- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
This story was updated at 3 p.m. July 7. An explanation appears below.
Three members of the first class of first-graders who attended Waldorf School are still around to tell stories of the teachers who taught them and the classmates they played with.
Fortunately, the school, which was built in 1930, also is still around and stands off of U.S. 301, but that was almost not the case.
Friends of Old Waldorf School Foundation formed in April 1994, said Sandi Berry Middleton, president of FOWS, after an article ran in the Maryland Independent that the county was going to demolish the building.
“We went to school here, and we felt a fondness for the building,” said Middleton, who attended first to sixth grades from 1953 to 1959 in what is now Old Waldorf School. Middleton graduated from La Plata High School, now Milton M. Somers Middle School, in 1965.
FOWS held its annual membership reception Sunday at the school to welcome new members and to hold its annual nomination for the board of directors. The exterior and interior of the building are almost fully renovated, Middleton said.
The school is now rented for art performances, weddings and other events, Middleton said. The Oscar Hawkins Ballet Arts Academy rents classrooms in the school as its base.
Old Waldorf School was built to consolidate all of the one- and two-room schools in the Waldorf and La Plata areas, such as Piney School and Berry School, Middleton said. The smaller schools had no running water and were heated in the winter by wood stoves.
Old Waldorf School was used for elementary school grades until the early 1970s. Then Charles County used the school to offer adult education courses, Middleton said. By 1980, the school was boarded up and given back to the county. Attempts to sell the building failed despite interest by several groups. The county leased the building to the Greater Waldorf Jaycees.
But by 1994, the building was boarded up again and had become “an eyesore,” Middleton said. FOWS formed because members saw a greater purpose for their old school.
“Part of our mission [in the Friends of Old Waldorf School] is to write the whole history of our school and the town of Waldorf,” said Middleton.
Peggy Goldsmith of Waldorf, Margaret Kelley Willett of Brandywine and Lillian Pickeral Padgett of Hughesville are the last surviving members of the class who started at Waldorf School in 1930.
Goldsmith, 89, attended Waldorf School until 1937, then attended La Plata High School until 1941. She said at the time, students only attended 11 grades of school before going on to college or a trade.
Goldsmith said she worked for the Consumer Bankers Association in Washington, D.C., for 47 years until she retired in 1989. She moved back to Waldorf and lived in the house she was born and raised in, where she lives now.
In 1991, Goldsmith became treasurer of FOWS, a position she still holds. Preservation of Old Waldorf School is important to Goldsmith, she said, for sentimental reasons. She said the wood floor in the main room is the original floor. The memories she has of attending school at Waldorf School are about her teachers. She has photos of herself playing with a ball on the front steps of the school with classmates.
“I was scared to death of the principal, Eva Turner,” said J. Lorraine Berry, a director with FOWS who attended Waldorf School from 1945 to 1951. Berry grew up on her parents’ farm off of Berry Road and graduated from La Plata High School in 1957. She serves as a judge of the orphans’ court in Charles County.
Berry said she was probably intimidated by the principal because she “was a little farm girl,” but most of the students at the school lived on farms then. Berry rode a school bus from her family’s farm to Waldorf School, and, when she started high school, she rode a bus from Waldorf School to the high school.
Berry’s father attended Waldorf one-room schoolhouse on Berry Road with Middleton’s father, Berry said.
At Waldorf School off of U.S. 301, Berry said she and her classmates had a maypole and played on the baseball diamond that the Waldorf Jaycees building now stands on.
Berry said preserving the school was important to her because everyone has a story, and she loves history.
“I’m a history nut. I love anything to do with our history,” Berry said.
Middleton said the school is in the area that the Waldorf Beautification Project seeks to improve with a redevelopment plan.
“In the future, we hope that [Old Waldorf School] would be part of the county’s tourism [program],” Middleton said.
This story was updated to correct the names of the last surviving members of the class who started at Waldorf School in 1930.