GRALAND IN THE 80’S
Both Judy Proctor and I described the 80’s as the Golden Age. Out of respect for Georgia Nelson and her pioneering faculty, a more modest and respectful comment might have been, “It was the second Golden Age of Graland.” Maybe, even the third Golden Age, for John Comfort implemented many changes I outlined in previous school history postings.***
Graland was a family school, and we all cared deeply about each other. While there was the usual zaniness and “drama” endemic to most elementary schools, there was a shared delight in working at the school. It was a special place.
When I first started teaching here, Russ Bissell described the school’s philosophy as enlightened conservatism. I later came to understand that much of what the kids did was traditional, yet more creative and different from my schooling with the good sisters, brothers, and priests.
I was constantly amazed that I was getting paid to do something I loved so much-- not that everything was a bed of roses. For at least my first three years, I wandered as a lonely cloud looking down at all the talented teachers who inspired their students. Imagine a school led by such stalwart and knowledgeable administrators as Mike Teitelman, Tim Johnson, Joanne Thorsen, Barb Wagner, et alios! This was a school with such asdistinct personalities as Madame Guiberteau, Ruth Gorham, Jack McKenna, Nancy Nye Priest-- to name but four of the Graland royalty.
To quote Judy Proctor, this period of Graland: “. . . was a combination of things. Older faculty members like Nancy Priest and Ruth Gorham were still here. Graland was smaller, and most of the older buildings were still standing. I think we lost some of our history when they were torn down. There was something about the old Georgia Nelson Building that was such fun-- it made me want to turn cartwheels down the long hall. In fact, one day I actually did.” Alas, I missed Nurse Judy’s gymnastic feat.
I can not disagree with her nostalgia for the older buildings. Despite their signs of old age-- “skyrocketing maintenance costs, safety, and space issues,” to quote from Rosemary Fetter’s book-- the Graland of the 80’s was our home. In fact, I do believe I spent more time at Graland School than anywhere else.
As of June 2017, I had moved fourteen, maybe fifteen times, in my forty year career. My heart and soul still belongs to the Gates Science Building. I am sitting in the Anschutz Commons writing this memory piece imagining my English and Latin classrooms. For those of you who are new to the school -- or graduated after 2005 or so -- the Anschutz Commons replaced the GSB. I no longer recognize the campus of my youth-- or for that matter, the campus of my midlife crisis. Only the Humphreys Building, now named the Ronni McCaffrey ECLC, is almost untouched by the ravages of construction workers. The classrooms have been redone with great respect for the old second-grade building. Nancy, the statue that faces Hamilton West, watches over that building.
Of course, the campus is more beautiful and shinier than it once was. It remains the educator’s dream that Mike Teitelman described to the Denver Post in 1981. I miss the smell of his pipe, a pipe that remains a symbol of a bygone era. I don’t miss the girls’ kilts, the mud and food stained sportcoats, the lacrosse balls breaking a few windows, the floods on Preisser Field, or the madness of maneuvering the crowded Upper School hallways.
I am proud to have worked here for forty-one years.
* Go to www.graland.org. Click on alumni, look for “Graland History According to Mr. Hickey,” and look for John Comfort/Part One and/or John Comfort/Part Two