There is a certain sequence of expressions that appears on the face of a grownup who is suddenly returned to the school hallways of adolescence. It starts with a quiet wonder. Then, eyes dart quickly around to see what, if anything, has changed. Lastly, there is a look of glee mixed with, well, could it be mischief?
Whatever the last look might be, the sequence was repeated again and again Thursday, May 31, as returning alumni, teachers and administrators helped celebrate the 100th anniversary of Triadelphia Middle School, formerly Triadelphia High School.
“It’s pretty much the same,” commented Clara Wilson Folmar, startled that even newer lockers weren’t all that different from the ones she remembered. The surprise was natural. A member of the THS class of 1935, Wilson Folmar of Wheeling, was the oldest alumna present at the anniversary event. She is 101.
The historic National Road building may look basically the same, but she and son Rene Folmar, THS class of 1974, said other things have changed. When Wilson Folmar was a student, for example, she was afraid living on a farm would make her stick out. She took great pains to cover her forearms with sleeves cut off men’s old shirts whenever she was working outdoors so she could stay as pale as the city girls.
That memory might have been peculiar to a certain generation, but Wilson Folmar certainly wasn’t alone in reminiscing. Guests at the three-hour reception were dishing out stories for both a formal history being recorded in the office and, perhaps more humorously, an informal one being shared with current students who were volunteering at the event.
“And, that’s how I set the science lab on fire,” one grad of a long-ago decade told a current sixth-grader. They giggled. They whispered. It seemed like event theme #alwaysaraider was true at a level event organizers probably didn’t anticipate.
“I was a cheerleader once – once,” a prominent politico confessed elsewhere in the building. A fellow city leader within earshot practically sprinted into the yearbook room to learn more. More giggles. Shhhh.
“We had to kneel down on the floor at the beginning of the day to prove our skirts could touch the ground,” said another grad, her eyes darting up and down a hallway that included a couple of current students in minis, but no one who looked remotely like a teacher or administrator. “Then we headed to the restroom and rolled up the waist.”
Wilson Folmar, in contrast, said she had nothing to hide.
“I did exactly what the teachers asked me to do,” she said with a nod. She particularly enjoyed Spanish Club and home economics classes, which eventually spun off into a teaching career of her own in Washington County, Pa.
A tale of old city
“It’s kind of neat, this history,” said Glenn Elliot, mayor of Wheeling. He was visiting the building for the first time although his parents and all four grandparents attended Triadelphia.
He noted Madison Elementary, located on Wheeling Island, recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, as well. “Wheeling really has a disproportionate number of historical buildings for its size … We’ve got to keep these old buildings standing.”
Sarah Koegler, an Ohio County School Board member and Triadelphia parent, said she is overjoyed that a recently passed bond issue will do just that.
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Among renovations slated for throughout the school district, major changes will come to Triadelphia, Koegler said. The annex, a secondary building that now houses such things at the cafeteria and music rooms, will soon be replaced by a three-story addition to the main building. She said the changes will create more parking, help with security and, “make every square inch of the building more usable.”
And new city
The building might be old, in a good way, but the presentations were not. Carmen Heil, a TMS English and language arts teacher, said a fleet of seventh- and eighth-grade girls were behind the Powerpoint presentations being looped all over the building. Mia Zecca, a member of TMS’s 100th graduating class, was among them.
“It was a lot of work,” Zecca said of poring over old yearbooks to gather dozens of historical facts during her lunch hours. “I could only get like two facts done a day. Some of the old yearbooks only had pictures and I had to figure out the facts just from that.”
There was some fun, too. Heil said, “There was lots of giggling and lots of ‘I found my grandpa.’”
Ann Coleman, current principal of TMS and organizer of the event, was simply glad to find some former teachers, administrators and alumni here and there. She went so far as to drive a few invitations to people’s houses, visiting former industrial arts teacher Vincent Lazear at a round house he built in Ohio.
Many of the links she’s resurrected have become part of the “new” in another historic twist. Grow OV is designing a Victory Garden that will be added to the school site. One former Triadelphia teacher, John Meno, bought a brick to be used in the garden and requested to have his old room number on it instead of his name.
“You spend 20 years in that room,” Coleman said with a laugh. “You know how it is.”
Michael Borsuk, another member of the 100th Triadelphia graduating class, said he is also intrigued by the mix of old and new. “It’s neat that we’re making history,” Borsuk said of the 100th class and the celebration. “(Some) schools don’t even stand 50 years before they’re torn down, and this school is still standing.”
(Photos by Nora Edinger)
• Nora Edinger writes from Wheeling, W.Va., where she is part of a three-generation, two-species household. A long-time journalist, she now writes in a variety of print and e-venues, including her JOY Journal blog at noraedinger.com. Her first work of fiction, a Christian beach read called “Dune Girl,” will be released on Amazon Kindle in June 2018.