WAYNETOWN — More than three decades after the final bell rang, memories of Waynetown School will be etched into stone.
“I think I can remember every little nook and cranny of that building,” said Louise Rosen, who graduated with the class of 1949 and later worked in the library until the school closed in 1988. A fire destroyed the building the next year.
Rosen, whose church sits across from the old school yard, pointed out the grassy spot to friend Judy McBride one day in 2018 as they arrived for a Baptist Christmas dinner. McBride, a 1969 graduate who was the school’s longtime secretary, appreciated the lasting memories of Montgomery County’s bygone high schools.
“It was like the heart of the town, so we wanted people to come and enjoy the memory and be there where the school was,” she said.
With support from alumni, the Waynetown community and the Montgomery County Community Foundation, the two women have commissioned a memorial that is set to be installed on the former school grounds in the coming weeks.
At the center of the memorial is a 30-by-50 foot granite slab that will be engraved with an etching of the school. The slab was ordered in April, as the coronavirus pandemic was disrupting manufacturers across the United States, and had to be shipped from India. It finally arrived earlier this month.
“We were very thankful that it was all in one piece when it got here,” Rosen said.
The slab is being flanked by a newly-replaced sidewalk that will lead up to a flagpole like the one that framed the school for three-quarters of a century.
Built in an area called Union Square, the building was dedicated in the summer of 1913 to replace the township’s consolidated school. It served as a high school until 1971 and continued housing kindergarten through eighth grades until Northridge Middle School opened in 1987. The remaining students left the next spring, and Rosen and McBride followed them to Sommer Elementary.
When fire broke out in the vacated Waynetown School in the wee hours of March 4, 1989, Rosen could see the flames from her house less than a mile away.
“My husband looked out the window … and he said there’s something big on fire in Waynetown and that’s what it was,” she said.
McBride became emotional as she recalled standing in front of the smoldering remains. The school’s cornerstone was saved and moved to Sommer, where some of the sculptures that once graced Waynetown’s hallways were put on display.
Plans for the memorial began a few months after the church dinner as McBride visited the monuments for Linden and Darlington’s schools for ideas. Retired teacher Alicia MacIsaac came up with a concept that was designed by local resident David Meihls.
After receiving the go-ahead from the township board, Rosen and McBride joined forces with Wayne Township Community Improvements, a local nonprofit, to raise money. Appeals for donations were sent to alumni and collection buckets were set out at Waynetown businesses.
A $7,500 grant from MCCF funded the completion of the project, including the new sidewalk and flagpole. Nora Contracting was hired to build the monument, which is being engraved by Allen Monument Co. The project also received support from Waynetown resident Steve Proctor.
On a recent cloudy afternoon, Rosen and McBride spread out a stack of yearbooks and other mementos on Rosen’s kitchen table, remembering the names of students who once passed through the halls.
“It was just like one big family taking care of all those kids,” McBride said.