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Generations celebrate tradition of learning in state's 2nd-oldest elementary school

By ErinPradia
May 11, 2012 at 12:11 a.m.
Updated May 12, 2012 at 12:12 a.m.

Dorothy T. Arnold, left, and Verena Albrecht, both 91 years old, were honored for being the oldest former Mission Valley Elementary School student and staff member, respectively, at the celebration of the school's 125th anniversary on Friday. Albrecht was a cook at the school from 1962 to 1980. Arnold  was a student in the 1920s.

DID YOU KNOW?

The oldest school in the state

Pease Elementary, in the heart of downtown Austin, is the oldest continuously operating school in the state of Texas. Pease was founded in 1876 and named after Governor Elisha M. Pease.

Source: Pease Elementary School website

Lilly Albrecht, 8, is the last of the fourth generation of Albrechts to attended Mission Valley Elementary School, which celebrated its 125th anniversary Friday.

Lilly follows in the footsteps of her sisters, D'Laci, 17, and Mollie, 13, in attending the alma mater of their father, grandfather and great-grandfather.

The girls have spent years hearing stories of her father's childhood, but the significance is a bit much for second-grader Lilly to grasp. She shrugged when asked what she thought of continuing the legacy of attending Mission Valley Elementary.

The girls' father, Billy Albrecht, 40, was a student at Mission Valley Elementary when it became a part of Victoria's school district in 1979.

Albrecht said he is happy with the progress over the years.

"Change and progress are always good. The school keeps getting better year after year," Albrecht said. "My daughters have heard a few stories - both good and bad."

His fondest memories are from the outdoor festival fundraisers in the fall and spring, complete with chili and an auction.

"They are still like that to this day," Albrecht said. "With the exception that we can't serve beer anymore."

Now, his wife, Missy Albrecht, 40, works as the parent liaison at the school.

"We wanted to celebrate not only our school's 125th anniversary," Missy Albrecht said. "We wanted to also recognize that we are the second oldest school in Texas."

Families gathered in the courtyard near the flagpole to release balloons and unveil a historical plaque.

While the Mustangs may be the second oldest school in Texas, they are still filled with school pride.

"What school is No. 1?" The photographer asked as she prepared to take a group photo.

"Mission Valley Elementary," everyone present exclaimed.

The Mission Valley Community Club sold cookbooks featuring 400 recipes and stories contributed by Mission Valley Elementary alumni.

A pencil shaped plaque on one of the photo tables stated "to teach is to touch the future."

Friday, current parents and students reflected on the past.

Memorabilia from the early years of the school were displayed on tables in the cafeteria, including lunch boxes, spellers and other textbooks and a water dipper from the 1940s.

Old desks and doors lined one wall.

An old softball and glove represented a link between the past and the present.

"The children still play kickball and softball like they did in the late 1800s," Albrecht said.

Marbles, jacks and pick-up sticks in a faded tin were among the preserved recess games displayed in the cafeteria.

"We wanted to have an event where older folks could come out and see how the school had changed and the newer students could see how far we've come," Missy Albrecht said. "It cost $106 to build the original building. A pair of tennis shoes could cost that much now."

Dorothy T. Arnold, 91, said as an only child, her favorite aspect of Mission Valley Elementary School was spending time with other children.

"I enjoyed playing volleyball at recess," Arnold said. "I enjoyed math, but back then we called it arithmetic."

Arnold said a lot has changed since she attended Mission Valley Elementary School in the 1920s.

Wearing a bright purple skirt-suit, Arnold said shewas glad her health allowed her to be the oldest alumni at the event.

"The buildings have changed. It used to be a really old building, with three teachers," Arnold said.

Verena Albrecht, 91, the oldest employee present worked in the cafeteria for 18 years starting in 1945.

She is also Lilly's great-grandmother.

Lilly said she had heard stories about the earlier days of the school.

"They used to have to share classrooms," Lilly said. "With two classes in the same room."

Her favorite part of the anniversary celebration was reuniting with children she met while she was in kindergarten.

Children wandered the courtyard during the meet-and-greet portion of the event A red-haired girl wearing all pink sipped punch from a plastic cup, holding hands with a sandy-haired friend wearing an event T-shirt, with a red building on the front commemorating the original little red schoolhouse.

Mission Valley Elementary fifth-graders researched and compiled a timeline illustrating the progression of the school from the disciplinary practices of the early years, to when the school got electricity and the sinking of the Titanic during the 25th anniversary year.

The school continues to be an enjoyable learning environment, said 7-year-old Ty Lynch, who attended the ceremony with his mother Melissa Lynch, 36.

"Every time when my teacher teaches us, she lets us do fun things like painting or going to lunch or recess," Ty said.

Wearing a camouflage shirt, the blonde-haired boy's teeth, stained with icing from his cupcake almost matched his blue eyes.

"We're celebrating the 125th anniversary of our school today," he said proudly.

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