The new Edgewood High School building opened to start the 2010 – 11 school year, catching the eye like a new student arriving on campus. Heads turn toward the comely, state-of-the-art structure while the old Edgewood High School building lingers nearby, alone and awaiting demolition.
The party has moved on and rightly so, as Edgewood enjoys a new high school building equipped for the 21st century.
And yet, the old Edgewood High tugs at the heart. Opening on the first day of school fifty-six years ago, the building became home to thousands of people who worked and learned there. The building heard their chatter. It witnessed their joys and their sorrows. It kept their secrets.
With that in mind, I walked through the old EHS building in early August, armed with a camera and a plan to capture a piece of the place before it was gone for good.
I got plenty of help with my project. Harry Miller of Harford County Public Schools was my amiable guide, leading me through the school on the last day it remained open to the public. My daughter Grace was my photographer, snapping the last pictures ever to be taken inside the school. Providence also lent a hand, as many of the photos later turned out to be a perfect fit with the stories I gathered from people who spent time in the old building.
Rather than conduct interviews, I collected written recollections from a sampling of students and staff members who were at Edgewood HS sometime between its opening in 1954, and its last school day in the spring of 2010. Many thanks go to everyone who contributed their reminiscences. This was your school. These are your stories:
Don Morrison was the president of Edgewood High School’s Class of 1962, and later became the director of public information for Harford County Public Schools. Don sets the scene for Edgewood’s opening in 1954, in excerpts from a lovely piece he originally wrote to commemorate Edgewood’s fiftieth anniversary.
“It was the era of the Cold War with the duck-and-cover atom bomb air raid drills, and it was the year of the Brown versus Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas Supreme Court decision that would eventually end racial segregation in public schools – though it wouldn’t be until the 1965-66 school year that Edgewood High was fully integrated. It was also the year the Baltimore Orioles returned to the Major Leagues after a 50-year absence.
It was a simpler and less expensive time. A gallon of gas cost 22 cents, a quart of milk was 23 cents and you could still mail a letter for 3 cents. It was also cheaper to build a school.
Designed by the Baltimore architectural firm of Fischer, Nes & Cambell; and built by the Dominion Company, Edgewood High School cost $1,289,502 to design, build, and equip. The building was started in July 1953 on a 50-acre plat of mostly swampy land. It was “finished” in time for school to open in September 1954, though – other than the classrooms – large parts of the building still needed the finishing touches.
… When Edgewood High opened, it was an 81,970 square foot building which housed sixth through ninth grades. There were about 600 students in the building and 41 faculty members including one administrator – Dr. Earl J. Lightcap, Jr, the principal.
…The school colors remain the same – red and white – though black has been added as an accent color. Word has it that rose red and turquoise blue narrowly failed to be adopted as the school colors; only the intervention of football coach Merrell ”Bugs” Grafton, who felt his team would be called “sissies’ if they dressed in such shades, prevented those colors from being chosen. As it was, the school exterior doors were painted turquoise blue on the outside and rose red on the inside, as a compromise.”
Here’s the front door where you can still see some of that prissy pink and blue paint:
The Morrison family figures heavily in the history of EHS. Don’s sister-in-law, Helen Morrison, was a sixth grader on that very first day:
“The cafeteria wasn’t finished so we had to bag our lunches, but they brought milk to each classroom every day. The athletic fields were not ready so “Gym” was conducted across the road from the school in fields that are now part of Edgewood Meadows… We had many great teachers who were tremendous influences on a lot of students. Some of my favorites were Mr. Marzen, Bud Coakley, Delores Simmons, and Mrs. Jordan.
Probably the funniest and most embarrassing day I had was the day I got the Drivers’ Ed car stuck in the snow trying to get back in the parking lot. Everybody was mad and I thought Mr. Pasqual was going to wring my neck as they all had to get out and push me out of the snow. My memories of EHS are fond which is why I participate in the Alumni Association, hoping to give back a little of what I received. I met my husband of almost fifty years and my best friend Jeanne Treanor Gettle and received a quality education that helped me excel in my profession.”
Janise Cullum, Don Morrison’s sister, was a freshman on day one:
“I wasn’t at all thrilled about starting at the ‘new’ Edgewood High School. I had gone to Bel Air High School and made lots of friends there in the seventh and eighth grades and had to leave them for EHS!
…But, then good things started to happen! We, the ninth graders, were asked to select the colors for EHS, the mascot, to name the yearbook, the design of the school ring, etc. There were only three ninth grade classes, and, most of us actually knew each other from elementary school. I think it would be very difficult now to find school kids with the closeness and camaraderie that we shared. Four years of being the ‘senior’ class. How much better could it get?”
And here’s Don Morrison with some personal memories of his own:
Edgewood High was much different in my day. The student body was about 1/3 military and, of course, it was pre-integration days — Edgewood and all other Harford public high schools didn’t integrate until 1965-66 school year.
There was no Joppatowne High (built in 1973) — the school served what was then Edgewood Arsenal and the rural communities in southern Harford. Most of the students who were moved from Bel Air High (the southern part of BAHS’ attendance area was lopped off to form Edgewood’s attendance area) were not happy about the move — it separated many siblings — just as all redistrictings before and hence have done.
The school had no gym when it opened, no ball fields, and no uniforms for most of its sports teams — I remember Edgewood Arsenal gave our baseball team their old uniforms. Of course, they were tailored for 18 to 25 year old soldiers and were made of wool — we looked like rag dolls in those unis — I can remember how Bel Air loved to harass us when we played them — that is till we beat them — they were our natural rivals and nothing delighted us more than to beat the Bobcats.
It was a young school with a young faculty, either junior members of other faculties or young teachers fresh out of college. Earl Lightcap was only 26 when he was named principal of the new school and was a master at giving the school an identity. I think we had a chip on our shoulders toward the established schools of Bel Air, North Harford, Aberdeen & HdG — yes, there were only five high schools in the county including Edgewood High.”
Edgewood has had its share of famous alumni. There were the Bradley brothers, Dudley and Charles, who played basketball in the NBA. Here are a few others you may recognize:
“Maynard Edwards”, Class of 1993, has been a radio personality in Baltimore for more than 15 years. Maynard was first with the legendary Rouse & Company morning show on WQSR before moving to The Ed Norris Show on WJZ-FM. A contributor to The Dagger, Maynard is also the leader of the popular local band the “Mobtown Saints”. He is currently working on a documentary for National Public Radio (NPR) about the history of Rock & Roll.
“I will never forget my first day at EHS. It seemed like an enormous school; a maze of hallways that I’d never figure out. But by graduation, every inch of it felt like home. From the catwalk above the auditorium where I spent some quiet time with a few different girls to the student parking lot out back (where I did pretty much the same thing.) The old Edgewood building was so much more than just a collection of dusty classrooms. It was a living backdrop to some of the most important years of my life. Even though it was well into it’s 40’s by the time I was walking its halls, it never felt old to me. It felt like home. To this day I wear my EHS Letterman’s jacket (I have 4 letters, none of them worth mentioning).
Specifically the music wing of EHS is where “Maynard” (the character that inhabits my skin when I’m “on”) was first born. Those halls changed me from mild mannered “Rich” into something else. In the EHS auditorium Mike Thatcher and Jeff Winfield taught me how to be on a stage. In the chorus room Rusty and I fought over a girl who turned out to be more interested in Allan than either of us. In the guitar room I learned to play guitar with Chris and Jimmy and in the storage room Kristin and I….well, never mind what we did in there….
I could go on forever. Like most people, I have scores of found memories of high school- moments of terror and moments exhilaration. And I have to confess that watching them tear the old girl down is going to be more than a bit emotional for me. I hope to get a brick of it to keep or one of the old auditorium seats after the wrecking ball swings. I know that buildings fail and crumble and the idea that EHS will be rebuilt bigger and better for new generations is some comfort.
But a quick word of advice to the staff- you may wanna put cameras in the storage rooms and on the catwalk….Especially the catwalk…..”
Here are the stairs leading up to that catwalk, and a few more photos of the auditorium:
Maynard’s familiarity with all things dramatic prompted a question about something I had seen written on the backstage wall. I didn’t know what it meant at the time, but I asked Grace to take a photo, figuring there was probably a back story:
And sure enough, here’s Maynard again:
“I do in fact know the story.
For the production of “Little Shop of Horrors” (starring me as Seymour and Kristen Gentine as Audrey) in 1990 the light board was used for the first time in a very long time to do multiple light cues. For the school plays, it had been simple “on” or “off” scenarios. But when Mike Thatcher restarted the musicals after several years of darkness, the light board was pushed to its limit. During our opening night show (March 12 of 1990) the board caught fire and had to be extinguished by a student with fire extinguisher. The audience was none the wiser. No one made a big deal of it at the time for fear that the school would force us to stop the show. After that, it became “Old Sparky”.”
Richard Chizmar is an award winning writer and the founder and publisher/editor of Cemetery Dance Publications in Forest Hill, MD, specializing in the horror, mystery and suspense genre. Author Stephen King recently chose Richard’s company to publish his book, Blockade Billy. You might say Edgewood High School played a part.
“My fondest memories of old EHS are of Mr. Gallagher’s English classroom in the far back corner of the school…where he brought in an old Stephen King novella called “The Monkey,” which the class read aloud… and the experience changed my life.”
“Also, the lacrosse team-room and the back playing fields, where Coach Mezzanotte taught all his players about hard work and discipline and commitment…lessons that so many of us still carry with us today.
I’ll always be grateful to Mr. Gallagher and Coach Mezz and old Edgewood High School. Best teachers I ever had. And a great place to grow up and learn.”
Richard co-founded a production company with another Edgewood alumnus, Johnathon Schaech. Johnathon is an award winning actor, writer, director and producer, appearing on television and in dozens of films, including Prom Night and the Tom Hanks film, That Thing You Do!
John recalls his days at Edgewood High:
“I mainly remember lifting weights in the weight room and lying on the gym floor, listening to the VISION QUEST soundtrack, getting pumped up before a big lacrosse game. I remember Coach Mezzanotte encouraging me to believe in myself. And I have great memories of painting the Ram mascot in the center of the gym floor.”
To be continued…