COLUMBIA — In 1993, Alice Goldfarb and Wendy Delzell, then fourth-grade teachers at Grant Elementary School, had their students make a video about the history of the school and Broadway, which Grant faces. One of the people they interviewed was Mary Spurling, a former student born in 1910, the year the school was established.
As a young girl, Spurling used to ride her brown-and-white pony, Billie, to school and hitch him by the playground.
“I rode a pony when the weather was good," she said in the video. "When the weather was bad, our caretaker took me in a carriage.”
Chairs were bolted to the floor "so we sat in rows and didn't move very often," Elizabeth Taylor, another Grant alumna, told the young videographers.
Founded in 1910 and named for U.S. President and Civil War commander Ulysses S. Grant, the school is celebrating its centennial with yearlong special events, including a big birthday party.
“Next summer, either May or June of 2011, we are planning a gala/reunion, so anybody who has taught at Grant, been to Grant or has children at Grant are welcome to come. They all will be able to find their decade,” said Suzette Waters, who oversees the PTA committee planning centennial events and who has a daughter in second grade at the school.
Grant alumni come from all over the world.
“Being so close to campus, we automatically will get students from a lot of countries,” Goldfarb said. “I like (Grant) so much because of the great diversity. One year in my fourth grade, I had 11 kids from other countries. Two of them didn’t speak English. It was so much fun — I loved it.”
Principal Beverly Borduin tracks such things. “We have kids from up to 27 countries, depending on the year,” she said.
Borduin brought out a poster students made years ago on the history of the school, which reads in part:
"On February 13, 1906, Columbia voters agreed to spend $17,500 on a new elementary school in the city limits. In October, 1909, a lot on the southeast corner of Broadway and Garth was purchased for $3,700. Construction began in March, 1910, and the Grant School doors opened to students in January, 1911."
To commemorate the founding, a yearbook is being put together featuring photographs from the past and of current students and their parents or grandparents who were at Grant in previous decades. The PTA is gathering photos through the school office or by e-mail. More information will be available at www.grant100.com, where anyone interested in centennial events can register, Waters said.
Waters is trying to reach as many people as possible. “I don’t know very many people that have gone to Grant themselves, so I just had to ask around,” she said. “I’m totally relying on people who have been here for longer. We don’t want people to feel bad and say, hey, we missed this.”
Other activities are planned to connect Grant with the number 100 and build up to the big celebration and reunion in the summer.
“There’s going to be a brick campaign — anybody can sign up and have their names engraved on a brick,” Borduin said. The bricks will later be used to construct a walkway by the playground, and the money raised will be used to fund more educational programs at Grant.
The 28 children in the Jogging Generals Club are each running 100 miles. Borduin said club members have been recording their progress and slowly accumulating mileage toward the goal.
There is excitement building around the centennial year.
Goldfarb, who taught at Grant for 23 years before retiring, is looking forward to seeing former students at the celebration. “I hope we will recognize each other,” she said.
She fondly remembers a former Grant student from Brazil, whom she later visited with her husband. “On our 25th wedding anniversary, we got to go to Brazil to a pretend adopted son’s wedding," Goldfarb said. "After the wedding, his parents entertained us for three more days."
"It was amazing because I had spent extra time helping him here because he wanted to learn," she said. "God put his hand in there and caused all that to happen. That was very exciting.”