Postcards from the Past: Dear old Golden Rule days

September 10, 2012

Mrs. Bradley's first first-grade class at Hyattsville Elementary School. Courtesy Douglas Dudrow.

BY PEGGY DEE — As children begin their academic year at Hyattsville Elementary School, we look back at the history of HES.

Its first site was at 43rd Avenue and Farragut Street; later it moved to a new building at Gallatin Street and 42nd Place. A growing population led to a second school being built, at 43rd Avenue and Jefferson Street, which housed grades four through seven.

Grades one to three remained at the Gallatin Street school. Mrs. Janette Bradley taught first grade for three generations, including 12 members of the Dudrow family.

In 1960, all grades moved to the newer building – the current home of HES – as the Gallatin Street location was converted to a school for children with special needs. It was taken down in 1977 and King Park is there today.

Former Ward 1 Councilman Doug Dudrow, who has lived here all his life, attended both the Gallatin Street and 43rd Avenue schools. He has a picture of the school’s first graduating class of June 27, 1927.  One of them was Barbara Dingler, later Barbara Gibson. She and her father used to sell eggs to the diners on Route 1. Their house and the chicken house (in the 5200 block of 42nd Place) are still standing. The City would issue permits to raise chickens.

He recalls that a hot lunch was available to the children for 35 cents. Each Halloween, the children were encouraged to wear their costumes to school. During the day they would parade around the neighborhood in costume, which students still do today.

For improper behavior, the children were made to sit out in the halls until the teachers said they could return to the classroom.  Televisions were permitted in the classrooms only when the American and Russian spaceships had their lift-offs.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, when Dudrow was in the fifth grade, the children were taken out in the halls to practice safety drills. The fear was that Cuba would bomb the United States.

Dudrow has vivid memories of something that happened when he was in sixth grade. Mrs. Lancaster, the school principal, came into the classroom and handed the teacher, Mrs. Burslems, a note. It wasn’t until after dismissal that afternoon that the children learned President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated.

The late Francis Geary, councilman for Ward 1 and a full-time fireman, would sometimes take the schoolchildren to the firehouse on Farragut Street for a grand tour. This was to encourage them to take an interest in firefighting as a career; for Dudrow, though, it led to a different job. In 1979, when Geary retired from the city council, Dudrow proudly replaced him.