Leader Blues

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

NEIGHBORS >> Keeping the past alive

BY JOAN MCCOY
Leader staff writer

IN SHORT: Beebe Middle School enshrines McRae School’s former persona

What happens to the trophies and class pictures when small schools are forced to consolidate with larger ones?

With consolidation looming over several Arkansas schools two years ago and the possibility of all those memories being lost, the state stepped in and said the receiving school districts must make arrangements to store memorabilia somewhere on the consolidating school’s campus. But where?

“We didn’t want to just put it in a box somewhere,” said Hal Crisco, assistant superintendent of Beebe Schools and a graduate of McRae High.

So instead of storing everything, Crisco’s maintenance workers built display cases and painted and waxed the rooms on the second floor of the McRae gym and created a sort of museum for the former school that is now called Beebe Middle School McRae Campus.

By all accounts it was a hit with the McRae Alumni who gathered on the second Saturday in June as they do every year for the annual McRae School reunion.

This year, about 175 former students attended the evening get-together and several made their way to the upstairs of the gym to see the new home of their school memorabilia.

“Everybody was so appreciative,” said Eva Burris, a 1954 graduate and one of the coordinators of the reunion. “I’m sure there is still some sadness with losing the school…but the fact that they went above what they had to do showed that they are trying really hard.”

Among the trophies on new shelving were the ones Burris helped win in her senior year when the girls basketball team took county and region and went on to the state playoffs.

“We didn’t win state, but we went,” Burris said proudly.

Also there were the senior class pictures dating from 1941, old basketball uniforms and artwork by art teacher Margo Shoffner, to enhance the overall effect.

Dr. Belinda Shook, Beebe schools superintendent, said she was a little surprised by how well it turned out and was also very pleased with how well it had been received.

Not counting the labor, it cost between $2,500 and $3,000 to build the memorabilia room, Crisco said. And so far it seems worth it.