When I was walking this morning, it occurred to me that I could write about the Rec Center at the old North School in Delaware. First I will have to explain what the old North School is.
The year my family moved to Delaware, I started the 3rd grade at North school. (Two years later I went to East School). Old North School was a homey type of school that had an open center located with all the classrooms making a circle around the common area. Delaware had 4 elementary schools with one located in each quadrant of the city. They had been named North, South, East and West.
After 6th grade, all of the students from the 4 elementaries went to Frank B. Willis School for grades 7-12. At that time, the population of Delaware City and County didn’t hold a candle to what it is today. The Rec Center originated from the work of a group of seniors in their ‘Problems of Democracy’ class back in 1945. The Center was housed in several different locations before ending up at the old North School.
So, what about the Rec Center? By the time I had gotten to Willis, a new North School had been built several blocks from the old one. Thus, the old North School building became the Rec Center. It was a place for all the high school students to enjoy. The common area in the center was full of overstuffed furniture, small tables, and even had a phone. Plus, in that common area, we had a nice upright piano.
You were lucky if you were there at the same time as someone who could play it. Of course, we did a lot of singing of 50’s music. Who of us can ever forget singing “Crusin Down the River on a Sunday afternoon” as well as “Slow Boat to China?”
When we entered by the South door, we were met by Mr. and Mrs. Charles Moore who were the wonderful couple who ran the place. (I think the admission was only 5 cents.) They had a concession stand with pop, chips, popcorn and candy bars for sale. Upon entering the common area, you had your choice of each of the classrooms to go to, depending on what you wanted to do. The old 4th grade room was for dancing. The other rooms had a ping-pong table, a pool table (which the guys seemed to monopolize), checkers, table shuffle board, card games, and places to hang out and catch up.
If you would like to see the old Rec Center building today, it’s at 248 N. Washington St. and is now the Delaware City School administration and school board building. The last time I visited there, the beautiful skylight had been reopened in the common area. It had been closed for years in order to save on the cost of heating the school.
I want to add a little about the naming of the East and North schools. The East school was named ‘Conger School’ for Mr. James C. Conger who was my 6th grade teacher, as well as the principal there. I remember having our hearing tested in that same 6th grade room. The school nurse blindfolded us, put a pocket watch up to our ear and then slowly walked away. We were to tell her when we could no longer hear the watch ticking. One of the boys got a lot of attention because he insisted he could still hear the ticking even after the nurse had left the room.
The new North school was named ‘Smith School ’ in honor of Mr. David R. Smith, who was superintendent of the Delaware City Schools, He had been in the Army and had the rank of colonel.
When our Willis class had one of our reunions, we invited the Moores to come as our guests. However, they sent their regrets. They said they remembered us and wanted to come, but their health wasn’t good enough to make the trip. Sorry that happened because they were a big part of our lives during all those evenings we hung out at the Rec Center.
Writing about the old North school brought back an old memory of mine. If my memory serves me correctly, we, as students, were asked to bring Milkweed pods to school. I had always thought the reason we were given is that they would be sent away to a place that made them into parachutes. But, since writing the above, I learned that the soft white fluffy insides of the Milkweed pods were used to stuff the lining of the military jackets for warmth.
The Rec Center has often been mentioned by persons writing to The Gazette about all the good things they experienced while growing up in Delaware. It would be great if today’s high school students had a similar place to go that is safe, chaperoned and fun. They may not be dancing to “Slow Boat to China,” but they could be dancing, just the same.
Kay E. Conklin is a retired Delaware County recorder who served four terms. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a degree in sociology and anthropology.