Avenue.

First came the house where a basketball coach used to live. Next was a good friend’s childhood home.

Turning the corner onto Naumann Avenue, I traced the route I’d taken so many times in my youth, heading for Roosevelt Pool on Arbor Avenue.

When I parked my car, I couldn’t help but find familiar sights everywhere I looked.

On one side was R.J.’s house; across the street was Mary Jo’s. A handful of houses back the other way was Andrea’s.

As I walked west on Arbor, I gazed to my left, past the construction fence and warning signs, to the tan exterior of the new school that will soon replace my beloved Roosevelt Elementary.

Gone is a lush lawn trampled by so many early-morning games of “kill the man,” a brutal form of football in which tackling was king and passing and touchdowns were for sissies.

Left unused are the multiple sets of steps through which we gained entry to a world of ABCs, multiplication tables and tales of our country’s history.

But once inside, I found familiar faces, seemingly untouched by the many, many years that have passed since I moved on to junior high, then high school, then college, then the working world.

Though 40 years have passed since I sat in neat cotton dresses on the floor of Mrs. Holtcamp’s kindergarten class, she stood in the hallway reciting the names of my classmates, and laughed as I mentioned the one who had tripped her all those years ago.

Miss Duvall beamed when I told her that her third-grade lessons in phone etiquette are still in my head today as I take calls from the public.

“See, you never know what they’ll remember or what’s getting through,” she said with an elbow to Mrs. Murray.

Murray minutes before had delivered a big hug in thanks for sharing with anyone who’d listen that her classroom we’d just passed was the one where my fifth-grade self had first gotten the urge to become a writer.

But, with no offense to any of these amazing women, the person whose presence made the tour so special was Paul Kapostasy.

Mr. K wasn’t just our gym teacher.

He also was the adviser to the school crossing guards. He was the only person who kept those “kill the man” games from actually killing a man.

But, for so many of us girls, he was also our first crush, with his dark curly hair and easy smile.
The fact that he was single for my entire time at Roosevelt didn’t hurt, either.

Mr. K went on to become principal at another Euclid school before serving for many years as principal at Perry High. He’s now fully enjoying his retirement.

He, too, can rattle off the names of former students, and proudly corrected me when I said one of the youngsters he mentioned was a troublemaker.

“He was a captain of the guards!”

Mr. K also has a soft spot for my brother, whom he encouraged to take up running. Gary went on to become a state champion in track in high school and qualify for the NCAA track meet in college.
Mr. K was thrilled to hear he continues to run today.

Looking back at all those rooms, and all their special moments, with those amazing people, I can’t help but think back to the lyrics I heard as I approached that open house this week at Roosevelt.

As we dreamed big in our youth, we had a wonderful set of boosters there to guide us on our way. Our hopes were theirs, too.

LKessel@News-Herald.com
Twitter: @Lauranh

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

My friend just mailed this article to me. It brought so many memories back. I grew up on Westport Ave and started kindergarten in 1949 at Roosevelt Elementary. My grandparents immigrated from Italy in the early 1900's and raised their seven children there and they all went to Roosevelt School. I think at one time it went all through 12th grade. I went through sixth grade. Mr Metz was the principal then. I spent summers at the pool. I could go on & on...but thanks for jogging my fond memories of growing up in Euclid.
Eileen Davidson

June 14, 2012 at 7:29 AM 

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