By Kevin Kelley
About 500 people – former students, former teachers and current students and their families – visited Holly Lane Elementary School Sunday afternoon for an open house celebrating the school’s 50th anniversary.
In the library, visitors looked through a time capsule created in 1986 for the school’s 25th birthday.
“There were a lot of grown-ups there looking back for their contributions to the time capsule,” said Mimi Verdone, the school’s current principal. “It was heartwarming to see all the former staff, students and friends here for our celebration reflecting on their fond memories of their years at Holly Lane.”
Past students shared memories as they looked through scrapbooks from the school’s past.
At 3 p.m., visitors released helium balloons attached to cards asking recipients to send birthday cards back to the school.
The Sunday open house followed a school reception Friday at which students welcomed back Bill Robishaw, the school’s first principal.
Robishaw, who later served as principal at Bassett Elementary School, moved to what is now Westlake in 1937 and graduated from Dover High School in 1939. Robishaw recalled that when he was a teenager, the community was mostly farmland, and that most homes lacked indoor bathrooms.
A resident of Florida since 1984, Robishaw recalled that he led a staff of nine teachers during Holly Lane’s first year. Robishaw himself taught physical education and health in addition to his duties as principal of the school, which in 1961 taught students in grades kindergarten through grade six.
Robishaw told students that they have benefited from many changes made in education in the years since Holly Lane opened.
“I hope you appreciate that,” he told students.
At the assembly Mayor Dennis Clough presented proclamations honoring the school on its 50th anniversary and declaring Saturday Bill Robishaw Day in Westlake.
Clough thanked the many principals, teachers and students who have contributed to Holly Lane’s success over the past five decades.
“It’s one of the selling points of our community,” he said of the school, which now educates 351 students in grades kindergarten through grade four.
Under the direction of music teacher Alison Gregory, kindergarteners sang “Happy Birthday” to the school, and other classes performed songs that was popular during a particular decade of the school’s existence. Fourth graders, for example, performed “Thriller,” released by pop icon Michael Jackson in 1984.