Russell Boulevard Elementary to celebrate 50th anniversary

Thursday, October 2, 2008 | 6:27 p.m. CDT; updated 2:09 p.m. CDT, Friday, October 3, 2008

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill will not be attending Russell Boulevard Elementary School's 50th anniversary celebration. A previous version of this article misstated her plans to attend.

COLUMBIA — When Russell Boulevard Elementary was founded in 1958, Helen Burnam was a kindergartner at the school. She remembers seeing the school before it opened.

"I grew up on the boulevard, and Rollins didn't exist the way it does now," Burnam said. "My father walked me to school, and there wasn't a street."

Burnam spoke of wearing dresses to school and wearing pants underneath them when it was cold outside. She also noted how the dress code has changed for teachers.

"Now they can wear pants and T-shirts," she said.

Fifty years have passed since Burnam first attended school at Russell Boulevard. To celebrate the 50th anniversary, the school will hold a Western-themed event, "Rounding Up 50 Years at Russell," at 7 p.m. Oct. 9 in its gymnasium.

Former teacher Joyce Stanley, who taught at the school for 21 years, is organizing the celebration. She also organized the school's 40th anniversary celebration.

Stanley started planning for the event with different committees. The larger parts of planning involved finding people to come for the program and collecting school memorabilia from over the years to display.

Stanley said changes have been made at the school this year. It has air conditioning for the first time, and it got new windows.

The Boy Scouts will perform a flag ceremony at the event. Both the old and the new school song will be performed. The original was written by a student, but the new song, which was re-written to include the school's five rights and responsibilities, was written by former music teacher Ed Hanson.

Old school T-shirts from over the years will be displayed. Some teachers used to have their students make quilts, which would then hang in the hallways, Stanley said. These will also be displayed.

Former teachers, both those who have retired and those who have switched schools, are invited to attend. After the celebration, they can go to their old classrooms, where their former students can visit and reminisce.

The celebration will include proclamations from Mayor Darwin Hindman and state Sen. Chuck Graham, and appearances by Russell's first principal, Dean Fitzgerald; and former Missouri Gov. Roger Wilson.

"It's great to have the dignitaries," Stanley said. "But to see the former students and see the success and the trials they've gone through means the most to me."

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